Cole Henry, Early Offense Fuels No. 11 LSU to 8-1 Opening Day Victory Over Indiana on Valentine's Day
It was a lovely Valentine's Day for LSU baseball Friday night as the Tigers received an ace performance from Cole Henry and scored early and often, beating Indiana 8-1 on opening day.
There were two goals coach Paul Mainieri wanted to accomplish with the first game of the season. He wanted to see Henry go out and dominate like every ace pitcher on an SEC roster should and he wanted consistency within the offense.
Mission accomplished on both fronts, even though the bottom half of the order failed to record a hit. Henry was the star of the evening, pitching four shutout innings with eight strikeouts, no walks and three hits.
Mainieri said Henry's velocity was higher than it's been at any point this spring and the sophomore ace said he thinks that comes from being tired of facing the same guys in practice everyday.
"When there's people in the stands and you're facing another team, your heart starts beating a little bit," Henry said. "I kind of pitch off the energy in the stadium and what the team brings so when there's a lot of people the ball starts jumping out of your hand pretty good."
"The way he threw tonight is how a Friday night starter in the SEC has to pitch in order to give you a chance to win," Mainieri said.
Freshman second baseman Cade Doughty had his "welcome to college baseball" moment just three pitches into his first at-bat. After a Daniel Cabrera leadoff single to begin the game, Doughty blasted a two-run homerun into the left field bleachers to kick-start the LSU offense into high gear right off the bat.
Doughty became the first LSU player since Beau Didier in 2009 to hit a homerun in his first at-bat as a Tiger and would finish the night 1-for-2, drawing an additional two walks.
The homerun was not only the first of his career but the first Doughty's hit since coming to Baton Rouge in the fall.
"Coming in I was a little nervous and I was just trying to get comfortable up there," Doughty said. "He kind of hung a changeup high and just put a good swing on it. Usually I try to think middle away, try to hit the ball over the second baseman's head and that causes me to be a little early on offspeed pitches like I was on my homerun tonight."
The freshman wasn't the only offensive player to have success against the Indiana pitching staff. Two innings after Doughty's bomb, senior catcher Saul Garza knocked a three-run homerun of his own over the left field fence.
Garza, like Doughty, finished 1-for-2 with two walks as LSU scored five unanswered runs in three innings to siege control of the game early.
The top of the lineup as a whole performed very well in the opener as the one through five hitters went a combined 8-of-17 with five drawn walks and three strikeouts. The bottom half of the lineup was a different story as the six through nine hole hitters went 0-of-14 at the plate with four strikeouts.
With a comfortable lead in hand, it was up to the bullpen to bring the game home and LSU received some solid work from junior transfer Brandon Kaminer and senior Matthew Beck. The two combined to allow just one run in four innings on the mound.
Outside of just one walk, Beck retired six of the seven batters he faced before Aaron George came in for the four-out save.
LSU will be back in action Saturday for a doubleheader with the Hoosiers starting at 1 p.m. Game three will start approximately 60 minutes after the completion of game two.