LSU sweeps Wake Forest to open baseball season

Dave Moormann

To be cynical about it, no good deed goes unpunished.

More accurately, an overwhelming act of kindness doesn’t necessarily bring success elsewhere at its reward.

If it did, the Wake Forest baseball team would have swept LSU instead of the other way around in their three-game, season-opening weekend series.

To those still unfamiliar with what became a national story earlier this month, Wake Forest second-year coach Tom Walter donated a kidney to freshman outfielder Kevin Jordan, who had been on dialysis after the onset of a rare disease.

Talk about giving one for the team, Walter stands as the epitome of sportsmanship. He said it was “divine intervention” that led him to donate his kidney after those in Jordan’s family were found to be unsuitable matches.

No doubt those at LSU found Walter’s selflessness incredibly heartwarming, as did most everyone else. Yet when the teams hit the field at Alex Box Stadium, the Tigers were all business. They roughed up Wake Forest in the opener, 15-4, eked out a 4-3 victory in the second game, and closed with a 9-1 romp.

Kurt McCune was the best of three freshman pitchers, as he threw a six-inning, one-hitter with seven strikeouts in the finale.

Senior Ben Alsup turned in an overpowering performance in the opener that proved he’s ready to become the Tigers’ ace. Junior reliever Matty Ott recorded another save and could tie the school-record of 29 when LSU returns to action at home at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday against the University of New Orleans.

Wake Forest’s Walter might someday field a team that will show his coaching skills to be on a par with his humanitarian effort.

For now, though, the former University of New Orleans head coach can only dream of having the kind of players LSU coach Paul Mainieri can use to throttle the opposition.

As if LSU’s pitching weren’t stout enough, the Tigers crushed the Deamon Deacons with a heavy-hitting barrage that defied the reduction in the bats enacted by the NCAA.

Junior center fielder Mikie Mahtook slugged four home runs in the series. Mahtook and sophomore center fielder Mason Katz each had three-run homers in the third game. Freshman second baseman JaCoby Jones had a home run among his three hits in LSU’s one-run victory.

All in all, LSU certainly looked as if it plans to make good on its motto of, “Omaha – Nothing Else”.

LSU is itching to return to the College World Series after failing to advance past the regionals last season. Should the Tigers make it to the CWS, they’ll likely be joined by at least one team from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Wake Forest won’t be that team, but with the likes of North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State and Georgia Tech, the ACC has plenty to offer. If any of them are better than LSU, the NCAA may as well go ahead and crown it champion now.

It’s far too early to jump to conclusions, but the Tigers surely seemed poised to make a deep run into the playoffs. The regular season promises to be an entertaining one with a schedule that features the potent Southeastern Conference opposition and non-conference power California State Fullerton on March 11-13.

Mainieri certainly isn’t one to rush to judgment, either, but he had to admit that “it was a good way to start the season….It appears that this (pitching) staff has a lot of depth that we hope to utilize as the season progresses.”

Just as defense is said to win championships in other sports, pitching is the key in baseball. Just ask the San Francisco Giants, who rode their arms, including those of LSU alumnus Brian Wilson, to last season’s World Series title. The Giants also featured another former LSU standout in second baseman Mike Fontenot.

LSU appears to have reloaded, and, at least for one weekend series, taken some of the spotlight away from Wake Forest’s Walter.