LSU second baseman Ryan Schimpf launched a two-run blast, and third baseman Derek Helenihi delivered an inside-the-park home run to propel the second-ranked Tigers past Grambling State, 8-4, Wednesday night in Alex Box Stadium.
With the victory, the Tigers improved to 24-8 on the season. Grambling fell to 5-25 with the loss.
Schimpf’s dinger was his seventh of the season, while Helenihi’s inside-the-park homer was the second in two seasons for LSU. Outfielder Jared Mitchell accomplished the feat last season against Stetson on March 8, 2008.
Right-hander Nolan Cain (2-0) earned the victory after pitching a scoreless fifth inning. LSU starter Ben Alsup, who was pressed into duty because of a pregame injury to projected starter Randy Zeigler, performed admirably as the sophomore fired four innings of no-hit ball and struck out a career-high five batters.
“Ben Alsup was rushed into the emergency start, and he was magnificent,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “He threw the ball great and gave our team a chance to get our offense going.
“It wasn’t the greatest performance we’ve ever had, but I wasn’t disappointed at all with our effort and focus. I thought the kids went out and played really hard tonight.”
After stranding several base runners in the first two innings, the LSU bats came through in the bottom of the third to take a 2-0 lead. Following a lead-off single by left fielder Chris McGhee, Schimpf blasted a mammoth two-run homer to the deepest part of the ball park in center field.
The Tigers added to their lead in the fourth with two runs off Grambling’s Baron Hinton. Right fielder Mikie Mahtook drilled an RBI double into right center field, and third baseman Tyler Hanover followed with an RBI single to put LSU up, 4-0.
After LSU scored two more runs in the fifth, Grambling chipped away at the Tigers’ lead with a big sixth inning, plating four runs to cut the deficit to 6-4.
However, the Tigers struck back in the bottom of the frame when Helenihi connected on the inside-the-park homer to give LSU a 7-4 advantage. Helenihi drove a deep fly into right center, which caromed off the wall and got past center fielder Anthony Clifton, allowing the senior to round all four bases.
LSU tallied an insurance run in the eighth as designated hitter Blake Dean notched an RBI on a fielder’s choice to increase the lead to 8-4. The bullpen trio of Daniel Bradshaw, Shane Riedie and Jordan Nicholson kept Grambling off the scoreboard in the final two innings to preserve the victory.
Hinton (0-1), who gave up nine hits and six earned runs in 4.1 innings, was charged with the loss.