Jake Fraley really wants to keep his job in left field. Or maybe it’s just that haircut of his.
Fraley continued his hot hitting streak, blasting a pair of triples, and freshman starting pitcher Jake Godfrey didn’t allow an earned run in his longest stay on the mound this season as LSU beat Princeton 7-2 in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (9-1) won their sixth straight game, secured the series win and will go for the sweep later Saturday. The two teams began the second game at 7:34 p.m.
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.”
Fraley turned a triple on Saturday evening into an inside the park home run on an errant relay throw, too.
“I’m not surprised,” coach Paul 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’s third start was his longest. He threw 5.2 innings and 90 pitches.
Godfrey’s biggest pitches came in the fourth inning. He allowed a double, single and then walked a batter before inducing an inning-ending groundout to first base with the bases loaded. He stranded a runner in the sixth and first innings and left two on base in the second in what Mainieri called his best start yet.
Godfrey classified the start as “really good.” He said he continues to struggle with locating the strike zone at times, a reason for his nine walks in 14.1 innings.
“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.
LSU had 10 hits, but four of them were for extra bases. Fraley had his pair of triples and that inside the park home run off of an error. Chris Chinea and Conner Hale both had doubles. The Tigers’ had a four-run second inning taking advantage of three walks and Fraley’s three-run triple to right field that he came home on.
Fraley took a 2-1 pitch down the right field line with the bases loaded. He slid into third base as a relay thrown went skidding past the bag to the Princeton dugout. He came home from third base to a roar from the Alx Box crowd and a rush from the LSU dugout.
“It was crazy, man,” Godfrey said. “Essentially an inside the park home run.”
Hunter Newman relieved Godfrey and threw a one-hitter through 2.1 innings, striking out three in a solid performance that had Mainieri beaming afterward.
“We’re trying to find out who we can bring in in the middle of an inning to get us out of a jam,” he said.
Alden Cartwright is a guy who’s done that recently, but Newman appears to be grouped with him as an inning-saving reliever.
The instability at third base continued in Game 1 Saturday. Princeton’s two-run second inning only came after an error on third baseman Danny Zardon – his fourth error in eight starts. He also couldn’t handle a high chopper that was ruled an infield single.
Grayson Byrd, meanwhile, got the first start of his career, and Andrew Stevenson returned the lineup after missing two games with a hamstring injury. Paul’s Byrd son was the designated hitter before being replaced in the sixth inning. He struck out and walked in his two trips to the plate.
No one could take the spotlight off of Fraley, though. He’s batted .538 over the last three games as he battles with Foster, Beau Jordan, temporarily injured, and Chris Sciambra for the left field spot.
“It’s a really good problem to have as a coach, feel like we’ve got four outfielders that can start for anybody,” Mainieri said.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.