Freshman right-hander Zack Hess chased perfection and his teammates exploded late offensively as LSU dismantled Louisiana College 13-0 on Tuesday night at Alex Box Stadium.
It was the fourth consecutive win for the Tigers (13-4), who had dropped three of four before this winning streak began.
Hess (2-0) retired the first 17 batters he faced before Louisiana College shortstop Jarvis Griffith, the Wildcats’ No. 9 hitter, wrecked the perfect game bid with an infield single in the sixth inning.
It was all sophomore infielder Chris Reid’s fault, Hess said. Senior Jared Poché explained to Hess what happened after he left the game.
“He said, ‘Dude, that wasn’t on you, that was 100 percent on Chris Reid,’ ” Hess said. “I guess in the dugout, the pitch before the guy got the base hit, Poché asked, ‘You think coach is going to leave Hess in?’ And Reid said, ‘Heck no, dude’s got a perfect game going.’
“Next pitch, base hit. That’s 100 percent on Chris Reid. I take no fault.”
Griffith worked a 2-2 count before getting just a piece of a Hess offering, the ball dribbling just to the left of the mound. Freshman third baseman Josh Smith tried to charge in front of shortstop Kramer Robertson to make the unlikely play, but lost the ball on the transfer from his glove.
Hess finished the inning and his night by getting leadoff hitter Ashton Martin to fly out to right field. He totaled career highs in innings (six) and strikeouts (seven) before giving way to fellow freshman right-hander Will Reese to start the seventh.
Turns out, that’s all he was going to throw Tuesday night no matter what. When asked if his decision to pull Hess was made easier after the perfect game was lost, LSU coach Paul Mainieri had this to say: “Was it a perfect game?”
The plan was to go no longer than six innings. Mainieri said he pulled Hess, who threw 75 pitches Tuesday, because he wanted to have Hess available out of the bullpen this weekend in LSU’s Southeastern Conference opener against Georgia.
“I was hoping he’d zip through the sixth inning and he might be available for Saturday that way, but now he probably won’t be available until Sunday,” Mainieri said.
It was a nice bounce back performance for Hess, who gave up three runs in just 2.2 innings last week against McNeese State. Hess walked four batters in that start last week compared to none Tuesday.
“This time I just really focused on slowing things down, hitting my spots and throwing three pitches for strikes,” Hess said. “It worked out pretty well.”
LSU gave Hess a five-run cushion to work with, with a three-run first inning and a two-run fourth inning, then blew the game open with a seven-run seventh inning, during which it sent 11 batters to the plate.
Louisiana College helped the cause with a pair of errors in the middle of the inning, and the big blow came off the bat of Antoine Duplantis, whose three-run double gave LSU a 13-0 lead.
Greg Deichmann, Beau Jordan and Zach Watson paced LSU with two hits apiece. Cole Freeman’s 10-game hit streak was snapped, but he had another productive night at the plate, reaching base three times and scoring two runs while driving in two more.
Reese and redshirt freshman left-hander Nick Bush combined to fire three scoreless innings of relief, striking out five against three walks.
LSU returns to Alex Box Stadium for a game against UNO at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. UNO handed the Tigers their first loss of the season Feb. 21 in New Orleans.