Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tigers Beat Northwestern State with Small Ball Effort

The boxscore lists it as a wild pitch, but Michael Hollander’s hustle play for LSU’s fourth run in a 6-2 victory Wednesday night over Northwestern State illustrates what coach Paul Mainieri wants from his Tigers.
LSU led 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning when Hollander doubled with two outs and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. The Demons’ Jason Grace threw a breaking pitch that bounced in front of catcher Anthony Jones and caromed onto the grass in front of home plate.
Hollander broke for home, a calculated gamble that Jones would be unable to retrieve the ball and get back to the plate in time to tag him. Hollander slid headfirst, arriving safely for a 4-1 lead.
Mainieri, who wants an aggressive offense at the plate and on the base paths, called Hollander’s sprint for home a key play in the game, and it came during a brief, open-and-shut window of opportunity.
Buzzy Haydel’s fly ball to center field one pitch later ended the inning.
“When there are two strikes, you gamble for the plate,” Mainieri said. “When there are two strikes, I tell them to look for a breaking ball in the dirt, and if the ball gets at all away from the catcher and you get a great jump, go for it.
“He’s a hustling player. He made a great play for us. It was a big run for us.”
LSU (5-2) slapped 11 hits, 10 off Grace (1-1) in 5 1/3 innings.
Louis Coleman (2-1) started for the Tigers and pitched one more inning. He gave up a run on five hits, striking out six and walking none.
Ryan Byrd, one of three other LSU pitchers in the game, gave up an eighth-inning pinch-hit home run to Mike Jaworski.
Coleman was the losing pitcher Saturday in a 14-1 defeat at Stetson. He did a better job in a lot of areas Wednesday, including keeping pitches low.
“I did some paper work when we got back from Florida,” Coleman said, “stats and figuring out balls and strikes. The biggest thing was getting leadoff batters out and not leaving the ball up.”
Coleman retired six of seven leadoff batters. The exception was Brandon Richey, who singled to open the third inning and scored after Coleman —possibly upset about letting him get on base — threw an errant pickoff attempt that put Richey on third base.
Steven Waguespack and Hollander were each 2-for-4 for LSU. Waguespack drove in three runs.
Hollander’s hustle play in the fourth inning is the kind of “dirtbag” play Northwestern State coach Mitch Gaspard wants to see from his Demons (1-7).
“You have to play fearless in this game,” Gaspard said. “If you play passive and tentative, you’re not going to win many games.”
Hollander said he read the spin and bounce of the ball and saw his chance.
“I saw it kick away, and instinct kind of took over,” he said. “He (Jones) would have had to run something like a shuttle drill to get me.”
Hollander said the Tigers need to take advantage of every break and every edge they see and can exploit.
Mainieri said he wasn’t surprised by the play.
“Hollander’s such a heady ballplayer,” Mainieri said. “He’s always thinking, and he’s very coachable. I thought it was not only a great hustle play, but a smart play.”
Gaspard agreed.
“That’s how we’re looking to play,” he said, “and that’s the great thing about playing good teams early. You learn a lot from that. It’s frustrating to be 1-7, but at the same time I think our guys learned tonight.
“We’ve got a new crop and a lot of junior college guys who aren’t used to this level, and it gives them an opportunity to see what it is and where you’ve got to be at the end if you want to be playing in June.”

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