After the first inning of his start against Nebraska on Sunday, Jake Godfrey stormed back into the dugout. He was angry.
Because he issued a walk, allowed two hits and a run, right? That was only part of the reason.
“We realized about an inning into the game that they were attempting to steal his pitches, and it really got him upset,” coach Paul Mainieri said Monday. “He was mad.”
Godfrey, at one point, retired 11 straight batters after his rocky first inning and got the win in LSU’s 4-2 beating of the Cornhuskers — a victory that helped propel the Tigers (15-1) to No. 1 in Baseball America’s rankings released Monday.
Godfrey’s outing was one of the many highlights during LSU’s three-game sweep in the Houston College Classic. It might not have been possible if he wouldn’t have recognized the pitch-stealing. He began to better hide his grip of the ball from within his glove after uncovering the pitch-stealing in the first frame.
Godfrey, a right-handed freshman from Illinois, was holding his glove too open. The Nebraska third-base coach was seeing his grip and signaling it to the batter, something often done in baseball.
Mainieri said it’s up to the pitcher to change it. Godfrey did.
“Somehow our pitcher knew that they were doing it, and it really made him angry,” the coach said. “I think he just amped up his competitive juices a little bit. He started hiding his grips betters, which is something we’re always conscience of.”
Godfrey recovered from that opening frame allowing just three hits over the next five innings. He struck out four of five batters at one point.
“He struck out a batter and stared at the third base coach a couple of times,” Mainieri said. “It brought out the best in Godfrey.”
Mainieri began his Monday morning by sending a mass text message to his players to prepare them for the release of Baseball America’s poll: The Tigers would be No. 1.
“I reminded them this morning via text message that we’re only 16 games into a 56-game schedule. We’ve 40 big ones left in the regular season alone,” the coach said. “I like them to hear news from me before they read about it in the media. As soon as I heard, I let them know. Thought it would perk them up when they were sitting in biology class.”
LSU, on a 12-game winning streak, garnered a No. 1 ranking in a sixth season of Mainieri’s nine years at the school (2015, 20014, 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009).
LSU moved up at least one spot in each poll. The Tigers are ranked Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, and 4.
Johnny Wholestaff returns; rain too
Mainieri hasn’t decided yet on a starter for Wednesday’s home game against McNeese State, and he said several pitchers will get a chance to throw if the game is, in fact, played.
The Tigers are set to host the Cowboys (11-5) at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, expected to be a rainy day. There is an 80 percent chance of rain Wednesday, including a 100 percent chance for Wednesday night.
If the two teams do play, it’s unclear who will get the nod on the mound, but it may not matter too much.
“It’s probably going to be a mishmash of guys,” Mainieri said. “I’m sure we’ll see several pitchers pitch. We only used six pitchers this weekend, and one of them only faced one batter. We have a lot of guys that will be key guys for us as we go forward that didn’t even get to pitch in a game.”
Doug Norman started three of LSU’s midweek games this season, with Kyle Bouman starting a fourth. The two seem to be in a competition for the No. 4 starting spot.
Fraley leading off
Mainieri had planned for outfielder Jake Fraley to be his leadoff man next season.
“It just got expedited,” the coach said Monday.
Fraley hit in the leadoff spot in two of the three games he played over the weekend in Houston. The sophomore had three hits and stole a run in a spot he appears to have secured.
“He’s a legitimate leadoff hitter. Jake Fraley brings everything I want in a leadoff hitter,” Mainieri said. “If I could draw up the perfect leadoff hitter, it would be Jake Fraley.”
The coach began the year with Mark Laird at leadoff, Alex Bregman at the No. 2 hole and Conner Hale at No. 3. He’s since bumped Bregman to the No. 3 hole and Laird to the No. 2 spot.
Fraley is hitting .385, second-best of any everyday position player.
Mainieri suggested Monday that freshman Grayson Byrd will start at second base Wednesday in an effort to continue evaluating the infielder. He got his first position start Sunday replacing Kramer Robertson. The two players could platoon at second base, the coach said. … Freshman infielder Greg Deichmann had the boot on his injured foot removed Monday, and he’ll begin practicing with the team this week, Mainieri said. Deichmann has missed about three weeks after suffering a stress reaction in the foot. He was playing second and third when the injury happened. Mainieri said he’s unsure where the Metairie native will play. … Hale was named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week after his five-RBI weekend at the Houston College Classic. … Through the first month of the season, LSU leads the NCAA in paid attendance at 10,431. That’s more than 3,000 more than the next team (Arkansas).
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.