The seventh-inning stretch is usually intended for the fans to wiggle their limbs a bit, but in a 5-1 victory over Maryland, the Tigers used the half-inning to turn around their offensive woes.
After failing to advance a runner past second base for six innings, senior first baseman Mason Katz took a walk and junior second baseman JaCoby Jones watched four balls as the Terrapins brought in a southpaw reliever Ben Brewster to hold the Tigers off the scoreboard.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri responded with a move of his own, bringing in senior pinch hitter Alex Edward to face the Maryland reliever. Edward turned out to be a catalyst for the Tigers, as he punched in the first of four runs in the bottom of the seventh.
“With pinch hitting, you have to stay ready,” Edward said. “We had a good scouting report. Coach always informed us when a new guy comes [to the mound], and we always have a good idea of what he looks like and what kind of movement he has. The scouting report we had was dead on.”
Junior catcher Ty Ross would follow Edward’s base hit with an RBI bunt-single of his own, and junior third baseman Christian Ibarra collected his first RBI as a Tiger with a scorching single to right field.
“Our team plays extremely hard one through nine innings,” Edward said. “When breaks don’t go your way, you have to take advantage of the ones that do.”
LSU welcomed junior No. 2 starter Ryan Eades back to the mound for the first time in 2013, as the lanky right-hander went 6 1/3 innings, surrendering six hits, no runs and striking out six.
“I felt good,” Eades said. “Coming into the game, I wanted to be aggressive and let my defense play behind me. [The LSU defense] made some tremendous plays to keep us in the game, and I think it was a great overall team win.”
Eades struggled to keep runners off the base paths in the first inning, but he soon settled down after he successfully began to locate his breaking pitch.
“He was having some trouble getting his curveball early in the game, but as the game wore on he started to get a better feel for it, and it set up his fastball for hitters,” Mainieri said. “I thought he was pretty good. When he gets the ball down in the zone, he’s tough to hit.”
Senior reliever Kevin Berry (1-0) picked up the victory while senior left-hander Chris Cotton pitched the final two innings of the contest.
Senior southpaw Brent Bonvillain will get the start on Sunday because of Cotton’s workload over the past two games.
Lost in the box score were three defensive plays by freshman right fielder Mark Laird. After chasing down a fly ball in the gap to keep Maryland from scoring, Laird ended the top of the seventh inning by battling the home bullpen mound and making a catch in foul territory.
Laird continued to flash the leather in the top of the eighth, as he ended any hope for a Maryland two-out rally with a diving catch.
“I thought [Laird’s defense] was one of the storylines of the game,” Mainieri said. “It shows that his athletic ability can impact the game in different ways. He made three major league plays out there today.”