Tigers hammer Yale behind three homers _lowres

Advocate file photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU's Danny Zardon, left, returns to home plate after hitting a grand slam against Yale earlier this season. Zardon started his first game at first base Saturday against Alabama.

Danny Zardon had three days to think about his first start of the season at first base.

He had less than three minutes to make his first big play at the bag.

Zardon scooped up a slow-rolling grounder from the second batter of the game, flipping to pitcher Aaron Nola for the out.

It drew a nice applause form the Alex Box Stadium crowd and had the freshman from Florida feeling more “comfortable” at his new position, he said.

Zardon had an RBI double later in the game and made some solid plays at first base in the 2-0 win over Alabama in Game 1 of a doubleheader Saturday.

Coach Paul Mainieri told Zardon on Wednesday that he’d be starting over the weekend, a move made by the coach because of the rookie’s impressive practices.

Mainieri said Zardon is reminding him of Jake Fraley, the freshman from Delaware who has worked his way into the everyday lineup with clutch hits.

“Similar to what we’ve been doing with Fraley — watching him in practice, working with him,” Mainieri said. “Danny Zardon has put on some great displays in batting practice. I wanted to get Danny in there and give him a shot.”

He didn’t disappoint. He was perfect at first base, and he launched a double down the left-field line in the fourth inning to score Fraley for a 2-0 lead.

Zardon was looking for a fastball from hard-throwing Bama starter Spencer Turnbull. He got a changeup and drove it down the line.

“I saw a man on second base. I was just looking for a pitch I can drive, help my team get an insurance run,” he said.

Mainieri played Zardon instead of Kade Scivicque, who is in a 2-for-29 slump.

Zardon had started five times at third base and once at second. Kramer Robertson beat out Zardon at second base during the preseason.

He’s been practicing at first base over the past few weeks, Mainieri said.

“I felt Zardon was ready to do something special for the team,” the coach said. “Lo and behold, he made a beautiful play in the first inning charging a ball. He came through with a big double.”

Rain changes

Friday night’s rainout might affect LSU’s starting pitching rotation in the long-term.

After pitching Saturday afternoon — and throwing 116 pitches — Aaron Nola will not pitch Thursday at Auburn. He’ll throw Friday in that Thursday-Friday-Saturday series, the last series of the regular season.

That puts in jeopardy Nola starting at the SEC tournament. The single-elimination round of the tournament begins May 20, the Tuesday after the Auburn series. The top four seeds receive a bye to the double-elimination portion, which begins May 21.

Mainieri also started Alden Cartwright in Saturday night’s game against Alabama, saving freshman Jared Poché for Sunday. Poché is expected to throw in Game 3, next Saturday, at Auburn.

Mainieri will treat the first game against Auburn on Thursday like a Game 3. LSU started Cartwright in three straight Game 3s before this weekend.

“I just don’t want to bring Nola or Poché back on four days’ rest,” Mainieri said. “The rain threw us into a tizzy.”


Former LSU defensive back Eric Reid threw out one of the first pitches of Saturday’s first game. Reid, now a safety for the San Francisco 49ers, tossed a high lob to outfielder Jared Foster. … Demie Mainieri, Paul Mainieri’s father, followed with another first pitch. Standing about 20 feet in front of the plate, he threw to Paul Mainieri. He was escorted onto the field by Paul’s son, Nick Mainieri.