Andy Cannizaro, LSU’s new hitting coach, had a message for his hitters Thursday, a day after a shocking loss to Nicholls State.
It can be condensed into two words.
“I think that paid off,” shortstop Alex Bregman said.
Bregman burst from an early-season lull with a four-RBI day, and the Tigers rolled up 21 hits on Saturday afternoon in a 16-2 win over Boston College, sweeping a second straight weekend series to open 2015.
LSU (6-1) bounced back from the loss to Nicholls on Wednesday — a game in which Cannizaro’s hitters stranded 17 — with a mostly dominant performance against the Eagles (2-5). The Tigers swept Friday’s doubleheader 8-3 and 7-4 and secured Saturday’s series finale by smacking the most hits in a weekend series game in five years.
Through the three games, they rolled up 42 hits and 20 extra-base hits, 14 more than they had in the first four games of the season.
“I feel like our offense kind of needed a day like today,” Bregman said.
“I think we’re on our way now,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “We’re in the flow of the season. It’s time to play well.”
Kade Scivicque hit two home runs, Bregman had a solo shot and two doubles and all but one starter had a hit. Center fielder Andrew Stevenson had two triples, and new leadoff hitter Jared Foster continued a season-opening hot streak with a single and double.
The offensive fireworks came just a few days after the Tigers dropped a 6-3 loss to Nicholls, a game in which they went 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The result — and that unsettling stat — led to a meeting Thursday morning with Mainieri and Cannizaro.
“We talked about what we needed to do to get better,” Mainieri said after Saturday’s game.
Later that day, hitters arrived to the park and began taking batting practice more than two hours before the official practice began. Cannizaro and Mainieri preached a more aggressive style during drills: swing early, swing hard, swing with an attitude.
They tweaked the hitting mechanics of Conner Hale, Bregman and Stevenson.
They drove the message home: Don’t just shoot for a single, but shoot for the fences.
“They just weren’t letting it fly,” Mainieri said.
“I think we kind of set the tone for our offense that we weren’t being aggressive enough,” Bregman said of Thursday’s practice. “We really just tried to focus on getting after it, swinging the bat with intent, swinging the bat with purpose. I think you’re going to see a lot more of that from our offense.”
That’s a welcome sight with LSU relying on two to three rookie starting pitchers.
Freshman starter Jake Godfrey threw five innings of four-hit ball, allowed one run and recovered from some woes to keep Boston College scoreless early on. He improved, Mainieri said, from his debut last week.
Godfrey (1-0, 2.08) is set to pitch Friday night in the series opener of a three-game set against Princeton as Mainieri continues to evaluate his three weekend hurlers. Sophomore Jared Poché will throw Saturday and Alex Lange will start on Sunday.
A fourth freshman, Doug Norman, will start against Southeastern Louisiana (5-2) on Wednesday.
All three of those rookies have struggled at times. Godfrey threw a whopping 87 pitches in just 32?3 innings last week, though the Tigers had three errors behind him. Norman allowed nine hits against Nicholls on Wednesday, and Lange allowed a four-run frame Friday night against Boston College.
In short: LSU needs those aggressive bats with such a young starting staff — and the bullpen, too. Relievers allowed just one run in 11.1 innings over the weekend as their roles are beginning to become clear.
They had plenty of runs behind them Saturday.
LSU scored at least two runs in three of the first four innings, chasing Boston College starter Nick Poore in the second frame. By the time Scivicque crushed his sixth-inning two-run shot over the right-center field wall, LSU led 11-1.
Scivicque’s first homer, over left field, came in the fourth inning and followed the one Bregman banged off of the top row of the metal bleachers in left-center.
Both of those fourth-inning shots came off of the same pitch: a high fastball.
Cannizaro gave both players a talk before their at-bats that inning.
“He told both of us the same thing,” Bregman said. “‘Be aggressive to hit this fastball right here. You’re going to get one and you better swing with purpose.’”
The two long bombs helped the Tigers break the double-digit run mark for the first time this season and had their most runs in a regular season weekend series since against Mississippi State in April.
It was a hitter’s paradise Saturday. There were gusts to 28 miles an hour and a steady 20 mph breeze blowing straight out of the park.
Bregman took full advantage. He entered the game having gone 6-for-25 to start the season. He went 3-for-6 Saturday and drove in more runs in this game (four) than he did in all of the first six (two).
Infielder Grayson Byrd, catcher Mike Papierski and third baseman Bryce Jordan, all true freshmen, got their first career hits.
They were all doing at least one thing.
“Coach just told us, ‘Whenever you come out here and you get in the box to hit, go up there and swing,’” Scivicque said. “Get your money’s worth. Swing hard.’”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.