Starting pitching again dominant in LSU win

LSU head coach Jay Johnson couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season on the mound for the top-ranked Tigers. 

A day after ace Paul Skenes struck out 12 in six innings of shutout work, junior left-hander Riley Cooper threw 5.1 innings of no-hit baseball, striking out seven and walking only two in a 5-3 victory over Western Michigan Saturday afternoon. 

“After my first pitch I had a good feeling,” Cooper said. “I knew from there to just fill up the zone and trust the guys behind me. I threw all my pitches for strikes and just fill up the zone.

(on no-hitter possibility) “I don’t really worry about that stuff. I know what was going on, but I'm not too worried about that.”

The Tigers will look to start the season with a three-game sweep of Western Michigan on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is set for 12:30 p.m.

LSU (2-0) got two runs in its first inning at the plate as Gavin Dugas led off the inning with a solo home run off of Western Michigan (0-2) starter Dane Armbrustmacher. With one out in the first, Dylan Crews walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch.  He scored on an RBI single by freshman designated hitter Jared Jones to make it 2-0 Tigers. 

The lead would extend to 4-2 in the fourth after a lead-off walk by Brady Neal and a RBI triple by Paxton Kling followed by an RBI groundout from third baseman Ben Nippolt. 

After giving up two runs in the sixth, LSU added an insurance run in its final at-bat on a pinch hit RBI groundout by sophomore Josh Pearson. 

“A lot of mature and professional at bats today,” Johnson said after the game. “Play the way that we train. Execution or what we call red zone offense is a point of emphasis with our team and moving the ball when we have runners in scoring position. Through two days, it’s about as good as it could be.”

Freshman catcher Brady Neal, who caught a majority of the innings in both Friday and Saturday’s games also commented on the outstanding performances by the two LSU starting pitchers. 

“Even in the bullpen before the game everything was on,” he said. “When a guy like that is throwing 3-4 pitches for strikes, he can be dangerous. Everyone saw what happens when he is on, he gave up no hits with a bunch of strikeouts.

“To be able to catch two performances from our pitchers was great. You watch Paul go out there on Friday, I mean I had the best seat in the house. I get to catch 99 right down the middle, here it is, see if you can hit it.” 

Cooper wasn’t the only standout performance on the mound for the Tigers Saturday afternoon. Making his LSU debut in relief, sophomore left-hander Nate Ackenhausen picked up the first save of the season for the Tigers, allowing one run in 3.1 innings of relief. 

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