The LSU baseball team shook off its first losing weekend of the season and beat McNeese State 7-3 on Tuesday night at Alex Box Stadium.
The third-ranked Tigers, who lost consecutive games and a series for the first time this season when South Carolina defeated them Saturday and Sunday, had 15 hits, their most in a nine-inning game in the past 12 games.
Christian Ibarra had a home run and two singles, JaCoby Jones had three hits and a run batted in, Mark Laird had a single and a double for his first multihit game since March 24 and Mason Katz had two singles for his first multihit game since April 10.
“This gave us our confidence back,” Ibarra said. “We feel better about ourselves. We all felt comfortable hitting and the pitchers did a good job.”
Seven LSU pitchers combined on an eight-hitter and allowed just two unearned runs in the seventh and the first home run of the season by Sam Peterson, who played at LSU in 2011 before transferring, in the ninth.
The Tigers (40-6) begin a Southeastern Conference series against Florida on Thursday night at The Box. The Cowboys (20-22) begin a Southland Conference series at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday night.
“I was really proud of the way the guys approached the game,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “They had a lot of fire in their eyes. There were a lot of really good swings.”
LSU took a 1-0 lead against Trey McGee (2-5) in the first as Laird singled with one out, stole second and came home on Katz’s two-out single. That was Katz’s first RBI in 12 games.
“(Mainieri) joked with me after I got to first base,” Katz said with a smile. “He yelled from the dugout and asked me if I wanted to keep the ball.”
The Tigers increased the lead to 2-0 when Ibarra led off the second with his fifth home run of the season.
The lead grew to 3-0 in the fifth when Laird doubled, Katz singled him to third and Raph Rhymes sent him home with a sacrifice fly.
Laird returned to the starting lineup Tuesday after sitting out the first five innings Sunday in the wake of a prolonged hitting slump.
“I always love being on the field, and just watching that game for five innings I knew how much I missed being out there,” Laird said. “I just tried to bring my level of play up.”
LSU broke the game open in the sixth against reliever Steven O’Bryant, who played at Baton Rouge Community College.
Ibarra led off with a single, and Ty Ross and Jones followed with two more singles to produce a run. Pinch hitter Tyler Moore singled to load the bases and Sean McMullen walked, making it 5-0 and finishing O’Bryant.
Tyler Parke relieved, Laird drove in a run with a fielder’s choice grounder and Alex Bregman singled in the final run of the inning to make it 7-0.
Freshman right-hander Hunter Newman (1-0) made his first start for the Tigers and threw three scoreless innings, matching his longest outing in eight relief appearances. He allowed two hits and struck out one.
Newman found out about 90 minutes before the game that he would replace sophomore left-hander Cody Glenn, who was originally scheduled to pitch the first two innings then start again Saturday in the series finale against Florida.
“When I found out I just prepared myself to go out there and throw strikes,” Newman said. “I was expecting to go one or two innings. I just threw strikes, kept the ball low and let my defense do the work.”
Mainieri said he’ll start Glenn in the series opener against the Gators on Thursday. The Tigers’ last three Southeastern Conference series are Thursday-Saturday, so starting Glenn on Thursday allows Game 1 starter Aaron Nola and Game 2 starter Ryan Eades to stick with their normal routines and start Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Nola has thrown three consecutive complete games and more than 100 pitches in each outing and can use his normal rest. Additionally, the forecast calls for lots of rain Thursday, which could interrupt Nola’s outing or eliminate it altogether if he were to start the opener.
Will LaMarche relieved Newman and pitched two scoreless innings. He struck out the last two batters he faced to strand a runner at third in the fifth.
Nate Fury pitched a perfect sixth and Mitchell Sewald gave up two runs in the seventh thanks in part to some defensive lapses.
“I thought all the pitchers did a really nice job,” Mainieri said. “It was a shame we didn’t get a shutout, but they pitched well enough for us to win.”