Before Opening Day, hitting coach Andy Cannizaro said LSU would look to be more aggressive on the base paths.
Friday night showed that he wasn’t lying.
LSU turned to its top three hitters in the lineup to set the tone early and often, stealing its way to a 3-2 victory on Friday night against Princeton.
It only took one inning for LSU (8-1) to take off running.
After going 11-for-12 on stolen base attempts heading into Friday night’s contest, the Tigers initially ran into a little trouble trying to run against Princeton (0-1).
Junior center fielder Mark Laird drew a one-out walk, but he was gunned down trying to steal second base by Princeton senior catcher Tyler Servais. Later in the inning, Servais threw out LSU junior shortstop Alex Bregman trying to steal third base.
“You live by the sword, and you die by the sword,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “If you try to steal bases, you’re going to get some guys thrown out sometimes. You’ve got to take the good with the bad.”
The good came two innings later.
Senior right fielder Jared Foster led off the bottom of the third by reaching first base on an error by Princeton sophomore third baseman Cody Phillips. He eventually wound up at third base after a balk and a flyout.
Then sophomore left fielder Jake Fraley took over.
Fraley found himself in the lineup with Foster for the second consecutive night, at least partly because of junior center fielder Andrew Stevenson’s hamstring injury. He made the most of his opportunity Thursday night, roping three hits — including a game-winning two-RBI triple in a win against Southeastern.
“I’m starting to find the barrel a little bit better than I was at the beginning (of the season),” Fraley said. “I just feel comfortable. It’s a blessing to be out there and just having fun.”
He kept his momentum Friday evening, lacing an RBI single to center field to give LSU the 1-0 lead. But he had no intention of setting up shop at first base.
The Middletown, Delaware, native stole second and third base, and after Servais’ throw sailed into left field, Fraley took home, too.
“Taking bags like that, we’re making things happen,” Fraley said. “We’re not sitting back and seeing if Princeton will give us something. We’re going to go out there and use our legs to our advantage and try to make something happen. It ended up working out tonight.”
LSU jumped out to a 3-1 lead with its veteran starter on the mound. Sophomore southpaw Jared Poché (3-0) had two early hiccups, but he was able to rebound to pick up his third win of the season.
Princeton picked up its first run after sophomore first baseman Zack Belski roped an RBI single to center field. Two innings later, junior shortstop Billy Arendt launched a solo home run over the left-field wall, narrowing LSU’s lead to 3-2.
Poche lasted 6.2 innings, allowing six hits, two earned runs and one walk while striking out five. Sophomore right-hander Alden Cartwright relieved Poché in the top of the seventh inning with two runners in scoring position, but he escaped the jam and preserved the Tigers’ 3-2 lead.
Senior left-hander Zac Person rebounded after allowing a bases-loaded walk Thursday against Southeastern, pitching a scoreless eighth inning despite an error by sophomore third baseman Danny Zardon.
Redshirt freshman closer Jesse Stallings followed in the ninth, staying perfect and striking out the side to collect his fifth save.
The Tigers will play a doubleheader on Saturday because of inclement weather conditions expected Sunday.
Game 1 will begin at 4 p.m., and Game 2 will follow 45 minutes after the first game concludes.
Mainieri said he gathered his players after Friday’s contest. He didn’t feel his position players performed with the same intensity that they did the previous night against Southeastern, so he challenged them to come out with an improved mentality Saturday afternoon.
“He didn’t like the way that he thought we were laying back on our heels a little bit more tonight,” Fraley said. “We’ll come out tomorrow, and we’ll be ready to go. Hopefully we can get two wins.”