LSU needed some kind of momentum heading into another critical weekend in the SEC and found it with a 14-1 win over in state McNeese State.
The midweek performance against McNeese State was a great opportunity for the coaching staff to get one final look at a pair of freshmen who will be prime candidates for the Sunday starting nod against Kentucky this weekend. Freshmen Will Hellmers and Garrett Edwards feel like the favorites to earn the job, with coach Paul Mainieri electing to go with Edwards on the mound to start against the Cowboys.
Edwards made just his second start of the season but looked very comfortable in the role in his two innings on the mound. He threw only 26 pitches, 18 of which were for strikes, allowing two hits, no runs and three strikeouts.
By comparison, Hellmers threw the third and fourth innings, not allowing a run in his time but did issue two walks to go along with three strikeouts. Both looked the part of a weekend starter and it'll be interesting to see which route Mainieri rolls with this weekend.
The pitching was stellar throughout the night but the offense was the real story. After going three games against Vanderbilt where it could muster only four hits in each game, the offense needed some kind of momentum heading into another SEC weekend.
While no one should confuse McNeese's pitching with that of an SEC caliber rotation, the Tigers were able to muster up 12 hits and 14 runs throughout the course of the game. A number of the LSU hitters were able to get back on track, including Cade Doughty, who went 4-for-5 with four RBI.
Giovanni DiGiacomo also made his much anticipated return to the lineup in centerfield after suffering a hamstring injury early in the season, going 1-for-3 on the evening with a pair of RBI that included a sacrifice bunt that brought home one of five runs in the fourth inning to break the game open. For one of the few times all season, situational hitting was at its best during the fourth as LSU laid down a couple of successful bunts to bring home runs and advance runners.
"It felt really good to get back out there and help my teammates again," DiGiacomo said. "It was a little frustrating. I didn't realize how tough if it'd be to come back. We're in the second half of the season now so I think I can help us out in center and produce at the plate.
"It's great to have him back in the lineup. Gio's a great player and he brings some great talent to our team," Doughty added.
Those are the types of offensive consistencies that need to translate to the weekend. Much like last week's game against South Alabama, it was a good tune up game to get the offense back on track but it must start carrying over to conference play.
If the Tigers hope to start to climb back up the SEC standings, the hitting needs to translate to wins against the Wildcats, particularly with one of the more talented arms in Hill shelved the remainder of the way.
After a not so great practice on Monday, Mainieri was concerned abotu the team's psyche, even sitting the players down and talking a lot about perspective.
"I talked to the team about perspective and I talked about Jaden Hill's unfortunate injury and how life sometimes is very difficult," Mainieri said. "You're gonna face a lot of adversity in life and you can bounce back from it."
LSU starts its three game seires with Kentucky on Friday with Landon Marceaux on the mound for the purple and gold.
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