Labas strong in debut as LSU downs Southeastern, 4-2

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AJ Labas
(Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

BATON ROUGE, La. – Behind solid early-game pitching from right-handers AJ Labas and Ma’Khail Hilliard, 14th-ranked LSU defeated Southeastern Louisiana, 4-2, on Sunday afternoon at Skip Bertman Field, Alex Box Stadium.

With the win, LSU improves to on the 8-4 on the season, while Southeastern falls to 7-5. The Tigers return to action by playing host to Southern University at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field. Southeastern returns to Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field this week, hosting Toledo at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Coming off of a back injury, Labas made his first career appearance for LSU, starting Sunday’s contest. The freshman threw two scoreless innings allowing just one hit with one walk.

Hilliard entered the game to start the third inning, and the freshman fired 4.0 shutout innings, allowing just one hit and striking out four to earn the win and advance to 3-0 on the season.

Left-hander Nick Bush pitched 1.2 innings of scoreless relief through the eighth inning, giving up just one hit with one walk and three strikeouts. Senior right-hander Austin Bain pitched a scoreless ninth with one strikeout, earning the first save by an LSU pitcher this season.

Southeastern starter Kade Granier (1-1) was charged with loss, going 4.0 innings and allowing four runs – three earned – on seven hits and one walk.

LSU won four of its five games this week and swept its three weekend contest versus Toledo, Sacred Heart and Southeastern.

“I think the most significant thing to come out of this week was the way our pitching improved,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We got just what we wanted out of AJ today; he induced a lot of weak contact and worked quickly through two shutout innings. The bullpen was outstanding today – Ma’Khail had to rely mostly on his fastball and can actually better than he was with his curveball. Nick Bush made some big pitches in the seventh inning and mowed them down in the eighth inning, and Austin Bain was blowing some serious gas in there today with his fastball.”

LSU jumped ahead early when centerfielder Antoine Duplantis launched a solo home with two outs in the first inning, his first dinger of the season.

Leftfielder Beau Jordan came to the plate with one out in the third inning and he found the sweet spot on a 2-2 pitch, launching it over the left field fence to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead with his third homer of the year. Two batters later, Hunter Feduccia hit a laser that ricocheted off the second baseman’s glove for a double, extending his hitting streak to nine games.

Right fielder Daniel Cabrera then doubled to left field, bringing Feduccia home to extend the LSU lead to 3-0.

LSU had runners on the corners with no outs in the fifth inning. Designated hitter Nick Webre led the inning off with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch before Beau Jordan singled to centerfield. With Duplantis coming to bat, Southeastern went to the bullpen to bring in Jay Biddy, a right-handed junior.

Duplantis got another RBI when he lifted a sacrifice fly to center, bringing home Webre from third. The Tigers led 4-0 through five innings.

“We had a couple of big homers and some key hits, but it wasn’t a great, great offensive outing for us,” Mainieri said. “We had 10 hits and only scored four runs, but with the pitching we had today, it was enough.”

After Trent Vietemeier replaced Hilliard to begin the seventh inning, Southeastern cut the LSU lead in half. Designated hitter Preston Faulkner was hit by a pitch and then Kyle Schimpf hit a two-run homer to right field.

After a successful relief outing from Bush, Bain came in to close for the Tigers. He hit the leadoff hitter, but forced a Schimpf to hit a grounder which allowed LSU shortstop Hal Hughes to turn a double play. Bain then struck out catcher Daniel Wasinger to earn the save and give LSU the victory.

LSU 4, Southeastern 2
(Mar 04, 2018 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Southeastern…….. 000 000 200 – 2 4 2 (7-5)
LSU……………….. 102 010 00X – 4 10 0 (8-4)
Pitchers: Southeastern – Granier, Kade; Biddy, Jared (5); Robinson, Payton (8); Nini, Jace (8) and Wasinger, Daniel. LSU – Labas, AJ; Hilliard, Ma’Khail (3); Vietmeier, Trent (7); Bush, Nick (7); Bain, Austin (9) and Feduccia, Hunter.

Win-Hilliard, Ma’Khail (3-0) Save-Bain, Austin (1) Loss-Granier, Kade(1-1) T-2:39 A-10990
HR SLU – Schimpf, Kyle (1).
HR LSU – Jordan, Beau (3); Duplantis, Antoine (1).
Weather: 78 degrees, sunny
Granier, K. faced 2 batters in the 5th.

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