Athletes always dream of a second chance.
Taking full advantage of that second chance is what South Louisianans would call lagniappe.
Friday night in No. 10 LSU’s 1-0 season-opening victory over Maryland, Tiger centerfielder Chris Sciambra took advantage of his second chance and then some in front of 9,746 fans in Alex Box Stadium. His last appearance in purple and gold ended in catastrophe as he broke his neck March 25, 2012 at Auburn, and his career was in jeopardy. After months of rehab, Sciambra returned for fall ball and earned the starting spot in centerfield for Opening Night.
He did not disappoint.
The Baton Rouge native went 4-for-4 and scored the only run of the contest.
“It was amazing,” he said. “The fans were great tonight. I was just feeding off of their energy. It was really a blessing to be back out here able to play again. It was a good game, and I think that can put to rest any questions about last year. I’m good to go and ready to help this team get to Omaha.”
Amazingly, three of Sciambra’s four hits came with two strikes – as did freshman Alex Bregman’s RBI single that drove him in.
“[Bregman] just doesn’t strike out,” Mainieri said, commending him for only striking out twice in fall and spring practices combined. “If he goes down two strikes, don’t ever give up on him, because he’s going to battle you right to the end.”
The Tigers may have scored just one run, but they made nine hits and struck out just four times.
Three of those four K’s came from senior first baseman Mason Katz. Add grounding into a double play, and LSU’s team leader had an 0-for-4 night to forget.
On the positive side, senior left fielder Raph Rhymes joined Sciambra in the multi-hit category with a 2-for-4 game.
“A lot of people are going to say we didn’t hit well, but I thought we hit well,” Mainieri explained. “We had nine hits. These are tough conditions when the wind is blowing in like it is, and it was very chilly out there. I thought we hit the ball hard. We had bad luck where we hit into double plays when we hit the ball hard.”
The Terrapins, on the other hand, mustered just four hits, and if Catholic High grad Sciambra was LSU’s hero at the plate, fellow former Bear was the Tigers’ hero on the mound. Starting pitcher Aaron Nola threw 6.2 masterful innings. He gave up no runs, two hits and one walk while striking out nine on 84 pitches.
“He was absolutely fantastic,” Mainieri touted. “I think he showed that he is clearly one of the best pitchers in our league if not in the country.”
Nola then turned the ball over to Joey Bourgeois, who got the last out of the seventh ad the first two of the eighth. He was flawless except for a curveball getting away from him and hitting a batter.
Then Chris Cotton got the final four outs of the game despite allowing a pair of bad luck infield hits in the ninth. After throwing just 17 pitches, Cotton is very available for the rest of the weekend. However, Kurt McCune suffered back spasms Friday and likely won’t be available Saturday. That could throw a wrench in LSU’s plans and keep Cotton in the closer’s role and bump Brent Bonvillain into a Sunday start instead.
“I threw a lot of changeups which doesn’t affect the arm as much as throwing a slider or the fastball,” Cotton explained. “If he calls on me to go in Sunday, if he wants me to do something else, maybe close on Sunday, whatever he says I’ll be prepared to do.”
Game 2 between LSU and Maryland is tomorrow at 1 p.m. Ryan Eades gets the go versus righty Brady Kirkpatrick.