Standing in the on-deck circle, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman arched his back and glanced up toward the sky in a brief spell of disappointment as Mark Laird’s groundball was turned into an inning-ending double play.
It was the bottom of the eighth inning, so Bregman wouldn’t get a shot to hit for the cycle. It was the only negative on his sparkling night.
The Tigers had four doubles and three home runs, and Bregman came within a single of hitting for the cycle as LSU beat UL-Lafayette 8-6 on Tuesday night at a slam-packed Zephyr Field at the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.
LSU avenged a loss to UL-Lafayette last season, bounced back from its first home Southeastern Conference series loss in nearly two years and picked up a momentum-swinging victory in front of 10,853 in Metairie — mostly clad in purple and gold.
The Tigers, 24-5 and ranked in the top five in all of the major polls, were scheduled to travel through the night on a sleeper bus to Hoover, Alabama. They meet Alabama in a Thursday-Saturday three-game series.
The Cajuns traveled back to Lafayette having wasted a host of chances. They left the bases loaded in the second and fourth innings — both on outs by No. 2 hitter Brian Mills. He lined into a double play in the second and grounded out to the pitcher in the fourth.
“Our kids played tremendous tonight,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “They swung the bats super.”
Particularly his junior preseason All-American. Bregman was 3-for-3 — hitting a homer, triple and double — and he drove in a run during his fourth plate appearance with a sacrifice fly. Laird’s double play in the eighth inning prevented him from completing one of baseball’s most prestigious feats.
“If it happened, it happened. If it was meant to be, meant to be,” Bregman said.
Chris Chinea and Kade Scivicque also had no-doubter home runs, and LSU built an 8-2 lead before the Ragin’ Cajuns had a four-run seventh to make it tight late. Russell Reynolds (2-0) got the win for LSU, and Connor Toups (1-2) took the loss for UL-Lafayette (15-11).
LSU starter Kyle Bouman lasted just 1.1 innings, giving way to Reynolds’ solid showing. Reynolds had a 4.2-inning stay that included just two hits and two runs. He struck out three and at one point retired seven straight before allowing the first two to reach in the seventh inning.
“I thought Russell was fantastic,” said Mainieri, who’s searching for a No. 4 starter. “He was the key to the game for us. Tremendous job.”
Freshman Doug Norman pitched 1.2 innings of one-hit ball, and Jesse Stallings retired three of four in the ninth for his 11th save — just five short of tying LSU’s single-season record halfway through the season. He’s tied for the national lead.
The Tigers battered a group of UL-Lafayette pitchers early, rolling up eight hits and seven runs in the first four innings. Mark Laird and Conner Hale had doubles.
Bregman’s double came in the fourth, a line-drive shot to left. He had a triple in the third — a rocket into the right-center gap — and he smashed a home run over the left-center wall in the sixth.
He shook off a 2-for-14 performance in a series loss to Kentucky by ripping baseballs around the park.
“This is the best I’ve swung the bat in my life,” he said.
“Everybody emphasizes statistics, but the reality is Alex Bregman hit the ball as hard as anybody this past weekend (against Kentucky), and he didn’t have much to show for it,” Mainieri said. “It was kind of hard to have bad luck tonight the way he swung the bat.”
The negatives for LSU: Bouman’s short stay and another rough performance by sidewinding reliever Collin Strall.
The Cajuns rolled up four hits and four runs in the seventh, cutting a six-run deficit into a two-run disadvantage — with Strall on the mound for part of that.
Strall had a fourth straight rough outing. He lasted just three batters and hit one to load the bases. He has allowed two earned runs in his past three outings after pitching a scoreless first 10 innings of his career this season.
“He’s given up some balls,” Mainieri said. “It just happens.”
Bouman lasted just 40 pitches in his second start of the season. He retired three of four in the first inning before a rocky second. The senior, LSU’s No. 3 starter just a year ago, walked in two runs in the inning and allowed a pair of singles.
Bregman helped make the night a success — at the plate and in the field. He has now played 26 straight games without an error and has just one on the season (in the third game of the year).
He caught a lineout with the bases loaded, flipping the ball to second baseman Jared Foster for an inning-ending double play. He turned another double play by himself in the ninth after Stallings allowed the leadoff man to single.
“That was huge,” Stallings said.
Said hitting coach Andy Cannizaro: “I’ve said it all year: He’s the best baseball player in the country.”