Walkoff from freshman Beloso saves LSU baseball in 6-5 win over Army
For eight innings Saturday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium, No. 1 ranked LSU's offense was disappointing.
It took a ninth-inning three-run walkoff homer by a true freshman playing in his first college game to provide Tigers with a 6-5 victory.
You couldn’t have scripted the ending any better. LSU's bottom of the lineup had been a combined 1-for-15 to that point, the only hit coming from first baseman Cade Beloso.
So with one last chance in the ninth, center fielder Zach Watson and pinch hitter Giovanni DiGiacomo drew walks to set the stage for Beloso.
A year ago, Beloso was starring in his high school adaptation of “High School Musical 2”. Now here he was, a chance to join an elite walkoff homer club that left fielder Daniel Cabrera joined in a ninth inning win over Tennessee last season as a true freshman.
Beloso liked the first pitch he saw and drilled a low line drive into the right field stands as his teammates poured from the dugout to greet him at home plate.
Beloso said he blacked out in the moment with so many emotions running through his mind.
“We work extremely hard and it feels amazing,” Beloso said. “It’s like a dream come true. Coach (Paul Mainieri) told me to get my money’s worth and that he believed in me and that really took some pressure off.”
LSU scored two first inning runs, both unearned. After a leadoff single from shortstop Josh Smith, a sacrifice bunt laid down beautifully by second baseman Brandt Broussard resulted in an errant throw by the catcher as Smith scooted home and Broussard trucked to third base. A sacrifice fly from right fielder Antoine Duplantis gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
It took some by surprise that Mainieri decided to put Broussard batting second in the lineup. But so far through seven at bats, the senior has made it on base four times without his ball leaving the infield.
Much of the LSU order had difficulty holding back on Army pitcher Daniel Burggraaf’s offspeed pitches. It resulted in a five-inning stretch of the Tigers' being held scoreless with two hits and with three strikeouts.
Mainieri said afterwards the Tigers were “fortunate” to walk away with a win, but relayed how proud he was of his team for continuing to battle.
“I think some of the bad breaks our way was a result of some really good play by Army,” Mainieri said. “We recruited Beloso to hit home runs, not to bunt and he hit the ball out of the park. What a special moment for that young man.”
What bailed the Tigers out for five innings was getting poised, tough pitching from freshman Landon Marceaux who looked the part of a weekend starter in his LSU debut.
“I thought he was awesome,” Mainieri said. “It was really a full team effort with guys like Aaron George coming in and getting that out in the eighth inning. But Marceaux was outstanding.”
Marceaux was cruising through three innings, allowing just one hit but in the fourth he struggled to find the strike zone. A two-out walk was followed by an error from Broussard that left runners at first and third.
Marceaux remained poised and got out of trouble by striking out his fourth batter of the afternoon on a curveball.
More trouble came in the sixth after a walk from Marceaux opened the inning. It led to a sacrifice bunt that moved the runner to second base. Army right fielder Drake Titus drove a fastball to centerfield that scored Army’s first run to cut LSU's lead to 2-1.
With runners on first and second later in the inning, Mainieri went with reliever Chase Costello to get the Tigers out of the inning. Marceaux finished the game with five strikeouts, allowed two hits, one run and walked three batters in his debut.
Marceaux called his performance shaky, noting he couldn’t find his breaking ball and describing the three walks he had as “unacceptable.”
“I was able to go as deep as I could with what I had,” Marceaux said. “You’re going to have days like that as a pitcher and you have to move on from it.”
In need of some insurance runs and the heart of the LSU batting order, the Tigers remained cold at the plate as Broussard, Duplantis and Cabrera went three up, three down against Burggraaf.
A wild top of the seventh inning included Army head coach Jim Foster being thrown out after arguing that Titus didn’t lean into a pitch that would’ve pushed the game leading run to home plate. With the bases loaded in a 2-2 game, Titus leaned into a pitch on a full count and Foster took exception to the call.
With two outs and new LSU reliever Trent Vietmeier in the game, Army first baseman Anthony Giachin cleared the bases with a double off the right field wall that made it a 5-2 lead for the visiting team.
The 2-0 Tigers will be back in action Sunday at 3 p.m.for an opening weekend finale against Air Force. True freshman Jaden Hill will be on the mound for LSU.