BATON ROUGE, La. — On the LSU baseball team’s Senior Day, a freshman stole the show.
Freshman starting pitcher Eric Walker carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning Saturday afternoon as LSU baseball swept Auburn with an 9-1 victory. The win improved LSU to 35-17 on the year and 18-9 in SEC play and was LSU’s third SEC series sweep of 2017.
After walking the second hitter he faced in the first inning, Walker was excellent for the rest of the outing, setting down the next 18 batters he faced before walking a batter in the seventh inning. And it wasn’t just that he was getting batters out. It’s how he did it. The freshman only recorded 3 strikeouts on the day, relying instead on ground balls and the 9 mph inward wind blowing fly balls back toward the infield.
Walker tossed 7.2 no-hit innings before allowing a solo home run to No. 9 hitter Sam Gillikin in the eighth. Walker threw 98 pitches Saturday, 63 for strikes.
The only time Walker encountered any resistance was in the seventh inning. After waiting on the bench for quite a while between pitches as LSU scored 3 runs in the bottom of the sixth, Walker walked 2 batters in the seventh, but worked his way out by forcing a flyout to right field that fell easily into Greg Deichmann’s glove.
LSU’s offense helped Walker early and didn’t let off the gas once it got into the bullpen. Facing sophomore right-hander Casey Mize, who came into the game with a 1.39 ERA, LSU didn’t appear daunted, pushing 3 runs across on 4 hits in the second inning alone. After a 1-2-3 fourth inning, the offense resurfaced in the fifth, when catcher Michael Papierski hit his second 2-run home run in as many days, the first homer Mize had allowed all season.
After Mize left the game, Auburn’s pitching and defense grew sloppy and LSU capitalized. Auburn’s bullpen arms threw 4 wild pitches, 3 in the sixth inning, and walked 3 batters, leading to 4 additional LSU runs. Two of those runs came off a bloop single by second baseman Cole Freeman, a ball that would’ve been caught for out No. 3 had Auburn’s second baseman not lost the ball in the sun.
In all, LSU batted 5-for-12 (.417) with runners in scoring position and 7-for-16 (.438) with runners on base.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
LSU hosts Northwestern State on Tuesday night for its final home game of the 2017 regular season. After that game, LSU will travel to Starkville, Miss., for a three-game Omaha-level series versus the SEC West leading Mississippi State Bulldogs.