LSU baseball: Eric Walker fires 6 shutout innings in 9-2 win –

BATON ROUGE, La. — Eric Walker is the kind of pitcher that should make LSU baseball fans excited for 2018. And one who justifies the Tigers’ high expectations this season.

Doing what looked like his best Jared Poché impression, the freshman right-hander struggled early but recovered to throw 6 shutout innings, striking out 3 and leading LSU to a 9-2 win over Wichita State.

Walker allowed 3 hits, walked 2 and hit 2 batters but finished strong, sitting down eight of the last nine batters he faced.

“It was a little bit of vintage Poché, the old Poché,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “During the course of the game, I was kind of thinking about how much he reminded me of Jared Poché from the right side. It’s not overpowering stuff, but he made some big pitches when he needed to and was able to get out of jams.”

Walker’s performance was a continuation of LSU’s dominant starting pitching all weekend. Between Alex Lange, Poché and Walker, Tigers starters fired 21 scoreless innings, allowing 9 hits and striking out 15 while walking 2.

RELATED: Jared Poché extends scoreless innings streak to 29

Left fielder Antoine Duplantis kept his hot weekend going, leading the LSU offense with 4 RBI on 2 hits. His 2-run single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 8 games. For the weekend, Duplantis was 7-for-13 with 6 RBI and 3 runs scored.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s decision to shake up the top of the lineup paid off once again. With Duplantis in the No. 3 hole following seniors Kramer Robertson and Cole Freeman, the trio combined to score 6 of LSU’s 9 runs.

“I think our first three hitters are interchangeable,” Robertson said. “We’re all speed guys who can steal bases and get on base at a high rate. And then we’ve got someone like Greg (Deichmann) coming up behind us who at any point can lose one. The first four guys in our lineup, it’s a pretty lethal combination however you put us. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but I think that can be a really special thing.”

Starter’s spotlight

Through the first handful of innings, Walker didn’t look like an ace in waiting. He walked 2 with two outs in the first inning and allowed at least one runner to reach scoring position in each of the first three innings.

But Walker settled in with a nice mix of location and an awareness of his surroundings. With a heavy wind blowing in from the outfield, Walker benefitted from 12 fly outs, compared to 3 groundouts. Had the environment been a different, one or two of those fly balls might have left the park, keeping consistent with the 3 home runs Walker has allowed this season.

“I think it’s just doing your job. I really felt like I was struggling there for a little bit, couldn’t find it with runners on. It’s just having to bear down a little bit and make better pitches. I had to battle. And that’s what I tried to do to keep us in it.”

But this sort of thing is to be expected from a young pitcher who pounds the zone like Walker does. Of the 85 pitches Walker threw Sunday, 50 were strikes, or nearly 59 percent. Walker threw a first-pitch strike to 14 of the 25 batters he faced.

The streak comes to an end

With his 0-for-5 day at the plate, Deichmann’s 11-game hitting streak came to an end. The outing also brought an end to Deichmann’s season-long 15-game streak of reaching base.

Two of Deichmann’s five outs came via the strikeout. He’s struck out 10 times this season, the second most of any LSU player but still a small number for a slugger of his caliber.

What’s next for LSU baseball?

Following this weekend’s sweep, the LSU baseball team hosts midweek games on Tuesday and Wednesday. First, as a makeup for last week’s rainout against San Diego, the Tigers host Louisiana College on Tuesday. Then, the Tigers host former player Blake Dean and his UNO Privateers on Wednesday night.