Under manager Kade Scivicque, Purple defeated Gold, 7-3, in Game One of the annual Purple/Gold World Series on Wednesday.
The results really don’t matter in the long run, but how the teams got there does. Here are a few observations from the evening:
Gold’s Caleb Gilbert sat at 93-94 mph — the hardest LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he’s thrown this fall — consistently throughout a strong first inning, but dipped to 91-92 in his last two innings of work, leading to trouble. It’s not unusual for a true freshman to tire early and to see a bit of a dip, especially after exerting as much energy as he did in the first where he even hit 95 mph.
“He maxed out in that first inning,” Mainieri said. “I think he was pretty fired up, cutting loose, which was good to see because if I wanted to use him as a relief pitcher for just an inning, it shows he’s got a little more in the tank.”
Gilbert also struggled to put hitters away, surrendering four of his six hits in two-strike counts, including a towering two-RBI double toKramer Robertson to open the scoring in the second.
Southpaw John Valek looked crafty through two no-hit innings for Purple, spinning nothing harder than 86 mph and mixing in what appeared to be a slurve — clocked anywhere from 70-71 mph to face one over the minimum. Valek said he’s down to just one breaking pitch after employing both a slider and curveball at Akron.
He couldn’t make it out of a rough third, which saw him walk a man and issue a seeing-eye single before a mound visit from former Tiger hurler Kevin Gausman. Antoine Duplantis turned on Valek’s next pitch for a bases-clearing triple to left-center to end the Akron transfer’s night.
“For me, this is my first time in a real, real game situation with teams split up and everything,” Valek said. “Pitching out here under the lights is second to none in the country. I had a great time.”
Robertson, who’s struggled to find consistent playing time in his first two seasons, did what a veteran’s going to have to do on this young team — come up in the clutch. After his aforementioned double off Gilbert gave Purple a lead, Robertson repeated in the fifth, crushing a first-pitch double off Russell Reynolds to cash in on a first-and-third situation and break another tie game. Robertson finished with three RBI while Mike Papierski added three hits of his own — the second an RBI double in the third.
Purple finished with 12 hits in the six-inning contest, including two from both Beau Jordan and Chris Reid. Reid hit perhaps the hardest ball of the afternoon, missing a homer by five feet with a bullet to right field for a stand-up double.
Gold, which finished with three hits, got a lift from freshman Antoine Duplantis, who may have lost the team’s 60-yard dash trials to Greg Deichmann, but is still electric on the basepaths. Rounding second on his bases-clearing triple, Duplantis hit another level, beating the throw with ease. Cole Freeman added a two-strike RBI single to round out the scoring.
Though he named Fraley his opening night center fielder last week, LSU coach Paul Mainieri worried the junior hadn’t been tested with any acrobatic catches that Andrew Stevenson made with ease last season.
Fraley passed the first exam on Wednesday, getting a late break on Freeman’s sinking liner to make a nice sliding catch. It was in a pressure situation, too, with a runner on second and nobody out.
Reid made a nice snag on a liner to third, changing directions to snagBryce Laird’s screamer in the second while Duplantis and Cody Ducote each added running catches in the outfield.
Next up: Game 2 is Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium, pitting Jake Godfrey against Riley Smith on the mound.