Andy Cannizaro, the Tulane star-turned-LSU hitting coach, hoped that TU fans wouldn’t boo him before Tuesday night’s game.
They probably wanted to afterward.
Cannizaro’s group had 19 hits, Mark Laird had an inside-the-park home run and the Tigers rolled to a 13-7 win over the Green Wave on Tuesday night at Turchin Field — a celebratory homecoming for the LSU assistant.
“We were ready to play tonight,” a smiling Cannizaro said afterward.
LSU (22-3) got solid relief outings from Hunter Newman and Doug Norman after starter Russell Reynolds struggled, and coach Paul Mainieri’s team avenged an 11-inning loss at Tulane last season.
They did it with another outburst from Cannizaro’s boys — specifically Laird.
Laird had a sliding triple in the sixth inning and a stunning inside-the-park homer in the fourth — a one-out line drive to left.
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Tulane left fielder Jackson Johnson, starting just his third game of the season, dove for Laird’s one-out shot. The ball bounded off of the artificial surface – Greer Field is completely turf – and rolled to the corner in left field.
The throw to home wasn’t close. For dramatic effect, Laird slid into the bag, and the purple-clad fans at Turchin Stadium roared.
“I was on my way to third and I saw (third base coach Will Davis) kind of smiling, and he had a ‘I got to’ face. He waved me in,” Laird said.
Ranked No. 1 in the nation in five of six polls, LSU slapped Tulane starter Patrick Duester with four earned runs, three more than he allowed in his first five starts. The Tigers batted nine in the third and fifth innings, rolling to a 13-3 lead, and eight of nine starters had at least one hit.
The Tigers have at least 15 hits for the third straight game – the first time that’s happened since May 2011.
So, yes, it was a happy reunion for Cannizaro, a former All-American shortstop with the Green Wave who still leads the program in games played (248), at-bats (1,030), hits (350), doubles (85) and stolen bases (128).
“Sweet homecoming for him,” Laird said.
Cannizaro, in his first collegiate coaching job, had never coached against his alma mater until Tuesday – an emotional night for a guy who was raised around Tulane baseball. He played in the home dugout as a bat boy to his father, an assistant coach, and went on road trips with the team before starring at shortstop from 1998-2001.
“When I got off the bus it kind of hit me a little bit, just coming in on this side, being in this dugout,” Cannizaro said.
Cannizaro, not Mainieri, exchanged lineup cards to start the game – “a cool” gesture by Mainieri, the Cannizaro said.
Coaches got an all-star performance from Laird.
The inside-the-park shot was his first career home run and the first inside-the-park homer since Tyler Moore’s against Houston in the NCAA regional last season.
He followed with a triple to nearly the same spot – a line drive that bounced around in the left field corner.
Jake Fraley had a four-RBI day, and Conner Hale drove in two runs. The hitting was so contagious that Danny Zardon entered as a pinch hitter and chopped a two-run single to left field.
The Tigers had a 13-3 lead before relievers Collin Strall and Kyle Bouman allowed a combined four hits and three runs, but Mainieri got solid outings from a pair of pitchers.
Newman threw 3 innings of one-hit ball and retired the final batter of the third with two on base and LSU holding a one-run lead. He’s not allowed a run in 10.2 innings this season. Norman threw 1.1 innings of no-hit, no-run ball.
The pair, at one point, combined to retire 11 straight.
“I think (Tulane coach) David Pierce is doing a tremendous job at Tulane, but tonight was just our night,” Mainieri said. “We got some hits. We got some clutch hits. Our pitcher Hunter Newman came in and settled the game down and kept getting big hits throughout the lineup.”
Reynolds walked four through 2.2 innings, including three in that third inning before Mainieri yanked him for Newman. Mainieri wanted to extend Reynolds up to five to seven innings as the coach continues to groom him for the No. 4 starting role.
Cannizaro, meanwhile, got an impressive showing from his hitters at his old stomping grounds.
“It was nice,” Bregman said. “That’s what he wanted us to do – he wantd us to have a big offensive night. He wants that every time out. That was awesome to have him as our hitting coach and to put up 19 hits against his old school.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.