Paul Mainieri feels excited about the freshmen in LSU’s lineup, and it’s easy to understand why after Game 1 of the Purple-Gold World Series.
First baseman Tre’ Morgan, right fielder Dylan Crews and third baseman Will Safford sparked a four-run first inning Wednesday night for the Gold Team, which consisted of LSU’s best hitters, in the first of three intrasquad scrimmages marking the end of fall practice.
“I’ve been seeing this every day from these guys,” said Mainieri, who watched the game from the press box to isolate himself before his second neck surgery in less than a year on Nov. 16.
Yet the Purple Team spoiled their night, winning 7-6 as sophomore Mitchell Sanford hit a game-winning single with two outs. The Purple Team scored seven runs over the final two innings against freshman right-hander Brooks Rice. Sanford’s teammates ripped off his shirt and poured ice water over his back.
While the Southeastern Conference hasn’t made a final decision regarding the 2021 baseball season, LSU coach Paul Mainieri feels confident the…
While Sanford won the game, the trio of Morgan, Crews and Safford collected five hits, three RBIs and three runs scored. They combined to go 5 for 10 with two extra base hits.
Occupying the middle of LSU’s lineup, the freshmen led an outburst in the first inning against junior right-hander AJ Labas, a solidified member of the weekend rotation who nearly threw a no-hitter last season.
“We know AJ Labas is going to be an outstanding pitcher for us,” Mainieri said.
With one out and a runner on first, Morgan fouled four straight pitches with two strikes against him before slapping a single into center field. Crews soon hit an opposite-field triple down the first base line. Two runs scored. Then Safford doubled into right field with two strikes. Crews scores easily. The inning ended because Labas reached the 25-pitch limit. LSU awarded Safford a run.
If LSU baseball's season began tomorrow, the Tigers would start three freshmen: Dylan Crews, Tre' Morgan and Will Safford.
“The at-bats by Tre’ Morgan and Will Safford, battling with two strikes,” Mainieri said, “that was really exciting.”
Though Labas settled into a rhythm, pitching two scoreless innings to end his outing, the early damage supported the Gold Team for six innings. Its pitchers, led by freshman Garrett Edwards, didn’t allow a run until the sixth.
Mainieri raved about the three freshmen the day before. They stood out throughout practices last month, their talent and poise helping establish themselves as likely starters when LSU’s season begins next February.
In a lineup that LSU would’ve used if Wednesday was opening day, Mainieri positioned the freshmen within the top-6 hitters. Morgan batted third. Crews hit fifth. Safford followed one spot behind him.
Hundreds of Southeastern Conference baseball parents sent a letter Thursday to commissioner Greg Sankey asking the league to arrange a full schedule next spring in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The freshmen cooled off after their first-inning barrage. Morgan singled once on a hit-and-run, struck out and grounded out. Crews took a hit by pitch and struck out twice. Safford struck out, hit an infield single and walked. They played solid defense, though Morgan uncharacteristically missed a pick in the seventh that would’ve won the game.
“The inconsistency will show,” Mainieri said. “We’ll have to show a lot of patience with these young kids no question about that.”
LSU may start as many as five freshmen next spring, with shortstop Jordan Thompson and outfielder Brody Drost also pushing for playing time. Mainieri knows their ability to adapt to the college game will largely determine LSU’s season, but he thinks they can handle the adjustment.
If the first inning Wednesday provided any indication, they might not need long.