Blowouts rule the day as LSU and Southern Miss set up Saturday showdown
Going into the Baton Rouge Regional, the conventional wisdom was that LSU was a favorite but a shaky one, despite playing well in the SEC tournament in Hoover, Alabama.
Southern Miss and Arizona State were considered to be threats to get out of Baton Rouge alive while Stony Brook had done so before.
Paul Mainieri surprised some by choosing freshman Landon Marceaux of Destrehan to take the ball against Stony Brook.
In retrospect, it was not an unconventional decision.
Despite struggling for much of the season, over his last six starts, Marceaux has been the best starter on LSU staff. He did not give up an earned run to Auburn in his last start in the SEC tournament.
Marceaux delivered in fine fashion Friday night in an easy 17-3 win over Stony Brook. He allowed just one earned run in five innings pitched.
Marceaux had to deal with adversity very early in the contest.
Hal Hughes made a great play on a high chopper to third by Nick Grande on the first play of the game to set the stage for LSU.
Then, Marceaux gave up a single, threw a wild pitch, walked a batter and then Josh Smith threw away an easy double play ball that would have ended the inning, scoring a run to give the Seawolves a 1-0 lead.
It would not last.
LSU answered in a big way in the bottom of the first with five runs, the big blow being a base-clearing double by red hot Saul Garza down the first base line. Chris Reid had a bases loaded walk to drive in a run while Brandt Broussard carried over his hot tournament in Hoover with an RBI single.
The Tigers would not look back.
LSU put up crooked numbers in each of the first five innings to put the game away early. Where is the mercy rule when you need it?
Antoine Duplantis had three hits and three RBI to tie Eddy Furniss as the all-time hit leader in LSU baseball history with 352. He flied out in his final at-bat and must wait until Saturday to try to surpass Furniss.
Garza finished with two hits and three RBI while Zach Watson belted a two-run home run and drove in three runs.
Just as important was the continued surge of Brandt Broussard, who had three hits, including a home run and four RBI, carrying over his hot bat from Hoover.
Chris Reid added a pair of RBI.
Mainieri was able to preserve his key bullpen pitchers in Matthew Beck, Zach Hess and Todd Peterson, none of whom pitched Friday night. Mainieri was able to use Ma’khail Hilliard, Trent Veitmeier, Chase Costello and Rye Gunter for an inning each so the Tigers are set up for Southern Miss.
Like the Tigers, the Golden Eagles won in a blowout, destroying Arizona State 15-3.
Trailing 1-0, Southern Miss erupted for 12 runs in the top of the fifth inning to put the Sun Devils away.
The Golden Eagles banged out 17 hits as starter Gabe Shepard only went 5 2/3 innings, using 112 pitches.
All-time USM home run leader Matt Wallner belted a homer and drove in four runs while Danny Lynch had three hits, including a home run and four RBI. Hunter Slater added two hits and two RBI.
Southern Miss is hot at the right time. The Golden Eagles won the Conference USA tournament in Biloxi last weekend and will provide a tough test for LSU Saturday evening.
The key for both teams is that they were able to preserve their best bullpen options, thanks to easy wins Friday.
There are good signs for LSU. Daniel Cabrera, who has been in a prolonged slump, had a single. Watson broke a homerless drought. Garza continued red hot and Broussard and Duplantis are hitting well.
Cole Henry will get the ball Saturday and the bullpen is ready to go.
This was not your brother’s Stony Brook club of 2012. This year’s team pales in comparison to the team that beat LSU seven years ago with seven players who were drafted.
That Stony Brook team was better than LSU. This LSU team is clearly better than the Seawolves. Now, the Tigers must prove they are best in the regional by winning the driver’s seat contest Saturday at 6 p.m.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…