BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU baseball’s veterans shined in Game 2 of the Purple and Gold World Series Thursday night.
Behind two perfect innings from presumed weekend starter Caleb Gilbert and 3 RBIs from left fielder Beau Jordan, the purple team evened the series, defeating the gold team 5-0. Gilbert, Clay Moffitt and Brandon Nowak combined to throw the shutout, while Jordan, Antoine Duplantis and walk-on Zac Richard drove in the runs.
Junior Bryce Jordan and freshman Hal Hughes came away with the gold team’s only hits. Gilbert, Moffitt and Nowak combined to strike out five batters in the five inning scrimmage.
Here are SEC Country’s three observations from Thursday’s scrimmage:
1. Caleb Gilbert has nothing left to prove
After his breakout performance in Super Regionals and the College World Series in 2017, Gilbert is one of the two front-runners to be LSU’s Friday starter in 2018. He came out and did exactly what was expected of him Thursday, throwing two spotless innings with three strikeouts against returning starters Jake Slaughter, Bryce Jordan and Nick Coomes.
After the game, Gilbert credited his success on a return to the way he gripped his slider in high school. LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri went ever further than that, saying Gilbert has stepped up as a veteran on the pitching staff with Alex Lange and Jared Poché no longer around and said he believes Gilbert has parlayed his confidence from the College World Series into fall ball.
2. Hal Hughes might play his way into the lineup
A freshman from Norman, Okla., Hughes has looked strong through the first two games of the Purple and Gold World Series. The infielder followed his two-hit, two-run Tuesday showing with a single up the middle Thursday, bringing his series batting average to .600.
After the scrimmage, Mainieri had this to say about Hughes: “Hal’s got a chance to be a nice player. He’s got to know what kind of hitter he is. He has to make sure he doesn’t get away from who he is. He’s not going to knock the fences down. He’s just got to be a tough out and make the pitcher work, not strike out, keep the ball out of the air and be a situational hitter. And then his defense is an asset. He’s a nice player. I’m not sure what’s going to happen as we go forward. But he’s going to be an important player as we go forward.”
Hughes has been playing shortstop for the gold team but could potentially play the other infield positions as well.
3. Josh Smith is smooth no matter where you put him in the infield
As a freshman in 2017, Josh Smith was named an All-SEC defensive performer playing third base. But now that Kramer Robertson has graduated and moved on to the Minors, Smith is expected to bump inside and take Robertson’s role at shortstop.
Any doubts there might be about Smith’s ability to play shortstop should’ve been erased Thursday. The sophomore stabbed a Zach Watson line drive out of the air to take away a single, and potentially more, from his teammate Thursday. Hughes has looked good, and shortstop is his natural position. But Smith is smooth at shortstop. No surprises there.