In game one of a three-game series, No. 1 ranked LSU baseball improved to 13-1 on the season and extended their winning streak to eight games with an 11-1 run rule victory over the Samford Bulldogs.
In Monday night’s LSU run rule win over Butler, freshman right fielder Paxton Kling hit his first collegiate home run and after the game said, “It’s not really a freshman class anymore. We are all just a part of LSU baseball. We all love it here and we are just trying to make the most of our opportunities and win as a team.”
Kling and freshman first baseman Jared Jones proved this idea to be true in LSU’s 11-1 run rule win over Samford on Friday night. The Pennsylvania native went 2-for-2 at the plate, scored twice and made a sliding snag for the final out of the ball game.
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“Gamechanger, you saw it. His elite speed, he’s the best runner in the program. You see it again on the diving catch. The two-strike at bats. There were four of them, phenomenal, tonight. Two magic moments, Jared’s first homer and then Paxton’s overall play and how hard he is playing. Competing with two strikes and the speed on the bases. The great outfield play really gives us a dynamic that changes us”, LSU head coach Jay Johnson said.
Jones went 3-for-4 at the plate with two home runs and four RBIs. He was inches from his third home run of the game when he smacked a single off the top of the left field wall. Entering the game with 2 home runs on the season, Jones doubled his home run count in a single outing.
“It was super impressive, I’m very proud of Jared,” Johnson said. “He worked hard this week, made a small tweak in his swing, and focused on slowing the game down mentally. He’s been impressive so far, and I’m really glad he’s here. He’s a great player and a great kid as well.”
LSU’s offense jumped on the board early in the first inning on a throwing error by Samford’s second baseman Garrett Staton. The Bulldogs responded in the third inning with a run and tied up the score.
LSU’s bats did not allow the game to remain knotted for long. With runners in scoring position on second and third base, junior shortstop Jordan Thompson popped a sacrifice fly to center field and junior center fielder Dylan Crews tagged up to score.
Senior infielder, Jack Merrifield, who was subbed into the game for Gavin Dugas, added another run in the fourth when he hit a sacrifice fly to center field that Kling tagged up and scored on. Then, Jones pelted a two-run home run to right field which increased LSU’s lead to 5-1.
Junior left fielder Tre’ Morgan kicked off LSU’s rally in the sixth inning when he smacked an RBI single up the middle which scored Kling. The next batter, Crews, singled and then sophomore designated hitter Tommy White blasted a two-RBI double into the right-center field gap. Morgan and Crews scored in the process and widened the margin to 8-1.
White scored LSU’s ninth run when he tagged up on second base due to a fly ball. Centerfielder Josh Rodriguez’s throw went past Samford’s third baseman and allowed White to cross home plate.
Jones’ second home run, which went 459 feet over the left field wall, created the final score of 11-1 and allowed the run rule to go into effect.
Defensively, the Tigers played a very clean game thanks in large part to Friday night starter Paul Skenes. He entered the game leading the nation in strikeouts and sixth in hits allowed per nine innings.
Skenes, who is now 4-0 on the season, threw his fourth consecutive game with double-digit strikeouts and pitched six innings with one run and two hits allowed.
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“As long as we support Paul on defense, he’s going to hold it together,” Johnson said. “He throws three pitches for strikes, a fastball over 100 mph, and he has great poise, competitiveness and character. I wish we could keep him here forever. The best part about Paul is that he won’t rest on tonight; he’ll be here early tomorrow, get his work in and get ready for his next start.”
Game two of the three game series between LSU and Samford will begin at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, March 11. Junior right-handed pitcher Ty Floyd will start on the mound for the Tigers and junior right-hander Brody Westbrooks will start for the Bulldogs.