How new LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson's first game went to plan
BATON ROUGE - The crowd roared when Paul Mainieri walked onto the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
The former LSU baseball coach had given fans 15 years of something to cheer about. Mainieri led the Tigers to a national championship, five College World Series appearances and 603 wins.
The person catching the pitch knows he has big shoes to fill.
"He's been a great coach for a long time (and) has done a lot of great things here," said new LSU coach Jay Johnson. "He's been very helpful for me in this transition.
"I thought (catching him) was very cool."
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Friday for Johnson was a step in the right direction in gaining the trust of fans. No. 7 LSU beat Maine 13-1 at Alex Box Stadium in Johnson's first game as Tigers coach.
"The environment was unbelievable," Johnson said. "I had high expectations for it and it honestly exceeded it."
Sophomore pitcher Blake Money had a career-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings of work. And though the Tigers' offense got off to a slow start, they ended up scoring off of Maine (0-1) in every inning after the third.
Sophomore Brayden Jobert, who came in as a pinch hitter in the first inning after sophomore Cade Beloso was unavailable to play moments before the game, scored the first run of the season with a solo home run in the fourth.
"Before the game it's funny, (Johnson) told us to control our nerves which really I didn't do a great job of in my first at-bat, my first couple of pitches," LSU first baseman Tre Morgan said. "He said in the first game as head coach he shouldn't have to say too much and he really didn't."
Johnson comes to LSU after six seasons at Arizona, guiding the Wildcats to College World Series twice and leading them to the final in his first season. Arizona under his command was known for its offensive prowess. The Wildcats posted a team on-base/slugging percentage above .810 in all but one season during his tenure.
But in the dugout on Friday, trading out his red and blue jersey for a purple and gold, Johnson displayed a steely resolve.
"Coach Mainieri, he was intense, he was on the top rail, he was making game-time decisions and things like that when he had to make them and coach Johnson's the same way." Money said. "He's locked in every pitch of the game. He's not anything slip, he's thinking three, four, five steps ahead.
"It puts us in a good position to be successful."
Maine isn't a juggernaut, going just 22-22 despite facing one ranked opponent all last season and posting a below .500 record at home. The Black Bears were even worse on Friday, committing six errors and not posting a run until the ninth inning.
But the quality, or lack thereof, of opponent LSU was facing on Friday made no difference for Johnson.
"It was awesome," Johnson said.