Thursday, March 29, 2007

Byrd, Homers Lift LSU past UNO

BATON ROUGE -- Sophomore catcher Robert Lara and junior shortstop Michael Hollander launched back-to-back homers in the fourth inning while sophomore left-hander Ryan Byrd fired a career-high seven innings to lead LSU past New Orleans, 6-3, on Tuesday night at Alex Box Stadium.

The Tigers (15-11-1) pounded out double-digit hits for the third straight game and homered for the seventh consecutive contest. LSU has connected for a homer in 10 of its last 11 games.

The Privateers (16-11), who managed only four hits, lost to the Tigers for the 18th time out of the past 19 meetings. The two teams meet again on April 18 in the Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La.

Byrd (3-0) tossed the finest performance of his career on Tuesday night, limiting UNO to three hits and three runs -- one earned -- in seven innings. He walked one and struck out a career-best eight batters to maintain his perfect record.

"The big thing for me was I was around the (strike) zone all night," said Byrd. "When you are competitive around the zone, they'll swing at pitches that are out of the zone that they think are strikes. When I got ahead, I could go to the slider or go to the changeup."

Lara tied a career-high with three hits, scored two runs and connected on his first career homer with a three-run shot in the fourth. Hollander added a homer and drove in two runs. Designated hitter Blake Dean extended his hitting streak to a season-high seven games with a 2-for-4 night.

"I thought there were three or four guys tonight that really swung the bat well," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "Lara had a great night with the bat. Michael Hollander did too. Those guys really sparked us."

The game remained scoreless until the top of the fourth when the Privateers took a 2-0 lead after an error by second baseman Chris McGhee, who misplayed a grounder by T.J. Baxter.

UNO second baseman Johnny Giavotella immediately capitalized with an RBI triple to left center. First baseman Greg Wolfe drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly.

However, the 2-0 UNO advantage quickly turned into a 5-2 LSU lead as the Tigers mounted a big inning against starter John Cody. Third baseman J.T. Wise started the barrage with an RBI single, scoring right fielder Steven Waguespack.

Lara, after falling behind in the count, then blasted a 1-2 offering over the left field bleachers for a three-run homer. Hollander followed and belted an opposite field, solo shot over the right field wall to give LSU a 5-2 lead.

"Obviously, Rob Lara's three-run homer was the big blow," said Mainieri. "It was a great at-bat. He did it with two strikes on him and needed to put the ball in play just to get us a run. He hits it out of the ballpark."

The blasts marked the second time this season the Tigers have homered in consecutive at-bats. First baseman Sean Ochinko and Waguespack hit back-to-back homers in a contest versus McNeese State on March 13.

The teams traded runs in the sixth. An LSU error allowed Baxter to reach base and score on a wild pitch. Hollander responded with an RBI single in the bottom of the frame.

Byrd, who fired 103 pitches, gave way to reliever Paul Bertuccini to start the eighth. Bertuccini handcuffed the Privateers the rest of the way, allowing only one hit in two innings to pick up his first career save.

"The story of the game was Ryan Byrd, and Paul Bertuccini did a great job out of the bullpen," said Mainieri. "Byrd has really done a good job for us all year. He really kept them off balance. What really impressed me is how he pitched in clutch situations."

Cody (2-2) suffered the loss, surrendering five runs on six hits in 3.1 innings of work. He walked none and struck out two.

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