In his second start of the season, Jaden Hill couldn't make it past the second out of the first inning, a performance coach Paul Mainieri would later call an "aberration." On Friday evening against a hard hitting Roadrunners team, Hill proved that last week's performance was indeed a fluke as the junior threw 96 pitches of scoreless baseball to help guide LSU to a 3-1 win over UTSA.
Hill fired a career high 6.2 innings to keep LSU afloat, by having great command of his fastball and improving with his offspeed pitches as the night went along as well. Of the 96 pitches Hill threw, 56 went for strikes as he was also able to strike out six batters on the evening.
Most importantly, the junior ace was able to clamp down on the UTSA offense in the first six innings as the Tigers' offense tried to get going. LSU batters started 2-for-18 at the plate and weren't able to get any runs across in the opening half of the game.
"Obviously the biggest get from tonight was the performance by Jaden Hill," Mainieri said. "He was just tremendous tonight. He extended further than he ever has and made some really key pitches at key times.
"It felt good to be back out there. It was a great game and glad we got the win," Hill said. "I changed my preparation and was able to focus on getting that third pitch consistently and got something that felt comfortable and was able to execute."
Gavin Dugas' 0-for-3 night leading up to the eighth inning had been a good representation of LSU's offensive night to that point. The offense had hit some hard balls for the entirety of the game but the only problem was most of them were right at UTSA fielders. A Cade Doughty solo home run was the only offense LSU could muster for seven innings.
After losing a 1-0 lead in the top of the eighth, the Tigers were in need of their most important swings of the evening. Dylan Crews set the tone with a leadoff single, just the fourth hit of the evening. First baseman Tre' Morgan was hit by a pitch and Cade Beloso was intentionally walked to set Dugas up.
Much like the rest of the evening, Dugas rocketed a ball right at the UTSA second baseman. But the Roadrunners infield wasn't expecting Dugas to turn on the jets. It was likely the most important 90-foot run of Dugas' career as he was able to just beat a double play ball that brought in the two winning LSU runs.
"We didn't hit the ball great tonight but we did hit a few balls with guys in scoring position, that were hit really hard," Mainieri said. "Had a couple of balls that didn't fall. I thought Dugas hustling to first base there at the end was huge for us.
"That's the fastest I've ever run to first," Dugas said. "We hit a lot of balls hard today and a lot of balls right at people and it's part of the game. I have complete confidence in this lineup."
Freshman relief pitcher Garrett Edwards went three up, three down in the ninth to secure the win. But it was a position the team once again really shouldn't have been in. LSU's closer Devin Fontenot once again struggled with command as the Roadrunners were able to plate that eighth inning run to tie the game up.
On a night where the balls wouldn't drop for the offense, it was nice to see this team win a game late with those offensive struggles. With the level of SEC pitching the team expects to face, it won't always be double digit run games.
LSU will be back in action tomorrow evening looking for the series win with Landon Marceaux back on the mound.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.