The pronounced goal was to win. But in the days leading up to LSU’s long, rain-delayed 11-4 win against Southeastern Louisiana, another objective emerged: to ensure this young Tigers team remained solely focused on its midweek opponent rather than look ahead to Mississippi State or suffer a hangover from its sweep of Missouri.
In a game that blended from Wednesday night into Thursday morning, starting pitcher Doug Norman breezed through a perfect first two innings on 24 pitches. LSU coerced a Southeastern mound visit after seeing seven pitches and scoring one run in the first inning — equaling its combined total in embarrassing midweek losses to Tulane and McNeese.
And even when an impediment appeared — a 2-hour, 24-minute weather delay to interrupt this success — the Tigers remained engaged.
“Came back out and coach was preaching to us, ‘Stay focused, stay focused like we were, let’s keep hitting, let’s keep getting people out,’ ” Beau Jordan said. “And we came out here and executed it.”
LSU scored in each of its first five innings and benefitted from four Southeastern errors to outlast the Lions on a six-hour night at Alex Box Stadium.
Playing in front of a thinned crowd comprised largely of Southeastern fans after the delay, Greg Deichmann quieted the green-clad die-hards in the sixth with a laser into right field, his sixth home run of the season.
It left his bat at 103 mph with a 24-degree launch angle, drove in three and separated the Tigers in what had been a tenuous three-run game.
“Usually when (a delay is) like 30 minutes or something, you can focus back up,” Deichmann said. “But when you kick your cleats off, lay down on the couch for a little bit and watch some TV, it can be hard to focus up. We did a good job of coming back out here, getting out of that jam right there, putting some runs back on the board right when we got back out here. So that kind of kept the energy up, focus up.”
As it was planned, Norman exited after his two innings and gave way to Riley Smith, who loaded the bases with two outs in the third to bring Jameson Fisher — the nation’s leading hitter — to the plate.
Smith walked Fisher on four pitches to force in the Lions’ first run. He fell behind 3-1 on Southeastern cleanup man Carson Crites before Paul Mainieri pulled him in favor of Collin Strall.
Strall had not finished his warmup pitches before the decision was made to pull the teams from the field.
The LSU sidearmer inherited the count and walked Crites with his first pitch after the delay to force in a run. Jesse Stallings entered, only to walk Drew Avans to cut the LSU lead to 4-3.
Jordan and his brother, Bryce, each had RBIs in the fourth inning to push the LSU lead back to three.
“You don’t do things like that if the guys aren’t focused and bearing down and really into the ballgame,” Mainieri said. “They could have just kind of gone through the motions, and we could have ended up losing this ballgame. Instead, we played hard right to the end. I was very proud of that. They just had a great desire to win tonight.”
Mike Papierski added a solo home run in the eighth — just his second of the season — to cap the Tigers’ 11-hit outing.
LSU scored three unearned runs in the first inning on RBI singles from Jake Fraley, Jordan Romero and Beau Jordan — an inning that began when Lions shortstop Brennan Breaud threw Antoine Duplantis’ leadoff grounder high of first base.
Southeastern made four errors in total, leading to six unearned runs in a performance coach Matt Riser described succinctly.
“Embarrassing,” Riser said. “It’s an embarrassing showing. We keep talking that we want to be on a national stage, but we’re apparently not ready. And that’s my fault. I’ve got to find a way to prepare these guys better.”
Cashman uncorked a wild pitch to Fraley in the second, allowing Cole Freeman to score after LSU’s nine-hole hitter tripled down the left-field line. Freeman finished with a career-high-tying three hits and scored two runs.
“I think we’re growing as a team and staying focused from the first inning through the last one,” Freeman said. “It’s showing maturity. We’re able to lock in whenever we need to.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome