The plan was simple.
Two innings for starter Alden Cartwright. Two more for Austin Bain. Doug Norman would go for one or two. Then, depending on the game’s status, LSU coach Paul Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn would piecemeal the remainder of the Tigers’ opening game against Lehigh in the Baton Rouge regional.
Cartwright, whose last start came after he infamously guaranteed a victory in last season’s 12-2 season-ending loss to Houston, dazzled for one frame.
Then the rain came.
“Had to make up the inning with somebody else,” Mainieri said.
The task went to Bain, who breezed through his two-inning stint once the two-plus-hour delay was done. He thrived off the aggressive Mountain Hawk hitters, who had a propensity to swing early in counts and often at first pitches. Bain headed to the fourth inning with only 11 pitches thrown.
It took 25 to get through that frame, though, as bain spotted Lehigh two runs on two hits and a Jared Foster error that extended the inning.
Bain left a breaking pitch up on the inner half of the plate to three-hole hitter Mike Garzillo, who led off the inning with a ringing double to the gap in left-center. Patrick Donnelly followed with a rocket to Foster, who couldn’t bring it to his body, and allowed it to skirt into center field.
Patrick Welshe made it hurt two batters later, smacking a double down the third-base line to stun the Alex Box Stadium crowd and put the Mountain Hawks ahead 2-0.
“Little bit was Austin making quality pitches, little bit was defense, little bit was their kid just putting a good swing on a ball,” Mainieri said of Bain’s outing and the inning.
Bain, who allowed three of the Mountain Hawks’ five hits, was the only bitter spot on the evening. Aside from a Doug Norman wild pitch and a four-pitch walk from Hunter Newman, the hodgepodge group Mainieri has coined “Johnny Wholestaff” held its own.
As a group, the pitchers allowed only two walks and fanned seven hitters. Perhaps more importantly, though, five Tigers tasted their first regional experience.
“All the pitchers are probably confusing to the hitters because we’re all different,” said Russell Reynolds, one of those first-timers who pitched a perfect eighth. “Doing a whole bullpen game probably helps us all out.”
Mainieri added: “I thought it worked out well. Most of the guys I thought threw really well out of the bullpen.”