NEW ORLEANS— On a chilly night on Claiborne Ave., a once fierce rivalry was anything but.
In front of a majority-LSU crowd at Turchin Stadium, the Tigers pummeled the home-standing Tulane Green Wave in a 14-1 route that was called after eight innings.
For the Tigers, it was their eighteenth win in 19 tries in what was Tulane’s second double-digit loss in four days. The total domination appears a microcosm of the direction of the two programs.
“You never expect to come here and do that,” said Tiger senior and New Orleans native Mason Katz. “I left (Alex) Box today expecting a one-run game. I didn’t even bring a jacket. I expected someone to have to win in in the end.”
LSU refused to wait that long.
The Tigers took the game by the throat in the first, pushing across five runs on four hits including one each from the trio of Alex Bregman, Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz, a group that has gelled to form a brutal core of a strengthening Tiger lineup.
Bregman himself finished the night four for four, watching his rapidly ascending batting average soar to .443 in just his first season at the collegiate level.
“When our team is swinging the bat, I just feed off them,” Bregman said. “I feel good at the plate, I feel confident.”
Even Katz, who collected three hits in his four tries, driving up four runs and improving his hold on the nation’s lead in RBI, gushed about the streaking rookie.
“It’s incredible,” Katz said. “It’s fun to play alongside a guy who is as naturally gifted as anybody but works as hard as he does. To see it really pay off on the field and be a teammate of his, it’s fun. My RBI are up because he’s on base.”
The five-spot in the first marked the fifth straight game that the Tigers have taken a lead in the opening frame and virtually assured LSU of not trailing in the ballgame, something LSU has not done since a Sunday loss at Mississippi State.
The Tigers would tack on two more in the second thanks to a pair of RBI singles from Bregman and Katz.
The early seven-run cushion allowed freshman starter Russell Reynolds to find a rhymth in his first start away from Alex Box Stadium.
After Reynolds plunked Tulane’s Sean Potkay to open the second and allowed him to come around to score, the Tiger hurler opened the third by issuing a free pass top Green Wave leadoff man Brandon Boudreaux.
Reynolds danced around the walk and received a stern warning when he returned to the dugout, still holding a 7-1 lead.
“I said, ‘Don’t hit or walk another leadoff guy tonight if you want to continue to pitch,’” said LSU head coach Paul Maineiri.
The former Parkview Baptist standout retired Tulane in order in the fourth, fifth and sixth, a run that included all four of his strikeouts.
“Early on, I didn’t get in a groove,” Reynolds said. “I couldn’t throw all of my pitches for strikes like I wanted to. Later on, I kind of got into a groove and just let the defense make plays.”
Reynolds would work a career-best seven innings, allowing just the lone run. By the time he exited, LSU had a 9-1 lead, and much of the crowd at Turchin Stadium had dissipated.
Fellow freshmen Hunter Devall and Hunter Newman finished the job in the eighth with a scoreless frame, but it was after the Green Wave had loaded the bases as they did in the seventh against Reynolds. Both times a weak ground ball on the infield thwarted the meager threat Tulane had mustered.
The win was LSU’s ninth in 11 tries against the Wave, the fifth straight. LSU is now 23-2 for just the third time in school history. Only the Omaha-bound teams of 1986 and 1997 started better.
The Tigers will do something neither of those teams did when they travel to Missouri this weekend for a three-game series. The weather Tuesday night wouldn’t qualify as hitter-friendly, but LSU’s 14 run, 15 hit outburst made the conditions seem irrelevant.
“The wind was blowing in from center, so we weren’t going to hit for any power,” Mainieri said. “We hit a lot of balls up the middle, hit a lot of singles. I thought it was a good approach by our players. We weren’t going to let the conditions beat us.”