Three Homers Lift Baseball Past McNeese St., 6-3
LSU Sports Interactive
BATON ROUGE -- LSU tied a season-high with three homers -- including back-to-back blasts by catcher Sean Ochinko and right fielder Steven Waguespack to break a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning -- as the Tigers defeated McNeese State, 6-3, on Tuesday night at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (12-7) improved to 3-1 in mid-week contests, despite being out-hit by the Cowboys, 11-8. The Tigers open Southeastern Conference play this weekend at No. 3 South Carolina. Game times are 6 p.m. CDT Friday, 3 p.m. CDT Saturday and 11 a.m. CDT Sunday.
MSU (3-17) lost for the ninth time in 10 games and fell to 9-20 all-time in its series with LSU.
The Tigers' first four hitters in the starting lineup were true freshmen, and they all contributed Tuesday night, going a combined 6-for-15 with five runs, two homers and four RBI. Left fielder Blake Dean, Ochinko and Waguespack all accounted for homers, and centerfielder Jared Mitchell went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
"The real story of the game was the young kids," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "We batted one through four (freshmen) in the lineup, and I don't think I've ever done that. You get a vision of the future of LSU baseball right there. Those guys made the difference."
LSU starter Ryan Byrd did not figure in the decision after scattering six hits and allowing one run in four innings of work.
"Ryan Byrd did what he was capable of doing," said Mainieri. "He threw strikes but he doesn't have overpowering stuff. They had a good approach against him by trying to hit to the opposite field. I thought he gave us four quality innings."
MSU starter Derek Blacksher left after issuing three runs -- two earned -- on five hits in five innings of work.
"The kid that started for them was going to be a real competitor," said Mainieri. "He had a good breaking ball. He got knocked out in a game last Saturday, and they brought him back like I did with (Louis) Coleman one week. I knew we were going to have a challenge there."
Sophomore Robert Lara (1-1) picked up his first career win after absorbing a hard-luck, 5-3 loss to Southern Miss last Sunday. Lara, in only his second collegiate appearance on the mound, surrendered two runs on four hits in two innings of relief.
"Even though Robert Lara gave up the couple of runs, I was very pleased with him," said Mainieri. "This was only the second time he was on the mound. He threw strikes, and he was throwing the ball 90 mph."
LSU took advantage of an error on a pickoff attempt to take a 1-0 lead in the first. Mitchell singled and took second and third when Blacksher fired past the first baseman into right field. Mitchell then came into score on a sacrifice fly by Dean.
Dean later launched a two-run homer off of the scoreboard in the third. It was Dean's second blast of the season and first since LSU's first game of the season against Saint Mary's on Feb. 9.
The Cowboys responded with a run in each of the middle frames to ultimately tie the game at 3-3. Left fielder Andy Riche’ had an RBI single in the fourth, and designated hitter Charlie Kingrey and third baseman Brad Becker provided back-to-back doubles in the sixth. Second baseman David Leatherwood drove in the tying run when the Tigers were unable to turn a double play on a fielder's choice groundball in the sixth.
LSU quickly answered in its half of the sixth, again courtesy of the long ball with two outs. After reliever John Ropp retired the first two batters of the inning, Ochinko homered for the second time in three games with a solo shot just over the left field wall. Waguespack followed and crushed his second homer of the season over the right field wall.
The back-to-back dingers were the first by the Tigers since Waguespack and Jordan Mayer connected for consecutive homers versus Vanderbilt on May 14, 2006. LSU hit three homers in a contest Tuesday for the third time this season.
The Tiger bullpen was flawless the rest of the way ignited by a solid outing from senior Clay Dirks. The left-hander worked two perfect innings in the seventh and the eighth before yielding to sophomore Louis Coleman.
Coleman notched his third save of the season by retiring three of the four batters he faced in the ninth. The right-hander benefited from a great defensive play by left fielder Chris McGhee to end the game. McGhee stretched over the bullpen fence in foul territory to make a catch on a fly ball by Kingrey.
Ropp (1-2) suffered the loss, as he was charged with two runs on two hits in 0.2 innings of work.
LSU 6, McNeese State 3 (Mar 13, 2007 at Baton Rouge, La.)
McNeese State....... 000 111 000 - 3 11 2 (3-17)
LSU....................... 102 002 01X - 6 8 1 (12-7)
Pitchers: McNeese State - Blacksher, Derek; Ropp, John(6); Conrad, Jonathan(6); Davis, Danny(8)
LSU - Ryan Byrd; Robert Lara(5); Clay Dirks(7); Louis Coleman(9).
Win-Robert Lara(1-1) Save-Louis Coleman(3) Loss-Ropp, John(1-2) T-2:36 A-6940
HR LSU - Blake Dean (2); Sean Ochinko (4); Steven Waguespack (2).
Actual Attendance: 1,558