Facing the first batter of his collegiate career, LSU right-handed pitcher Jaden Hill uncorked a 94 mph fastball. The pitch froze Air Force’s leadoff hitter.
Strike three on the inside corner.
LSU threw the ball around the infield, and Hill circled the mound. Then he struck out the next two batters.
Just like Landon Marceaux the day before, Hill dazzled during his debut. His fastball touched the mid-90s throughout the game. He mixed offspeed pitches and changed velocity, keeping Air Force off-balance and off the bases. Behind Hill and an offensive onslaught, LSU beat Air Force 17-5 on Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
“(Hill) was in complete command,” coach Paul Mainieri said.
LSU (3-0) finished its opening weekend undefeated, while Air Force dropped to 1-2. The first three games provided an encouraging start for the Tigers, who lost two of their three opening games last season.
The first weekend series of the 2019 LSU baseball season is here as the Tigers will play three different teams in three days at Alex Box Stadium, starting with UL-Monroe Friday night.
Coming from Ashdown, Arkansas, a city Hill described as “smaller than this campus,” he had never pitched in such an environment. The most people he had played in front of was a scrimmage last fall against UNO. Sunday's start came in front of a crowd of 11,403, pushing the paid attendance for the weekend to 35,463, the highest for an opening weekend in stadium history.
After Hill struck out the side in the first inning, LSU batted around. Hitting coach Sean Ochinko instructed the Tigers to focus on hitting the ball to the opposite field against a slower left-handed pitcher. The strategy worked.
The Tigers loaded the bases without hitting a ball out of the infield. Then sophomore Daniel Cabrera walked, bringing in the first run. Zach Watson followed with a double to right field. Saul Garza hit a double to almost the same spot. Brock Mathis hit another double, also to right field.
“Our scouting report going in was to try to drive the ball the other way,” said Hal Hughes, who hit two doubles, “and I think we did that.”
Freshman Cade Beloso belted a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to bring No. 1 LSU a 6-5 victory over Army Saturday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
By the time the inning ended, LSU had poured on seven runs. Josh Smith and Brandt Broussard each batted twice.
LSU extended its lead throughout the game. First baseman Drew Bianco cranked a two-run home run — the first hit of his career — into the left-field seats. Smith, who went 4 for 4, added another RBI double.
Every starting LSU batter reached base at least once by the end of the second inning. When Antoine Duplantis smacked the team’s ninth double of the game in the fifth, increasing the lead to 12-1, every Tiger in the starting lineup had a hit.
Mainieri inserted backups early, but LSU kept scoring runs. The scoreboard read 17-1 with two outs in the sixth inning.
LSU opens up baseball season at home against ULM during Military Appreciation Weekend, Friday, February 15, 2019, at Alex Box Stadiu in Baton …
Meanwhile, Hill cruised. He gave up a double and an RBI single in the fourth inning but struck out the next two batters. With the score so lopsided, Mainieri pulled Hill after the fifth inning. He had thrown 71 pitches and recorded his eighth strikeout with his final pitch.
Hill said afterward he didn’t have great feel for his changeup and he needed to throw more first-pitch strikes. He thought he had pitched OK. Once he finished answering questions, Hill sat on a dugout ledge.
He waited there for anyone else who might want to speak with him. He had thrown his last pitch a couple of hours earlier, and he bundled himself in a pullover. When no one else came, Hill descended into the tunnel, smiling. He pushed his hat up on his head and walked out of sight.
“His stuff is outstanding,” Mainieri said. “He did exactly what we were hoping he would do.”