Jake Fraley slid into third base for what appeared to be a triple.
It was officially ruled as a triple.
Seconds later, Fraley raced across home plate, Alex Box Stadium erupted and LSU’s dugout exploded onto the field: inside the park home run. Well, kind of.
Fraley’s triple-turned-homer highlighted and exemplified the Tigers’ doubleheader sweep of Princeton on Saturday, a pair of wins that included a whopping 11 extra-base hits from LSU.
The Tigers won 7-2 in the first game and 15-4 in the night cap, rolling up a combined 31 hits and getting solid starts from their two freshmen starters. Coach Paul Mainieri’s team won a sixth and seventh straight game, and swept a third straight weekend series and a second straight doubleheader.
LSU (10-1) reaches the 10-win mark in its first 11 games for the sixth time in Mainieri’s nine seasons. This team did it by sweeping Kansas, Boston College and Princeton, losing to Nicholls State and storming back for a 9-8 win over Southeastern Louisiana.
There were no nail biters Saturday, in part because of an all-around impressive showing against Princeton (0-3), an Ivy League team playing its first games of the season.
“That was a complete effort,” Mainieri said of the late game. “Pitching, defense, swinging the bats.”
LSU had 20 hits in the nightcap rout and nine of its batters over the two games had at least one extra-base hit. Jared Foster and Alex Bregman each hit home runs, and Fraley had a pair of triples in the first game. His triple-turned-homer to right field came with the bases loaded.
The relay throw from the outfield skidded past third base, and Fraley easily scored.
More important than the plate performance, maybe: the Tigers got season-long outings from their two weekend rookie starters. Jake Godfrey, in the first game, and Alex Lange, in the second, went 5.2 and 6 innings, respectively.
Neither pitcher gave up an earned run in their last home outings before their first road trip at the Houston College Classic next weekend.
“When offense is clicking on all cylinders like they were, it makes my job a lot easier,” Lange said. “It makes the zone a lot bigger.”
Lange (3-0, 2.25) allowed three hits and struck out six, and Godfrey (2-0, 1.26) escaped a bases-loaded jam. Their replacements shined. Hunter Newman, in the first game, threw 2.1 innings of one-hit ball and struck out three. Austin Bain, in Game 2, retired his only three batters.
They were good on the mound but were better at the plate.
Princeton’s two starting pitchers Saturday lasted a combined five innings, allowed 11 hits, 10 runs, walked three and struck out one. The Tigers had an 11-0 lead by the fifth inning in the late game.
How crazy did things get? Mainieri even subbed Bregman, a rarity, and gave walk-on Ryan May, a Dunham graduate, his first appearance on the mound. And there’s this: pitcher Kyle Bouman got to bat and he legged out an infield, chopping single. LSU’s dugout erupted with excitement as Bouman landed safe at first.
“It was a good day,” Lange said with a chuckle.
“We knew if he put it on the ground with his blazing speed he’d be safe,” Bregman said smiling.
LSU finished the day with seven doubles, three triples and those two long balls from Foster and Bregman. Andy Cannizaro’s hitters had the team’s TrackMan awfully busy. More than a dozen hits Saturday were tracked at an exit speed of more than 100 miles per hour.
Fraley was one of them. He had back-to-back triples in the first game, continuing his hot start.
Fraley, on a six-game hitting streak and fresh off of getting his near shoulder-length hair cut, is in a competition with Jared Foster in left field. Foster, a senior, tore out to hot start through the first eight games of the year, but Fraley has answered. The sophomore from Delaware hit a game-winning triple in a victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday during a three-hit performance, and he had a double, single and stole two bases in the series-opening win over Princeton (0-2) on Friday night.
“I keep joking with him,” Godfrey said. “He got a haircut. Ever since that haricut, man, he’s been on a streak.”
“I’m not surprised,” Mainieri said. “I’ve been telling you this for a long time: Jake’s a good ball player. He’s hot right now too. He’s not taking many bad swings.”
Godfrey, meanwhile, had his best performance so far, Mainieri said.
He pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth and stranded runners in the first, sixth and two in the second.
Godfrey classified the start as “really good.”
“I thought he was a little bit better this time than he was last time and last time better than the first time,” Mainieri said. “He can be better. He’s on his way.”
With Doug Norman’s struggles in the midweek spot and Godfrey’s last two five-plus inning outings, the Illinois native might have secured the No. 3 starting spot, at least for the early portion of the Southeastern Conference schedule.
LSU hosts Ole Miss in the SEC opening series on March 13-15 after a three-game set at the Houston College Classic next weekend against Houston, Baylor and Nebraska.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.