Already strapped with a fielding error through the first week of the season, third baseman Danny Zardon needed to make up for it in some way.
He did it in three ways.
Zardon had three extra-base hits, drove in three runs and, two days after a head-shaking loss to Nicholls State, the Tigers drove in the runs they needed in an 8-3 win over Boston College in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
Coach Paul Mainieri’s bunch shook of a stunning 6-3 home loss Wednesday to Nicholls State, a game in which the Tigers left 17 stranded. They left nine on base in this one, but Mark Laird, Zardon and Andrew Stevenson all had run-scoring hits on a day in which starter Jared Poché didn’t have his best stuff.
Laird’s single in the fourth inning capped LSU’s comeback from an early 2-0 hole, and Zardon’s solo home run in the sixth – it hit the top row of the metal bleachers in left-center – made it 5-3. He added a run-scoring double in the seventh to cap an impressive day.
Zardon had three extra-base hits during his freshman season in 2014 – two doubles and a homer. He matched that, exactly, on Friday afternoon.
Zardon, a sophomore in his first year starting, has the all-important job of replacing who Mainieri calls the best defensive third baseman he’s ever coached, Christian Ibarra. Zardon’s defense is more important than anything he does at the plate, Mainieri has preached all preseason. He let a ball roll beneath his glove and through his legs Wednesday night.
“Danny had quite a game,” Mainieri said after the first game Friday. “He really swung the bat well today, and he looked confident out there.”
Game 2 of the doubleheader is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. The two teams will play the series finale at 3 p.m. Saturday. Sunday’s game was moved because of the threat of thunderstorms.
Poché (2-0, 1.54) allowed seven hits, the most in a regular season start, and had two throwing errors, a balk and walked three. He allowed three runs, two earned, in a 93-pitch outing that lasted 5.2 innings.
“I definiitely didn’t have my ‘A’ game today,” Poché said. “Defense helped me out a lot. Kind of put myself in a hole early on with two erros and a balk. Any time you do that you just make it harder on yourself.”
Boston College hammered the sophomore early, getting three of its first four batters on base. The Eagles scored two runs in the frame to put LSU into an early hole.
LSU tied the game with a three-hit, two-run second inning that included an RBI triple from Stevenson and Zardon’s first double. Boston College retook the lead at 3-2 with an RBI single in an inning in which Poché had his balk before the Tigers scored six straight.
Mainieri and hitting coach Andy Cannizaro shook up the batting order after LSU went 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position against the Colonels on Wednesday.
Bregman, who started 2-for-12 on the season, moved from the No. 2 hole to No. 3, and Jake Fraley moved up to the two hole. The Tigers finished 4-for-16 with runners in scoring position Friday, but Mainieri liked his batters’ attitudes at the plate.
“What I’m really proud of our team about is I think we really showed a lot more aggressiveness at the plate,” Mainieri said. “It was something we worked on yesterday. Trying to get them to be more attacking and more aggressive at the plate. If you see a fastball, jump on it. Lay off the bad breaking balls. I thought we did a much better job today. It wasn’t perfect, but we did hit a lot of balls hard.”
Coaches also tweaked Bregman’s hitting stance, and he went 2-for-5 with a double against BC.
Reliever Zac Person threw 1.1 innings of shutout relief, surviving a pressure-packed eighth inning. He allowed the first two on base before retiring the final three batters of the frame.
Alden Cartwright closed the game, retiring all three hiters, and sidewinder Collin Strall retired three of his four batters.
LSU was still sloppy in spots. In the fifth inning, for instance, Bregman tried to steal third and was double off as Chris Chinea hit a lineout. Stevenson and Conner Hale followed with two-out singles before the inning ended.
In the fourth, Stevenson slid into third base instead of watching third base coach Will Davis. He was waving him home for an easy run.
And, of course, there were the errors. Poché’s two errors gave the Tigers pitchers a whopping four errors in the last three games. As a team, LSU committed 10 errors through that three-game span, the most in that stretch since April 2008.
The position players went errorless, though, and made a handful of solid plays.
In the sixth, Bregman made a play on a chopper up the middle to save a run. With a man on third, he flipped the ball to Robertson at second for the forceout to end the inning and preserve LSU’s one-run lead. In the same frame, Zardon whistled a bare-handed throw to first. It was even more impressive than his outburst at the plate.
“I think I was most happy about that play he made on the swinging bunt,” Mainieri said. “That was really a clutch play when we needed it.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.