LSU coach Paul Mainieri decided to make a change following LSU’s weak offensive performance in the final two games of the Baton Rouge regional against UNC Wilmington.
For the first time this season, senior catcher Kade Scivicque found himself in the cleanup role Saturday in the opening game of the Baton Rouge super regional against UL-Lafayette. Junior right fielder Mark Laird also hit in the leadoff spot for only the 10th time this season, and sophomore left fielder Jake Fraley batted in the No. 2 hole for the seventh time.
The change proved to be effective early.
Laird drew a five-pitch walk against Ragin’ Cajuns freshman right-hander Wyatt Marks, then took second base after a passed ball. Fraley followed with an RBI double to the wall in right field to give the Tigers an early lead in a game they eventually won 4-3.
“We made (Laird) be kind of patient up there with some take signs, and he drew the leadoff walk there that got us going,” Mainieri said.
Two innings later, Laird reached first base after a passed ball on a strikeout, and Fraley made the Cajuns pay for a second time, launching a two-run homer over the right-field wall.
At the plate, at least, LSU junior shortstop Alex Bregman is having a rough NCAA tournament.
After he failed to pick up a hit in the Baton Rouge regional, Bregman’s struggles continued against UL-Lafayette on Saturday evening, going 0-for-4.
With a runner on third base and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Bregman grounded into a forceout at third.
Bregman did collect his 36th stolen base of the year, tying him with Jared Mitchell for the second-most steals in a single season. Mitchell had 36 steals in 2009.
“Last year he went through a terrible slump and just played tremendous defense, and I think that shows the true character of a person,” Mainieri said. “When they don’t do well in one aspect of the game ... you still want to win so badly that you don’t pout and hang your head.”
UL-Lafayette junior third baseman Joe Robbins had two stellar fielding plays and also threw a runner out at the plate.
Robbins normally wouldn’t have started against a right-handed pitcher, but left-handed-hitting Brenn Conrad was unavailable for third-base duty with a pulled hamstring he suffered in the Houston regional final against Rice. Robbins also had a sixth-inning single and scored the Cajuns’ first run.
“It was huge,” UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux said. “He really did a great job down there because these guys are going to put the ball in play firm. He really made some nice plays tonight.”
The NCAA added replay review to super regionals for the first time. In the past, it was used only for the College World Series. ... Saturday was the first double-digit hit game for Cajuns in last eight games. They had 16 hits in three regional games. ... Fraley’s homer in the third was only the second given up by Cajuns pitching in the last eight games. The only other one in that time was a first-inning solo homer by Houston’s Chris Iriart off Gunner Leger.