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LSU’s starting pitcher Landon Marceaux (11) pitches in the first inning of LSU's game versus Air Force Sunday in LSU's Alex Box Stadium.

As Paul Mainieri drove home after LSU’s worst loss since 2007, he called Landon Marceaux. Mainieri told the junior pitcher he believed the middle game of a series was the most important every weekend. If a team won Friday night, the middle game determined if it could sweep the opponent. If a team lost, the middle game provided the opportunity to even the series, renewing confidence and momentum.

“Who do you want pitching ... but the guy who’s the most reliable?” Mainieri said. “I feel that way about you. That’s why I love you pitching this middle game of the weekend series.”

“I’m ready for it,” Mainieri recalled Marceaux saying.

In that middle game Saturday afternoon against Oral Roberts, Marceaux threw six scoreless innings as No. 8 LSU won 12-0 inside Alex Box Stadium, rebounding to even the weekend series with its second shutout this season. The Tigers won by double digits after a double-digit loss to the same team for the first time since 1964 against Mississippi State.

“The hell did I get into this sport all these years ago, huh?” Mainieri said. “As I told the team — and as I’ve told many teams for many years — they only count as one whether you win or lose. Yesterday only counted as one game, and guess what? Today only counted as one game as well.”

Marceaux put on a clinic against Oral Roberts, a team that beat LSU 22-7 the day before. The right-hander scattered six hits, struck out seven batters and threw 63 of his 84 pitches for strikes, fueled by a loss he called “embarrassing.”

“I didn’t play,” Marceaux said, “and I felt horrible.”

Marceaux has now opened the season with 17 consecutive scoreless innings. He also hasn’t issued a walk. But to him, the outing marked his third straight quality start, the only statistic he said he cares about.

Marceaux protected a narrow lead for most of the afternoon, and with LSU leading 1-0 in the fourth inning, Oral Roberts (3-7) put runners in scoring position with two outs after a throwing error by second baseman Zach Arnold extended the frame. Marceaux struck out the next batter. He yelled and walked off the mound as the umpire called the third strike.

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“He goes out there with a ton of confidence every day and believes in himself,” said Arnold, who went 3 for 4. “That makes us believe in him even more. Every time he gets the ball, we know we’re going to be in for it.”

With Marceaux approaching the end of his start and LSU (9-2) limited in its bullpen options, the Tigers reached Oral Roberts starter Isaac Coffey in the fifth inning. Freshman center fielder Brody Drost slapped a single into right field with the bases loaded. Then junior designated hitter Cade Beloso and Dugas followed with RBI singles, stretching LSU’s lead to 5-0.

After a walk loaded the bases again, Oral Roberts pulled Coffey, who recently had a streak of 23⅓ scoreless innings and entered the game with a 1.54 ERA through two starts. The Tigers tacked on another three unearned runs against junior reliever AJ Archambo to lead 8-0 as they batted around during the frame.

Though he no longer had to protect a slim lead, Marceaux didn’t change when he returned for his final inning. After allowing a one-out single, he induced a ground ball to shortstop Drew Bianco, who started a double play. Marceaux pounded his glove as the ball zipped across the infield.

“He just knows how to pitch,” said Dugas, who went 2 for 3 with three RBIs. “He trusts his stuff. He doesn’t try to do too much.”

LSU added another three runs in the sixth when Dugas hit a two-run double and Arnold smacked an RBI single, allowing the Tigers to empty their bench. Most of the starters spent the rest of the game watching from the dugout, able to smile and joke one day after such an ugly loss.

With the series tied, Mainieri compared the situation to a boxing match, saying LSU got knocked down and bloodied during the first round, barely stood and won the second round. He thought the players showed resolve. He felt proud of them. They can still take the fight.

“Tomorrow,” Mainieri said, “a lot is at stake for our kids.”

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