Facing the demands of a 12-hour day inside Alex Box Stadium, LSU made sure its regular starters got got a break.
The Tigers scored six runs in the first two innings, spurred by two homers in the second, to put the opening game of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader — a 15-1 LSU win — quickly out of reach.
Paul Mainieri began to empty his bench in the sixth inning after his team put up a three more runs to go ahead 11-1. By the time Hunter Devall recorded the final out, just three starters — O’Neal Lochridge, Greg Deichmann and Jordan Romero — remained on the field.
“That’s a little bit of a concern because you almost like one game to go into the next because you don’t want them to get mentally lazy,” Mainieri said. “But once the game started to become a little bit one-sided, it became an opportunity to get some other guys into the game and keep the regulars from getting hurt.”
Already ahead 1-0 after Beau Jordan’s first-inning RBI double, the Tigers scored five times in the second.
Jordan Romero, who had a home run in his only at-bat Friday night, took Fordham starter Joseph Serrapica’s first pitch of the second inning — an 89 mph fastball — into the left-field seats for his sixth hit in 10 at-bats and his team-leading third homer.
Romero finished 2-for-3, adding an RBI double in the eighth to give him a 3-for-4 weekend with a double and two homers heading into Saturday’s night game.
“(Romero’s) hitting the ball hard, having some real quality at-bats,” Mainieri said. “Then Fraley hit the big home run as well. That was great to see.”
Following Romero’s second-inning homer, Lochridge drew a walk and went first to third on Cole Freeman’s chopper through the left side, putting the No. 9 hitter at second on the throw. Fordham drew its infield in as the LSU lineup turned over for leadoff hitter Kramer Robertson.
Robertson shot a single through the middle to clear the bases. He came home on the next pitch, which Jake Fraley deposited into the right-field stands, 387 feet away from home plate. Chris Reid added another homer, albeit in a more unconventional way, in the seventh.
With Lochridge already aboard, Reid sliced Ryan Remo’s 0-1 pitch inside the left field line and came all the way around for a two-run, inside-the-park home run.
Tiger starter John Valek III threw three hitless innings before Ryan McNally led off the fourth with a hustle double through the middle. He advanced to third on a groundout and scored when Justin Bardwell sent Valek’s two-strike pitch into center field for an RBI single.
Luke Stampfl lined the next pitch right at Valek, who caught it and spiked the baseball in disgust, still upset at his two-strike pitch to Bardwell. Valek allowed just one run on three hits in five innings.
“Just a little frustrated I gave up that one run, but all in all it was a good day,” Valek said. “My changeup was working really well. The first few I threw didn’t really feel that great, but I just kept throwing it, kept trusting it. Curveball was pretty good. I don’t think my fastball command was as good as it was last week, but obviously it was good enough to keep me successful.”
His second-inning walk to Bardwell was the first of his LSU career — he had gone 14 innings without allowing one — and was the only runner to reach before McNally in the fourth.
Riley Smith and Austin Bain — contenders for a starting job before they faltered at the start of the season— pitched consecutive perfect innings in the seventh and eighth.
“I thought they both threw good; that was great,” Mainieri said. “They looked relaxed out there and were challenging the hitters. I was real happy that Bain’s first pitch had a real downhill angle and went for a strike. That was good to see.”