OMAHA, Neb. — Mark Laird sure is glad TD Ameritrade Park’s right-field wall has netting.
He might have a broken nose if it didn’t.
The junior outfielder had his first three-hit game in a month, drove in a run and made a leaping, wall-colliding catch in LSU’s 5-3 win over Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday afternoon in a College World Series elimination game.
He helped keep the Tigers (54-11) alive at this double-elimination event and had his squad’s defensive highlight in two games here this week.
Laird crashed — face-first — into the wall in right field in the fifth inning, saving what would have been an extra-base hit in a game LSU led by just one run at the time. After the game, he sat at his locker with a red mark on his cheek.
At least his nose was still intact.
“Hit it a little bit,” a smiling Laird said. “I’m fine.”
Laird’s three hits came from the No. 8 hole, an unusual spot for the Monroe native. He batted in that spot for just the fourth time in his career. He normally bats leadoff or second in the Tigers’ lineup, but coach Paul Mainieri shifted around his group Tuesday.
Shortstop Alex Bregman led off and had four hits. Catcher Kade Scivicque batted third for just the third time in his career and had two hits.
Chris Sciambra, normally up high or down low in the lineup, batted fifth. He had two hits. Combined, the four players most affected by Mainieri’s shifting went 11-for-16 and drove in four.
Hitting coach Andy Cannizaro said the staff made the decision on the lineup over breakfast Tuesday.
“We sat down and bounced ideas back and forth in terms of getting Bregman into the leadoff spot and Scivicque in the 3 hole,” Cannizaro said. “Both of those guys swung it really well yesterday and have been swinging it really well the last couple of weeks.”
Laird had the defensive fireworks among the group, and it was a big one.
In a full sprint, he headed toward the right-field wall, hoping Tyler Stieb’s moon shot wouldn’t fall into the LSU bullpen for a game-tying home run. The Tigers were leading 4-3 as the soaring knock popped off Stieb’s bat.
“Wind was blowing hard in,” Laird said. “All of our outfielders were told to play shallow. When he hit it, I think on any other day, it may be out. Ballpark plays big. I ran back, felt the warning track and knew I had to jump to make the catch.”
Laird’s back was toward the infield when he leaped to make the catch. And that means his face planted hard into the black netting.
At least it was netting.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.