LSU offense takes flight in 17-5 win over Air Force to end opening weekend
LSU baseball concluded its Military Appreciation week Sunday afternoon with another impressive debut from a freshman pitcher and an explosive offensive performance resulting in a 17-5 win over Air Force.
The debut of freshman pitcher Jaden Hill couldn’t have started any better as he struck out the first three batters he faced, touching 94 mph on his fastball.
With a three up, three down start from Hill, the LSU (3-0) offense followed lead by loading the bases in the first inning without a single ball leaving the infield. With the bases loaded and no outs Daniel Cabrera was walked to score the first of seven runs for the Tigers in the inning.
LSU went through the entire lineup in the seven run first inning and by the third inning, every single Tiger batter had reached base safely at least once.
Center fielder Zach Watson got back on track Sunday after a 1-for-8 start to the weekend by driving in two runs on a double off the right field wall with Saul Garza and Brock Mathis bringing in three more runs for their first RBI’s of their LSU career.
The back half of the lineup (hitter five through nine) were much improved Sunday after a rather down weekend, where they hit 4-of-28 combined. Against Air Force, the five through nine hitters went 8-of-20 at the plate for seven RBI and the first homerun of first baseman Drew Bianco’s career. Third baseman Hal Hughes also picked up his first two hits of the season, both doubles, the first time he hit two doubles in his career.
“I settled in today, too many times the last couple of nights I was in a lot of two strike counts,” Hughes said. “You can’t panic because it’s too early in the season. My game is hit hard ground balls and line drives so it was good to get a few hits today.”
With a comfortable seven run advantage in his pocket, Hill continued his dominant performance, throwing three scoreless innings before a one run fourth.
Air Force found some success on Hill in the fourth inning with a double from left fielder Christian Gamble and an RBI single from designated hitter Daniel Jones for the first run of the game. Hill proceeded to strike out the next two batters to bring his total to seven through four innings.
“I was really happy to see Jaden go out and pitch the way he has been pitching,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “He was in complete command, showed great poise and his stuff was outstanding.”
Hill was replaced by Chase Costello in the sixth inning and allowed one run on four hits with eight strikeouts.
Hill said the biggest difference he noticed in his game between fall ball and Sunday was his command of his breaking ball.
“I felt comfortable going out there despite being a little nervous at first,” Hill said. “In tough situations you need that breaking ball and I’m very comfortable throwing that pitch with Brock Mathis back there.”
As the game wore on, Mainieri made substitutions that led to first career hits for Gavin Dugas and Giovanni DiGiacomo while senior hitter Chris Reid picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
“I think hitting is contagious,” Hughes said. “Once you see a few guys get a hit you have to be like ‘now it’s my turn to get a hit.’ It was a lot of good energy today, I thought we came out strong and finished the weekend off well.”
LSU is back in action Tuesday night for a mid-week matchup at Alex Box against Southeastern. Freshman Cole Henry will get his first start on the mound after making an appearance on Friday against ULM.