BATON ROUGE -- A two-RBI performance by shortstop Austin Nola, including the game-winning sacrifice fly, coupled with three runs by left fielder Trey Watkins was enough to earn No. 2 LSU a 5-4 victory in front of a record-breaking crowd of 9,914 Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (1-0) won their ninth consecutive season opener dating back to 2002. With the loss, Centenary dropped to 0-1 on the season.
"In all of my years of coaching, I've never really had a team play great in the first game, and that was certainly the case tonight," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "We did some good things and took advantage of opportunities, but I know we can play much better and we certainly will. The best thing about tonight's game was the record crowd; our fans give us tremendous support and we appreciate it very much."
Centenary rallied to tie the score at 4-4 in the top of the eighth with a solo homer by left fielder Cliff Shepard. However, Watkins singled and reached third on an error in the bottom of the frame and was followed by a sacrifice fly to right field by Nola to give the Tigers a 5-4 advantage heading into the ninth inning.
Sophomore right-hander Matty Ott, a Rivals.com Pre-Season All-American, earned the save in the ninth, retiring the side in order while striking out one.
Preseason All-American right-hander Anthony Ranaudo started on the mound for the Tigers and went five innings, allowing one run on one hit while walking two and striking out six.
Centenary scored early in the top of the first inning when Watkins mishandled a high fly ball in left field, allowing third baseman Keegan Acker to score from second, giving the Gents a 1-0 lead. Acker had stolen second base two pitches earlier.
The Tigers tied the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the frame when Watkins was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on an infield groundout by first baseman Blake Dean.
LSU broke the tie in the bottom of the third when Nola provided a two-out RBI single, scoring Watkins from second and giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Watkins walked and stole his second base of the night to put himself in scoring position before Nola's line-drive single to left.
The Tigers increased their lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning by way of a two-out RBI single by right fielder Mikie Mahtook. Mahtook's single to left scored Leon Landry, who reached on an error by Centenary first baseman Tell Ross.
The next batter, designated hitter Matt Gaudet, launched an RBI double to deep right-center, scoring Mahtook and extending LSU's lead to 4-1.
Junior right-hander Daniel Bradshaw (1-0) came on in relief for Ranaudo in the sixth and made quick work of the Gents, retiring the side in order.
Centenary responded in the seventh with back-to-back hits, a single by Michael Tompkins and a double by Ross, followed by a sacrifice fly by right fielder Cody Atkinson to make the score 4-2. Two batters later, catcher Jeff Schaffert singled up the middle to score Ross and pull the Gents to within 4-3.
Bradshaw earned the win after allowing three runs on four hits in three innings with no walks and two strikeouts.
Left-hander Stephen Tromblee was charged with the loss in relief, as he surrendered one run on one hit in 1.1 innings with no walks and one strikeout.
Mainieri will go for his 1,000th career victory as the series continues Saturday at 5 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers will start junior right-hander Austin Ross, while Centenary will counter with junior right-hander Justin Kraft.
LSU 5, Centenary 4 (Feb 19, 2010 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Centenary........... 100 000 210 - 4 5 2 (0-1)
LSU..................... 101 200 01X - 5 4 1 (1-0)
Pitchers: Centenary - Boone Whiting; Dakota Robinson(5); Derek Dalzell(7); Stephen Tromblee(7)
and Jeff Schaffert. LSU - Anthony Ranaudo; Daniel Bradshaw(6); Matty Ott(9) and Micah Gibbs.
Win-Daniel Bradshaw(1-0) Save-Matty Ott(1) Loss-Stephen Tromblee(0-1) T-2:27 A-11588
HR CC - Cliff Shepard (1).
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 50F
Actual attendance: 9,914.
Largest paid and actual attendance in Alex Box Stadium history.