Tigers snap out of Friday slump with win over Army

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 5, 2004

BATON ROUGE &045; For LSU’s baseball team during the regular season, no one has been very thankful to see Fridays.

The start of the weekend usually consisted of more nightmares and hangovers than warm, mushy feelings.

Out of 10 SEC Conference weekend series this year, the Tigers dropped seven Friday-night games, only to come back and capture six of those three-game sets.

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Justin Meier, a part of the rotation quandary this season, threw his first career, complete-game shutout to get the Tigers off on the right foot with a 9-0 victory against Army in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional opener Friday.

Top-seeded LSU (42-17) advanced to today’s 3 p.m. winner’s bracket where it faces second-seeded Southern Miss, a 6-5 winner over College of Charleston in the late game Friday. Army and Charleston begin at 11 a.m.

&uot;Meier took control of the ball game and that’s what we needed from him,&uot; LSU head coach Smoke Laval said. &uot;I felt like after the SEC Tournament he could deliver that type of game for us.&uot;

Meier, who logged a pair of complete game victories as a freshman last year, scattered seven hits, striking out nine Cadet (37-14) batters and walking none. He did, however, plunk four hitters, including hitting seventh-hole hitter Nolan Cork twice.

&uot;There were probably three or four batters on the plate,&uot; said Meier, who improved to 6-2 and brought his ERA (3.75) back below 4.00. &uot;I went to the rosin bag a lot. My fingers were getting slippery, but I couldn’t let them take away the inside corner. I made the big pitch when I needed to.&uot;

After three scoreless innings and five combined hits between the two teams, LSU broke things open with a hat trick in the bottom of the fourth, thanks in part to a two-run triple from shortstop Blake Gill.

The inning didn’t begin auspiciously for Cadet starter Nick Hill (10-3), who was hit by a rocket off Clay Harris’ bat. The ball ricocheted off Hill’s right glove arm and took a friendly hop toward shortstop Kyle Scogin who gunned down the plodding Harris at first.

It went from ouch to worse for Hill, who was adamant that the laser did not affect his pitching the rest of the way.

Tiger second baseman Ivan Naccarata ignited things with a lined shot that ate up his Army counterpart Nick Stone. Will Harris followed with an 0-2 single to center that advanced the light-on-his-feet Naccarata up two bags.

&uot;I thought I hit my spots at times. But when I did keep the ball up, they capitalized on it,&uot; said Hill, who was yanked after 6 1/3, surrendering a season-high 11 hits.

Will Harris’ knock precipitated a visit to the mound from Army head coach Joe Sottolano. Coaches’ appearances during an inning typically warrants a defeatist’s response from the pitcher, knowing his screw-up leash has been drastically shortened.

However, Hill went from bad to worse, serving up his first offering to nine-hole hitter Gill. Gill powdered a ball to right-center that found a gap, as the Cadets were shifted toward left for the left-hander.

The ball casually rolled to the warning track, allowing Naccarata and Will Harris to score easily for the game’s first two runs and, subsequently, a 2-0 LSU lead.

&uot;I was trying to get a pitch to hit. I made solid contact and it worked out,&uot; Gill said.