No. 8 Baseball Completes Unbeaten Weekend, 4-0
BATON ROUGE -- Eighth-ranked LSU (3-0) picked up its second shutout of the new season Sunday, defeating Air Force, 4-0, in Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers outscored their opponents, 33-2, in earning three wins over the opening weekend of the season. In addition to Sunday's victory, LSU defeated Air Force 10-2 on Friday and the Tigers blanked Alcorn State 19-0 on Saturday.
Air Force, which defeated Alcorn State, 6-1, earlier Sunday, dropped to 1-3 on the season with the loss to LSU.
Kurt McCune (1-0) provided the Tigers with six solid innings of scoreless baseball to earn the win Sunday. The sophomore right-hander punched out four, allowed three hits and walked one on a brisk afternoon. McCune retired the side in three of his six innings of work.
"I thought Kurt McCune was tremendous today," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "He has such great locations on his pitches, and it always seems he can throw exactly where he wants to. That's the secret to his success."
Freshman Aaron Nola and sophomore Nick Rumbelow combined to shut the door on the Falcon's comeback hopes. Nola fired two scoreless frames and struck out two. Rumbelow worked himself out of bases-loaded ninth inning jam to protect the victory.
LSU posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since April 2008, when the Tigers blanked Centenary and Alabama in consecutive outings.
"It's tough to lose a game when the other team doesn't score any runs," Mainieri said. "Everyone who took the mound for us over the weekend really did an outstanding job. Overall, I think we played well in all three games; there are always areas in which we can improve but I can't find too much fault with the way our players performed."
The LSU offense chased Air Force starter Michael Ceci Sunday after four innings. The lefty gave up three runs, two earned, five hits and two walks and struck out two.
Mason Katz led off the bottom of the fourth with a hotshot single to left. He moved to second on Slaid's single to right. JaCoby Jones stepped up and crushed a ball that was tracked down in center, and Katz moved to third.
Austin Nola hit a dribbler back to the pitcher who appeared to have Katz caught in a rundown. Katz evaded the tag and reached third safely. Nola was safe at first and Slaid moved to second.
Moore ripped a liner into center that plated Katz and Slaid, and moved Nola to third. Moore proceeded to steal second and the throw from the catcher was off target and into centerfield. Nola jogged home to give LSU the 3-0 lead.
In the top of the fifth, right fielder Raph Rhymes made a spectacular diving catch that brought Tiger fans to their feet.
The Tigers threatened in the bottom of the sixth, but could not garner another run. Nola drew a two-out walk and then reached third after the catcher's throw sailed into center. Moore made contact and was thrown out at first to end the threat.
Moore showed quick reflexes in the top of the seventh. Air Force's Taylor Ausbun attempted to surprise the Tigers with a bunt attempt, only to pop it up high in to the air behind the plate. Moore quickly turned around, found the ball and made a leaping catch for the second out of the inning. Aaron Nola registered the third out on a strike out.
LSU reached Air Force reliever Todd Del Toro in the top of the eighth. Rhymes led off with a hot shot single to left field and moved to second on a wild pitch. Slaid smashed a single in front of the center fielder and scored Rhymes to give LSU an insurance run.
Air Force threatened in the top of the ninth. Blair Roberts reached base on an error by Austin Nola. Garrett Custons reached base on a fielder's choice and made it to second on Patrick Lobo's bloop single. Ausbun struck out, but Moore's throw to first was off target. Rumbelow recovered to force pinch hitter David Thomas to fly out and end the game.
LSU 4, Air Force 0 (Feb 19, 2012 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Air Force........... 000 000 000 - 0 4 2 (1-3)
LSU.................... 000 300 01X - 4 9 2 (3-0)
Pitchers: Air Force - CECI, Michael; DEL TORO, Todd(5); HOURIN, Jack(8) and CUSTONS, Garrett.
LSU - Kurt McCune; Aaron Nola(7); Nick Rumbelow(9) and Tyler Moore.
Win-Kurt McCune(1-0) Loss-CECI, Michael(0-1) T-2:09 A-10341
Weather: 56F and partly cloudy
Actual attendance: 5,078