The welt on the side of Caleb Gilbert’s right foot looked, in his own words, like an egg by the time Saturday’s game ended at Alex Box Stadium.
“It’s pretty dang sore, to be honest,” Gilbert said.
It was the result of a comebacker off the bat of Hawaii’s Kekai Rios to lead off the second inning — the most unfortunate aspect of it being that it banged off his pushoff foot, which sapped some of Gilbert’s strength.
That was the first batter of the second inning. A diminished Gilbert (2-0) faced 14 more in a gritty effort, firing five scoreless innings as LSU evened its series against Hawaii with a 5-1 win.
“I thought it was a courageous effort,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
Gilbert and three members of the bullpen helped LSU (10-6) limit Hawaii (8-5) to just one run on seven hits. Meanwhile, the LSU offense backed them up with some loud early offense.
LSU baseball overcame a frustrating Friday night loss to Hawaii on Saturday, blasting two home runs en route to a 5-1 trouncing of the Rainbow…
Zach Watson led the LSU first inning off with a bang, clubbing his first home run of the season to right field. A few innings later, Hunter Feduccia added a two-run shot of his own, pushing LSU to a 5-0 lead after three innings.
“When I tried him at leadoff during fall practice, I thought he might ambush a fastball and lead off the game with a home run,” Mainieri said of Watson’s blast.
Handed the early lead, Gilbert was determined to make something out of it, especially after LSU dropped the opening game of the series.
When it comes to LSU baseball, nothing on the horizon will change the expectation that the Tigers should win every time they take the field.
After getting hit by the line drive off Rios’ bat, Gilbert convinced LSU athletic trainer Cory Couture he could stay in the game.
Couture, Mainieri and LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn checked out Gilbert in the training room after he finished the second inning. Couture taped Gilbert’s foot and sent him back out on an inning-by-inning basis.
“After last night’s loss, I knew we really needed to win today,” Gilbert said. “I had to try and get as deep as I could and save the (bullpen) for tomorrow.”
The sore pushoff foot clearly hampered Gilbert’s velocity. He ended the first inning by painting the outside corner for strike three on a 92-mph fastball. By the fourth and fifth inning, the same pitch was at 86 mph.
“I had no pushoff, so I was just all arm,” Gilbert said. “You pitch with what you’ve got … stay away from the middle (of the plate) and let the defense work behind you.”
LSU helped Gilbert out defensively, turning a pair of double plays to get him out of a couple tight spots.
“It shows you what kind of character he has,” Watson said. “He has trust in himself and in us to stay out there for five innings knowing he’s hurting a little bit.”
Gilbert finished the night with five scoreless innings to earn the win. He has now thrown 12⅔ consecutive scoreless frames.
Immediately after the game, LSU did not think this would be something that would linger with Gilbert in his coming outings.
“I don’t think it will have any long-lasting effect,” Mainieri said. “I think it probably got bruised. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
All of LSU’s damage offensively came against Hawaii starter Dominic DeMiero (1-1). The left-hander entered the game with a sparkling 1.89 ERA, but LSU (10-6) knocked him out quickly Saturday.
Entering Saturday’s game, the Tigers had hit three home runs in 190 at-bats against left-handed pitchers this season. They hit two in their first 14 at-bats against DeMiero.
Hawaii yanked DeMiero after he allowed five runs in three innings. Before Saturday, he had only given up four earned runs all season.
The Rainbow Warriors bullpen shut down LSU the rest of the night, yielding only one hit in the final five frames.