What a wonderful opening weekend. Just about anything that could go right, did. Wake Forest is hardly a power, but it always feels good to sweep anybody, especially by the combined score of 28-8. This was a domination, so of course we're going to win the title, right?
I submit this trip down memory lane to offer a tad bit of perspective:
Starting pitching? Awesome. Do you know how many runs our starters allowed? None. Not even an unearned run. Ranaudo was predictably brilliant, allowing one hit in five innings of work. Ross had a giant cushion, but was never seriously challenged during his five innings of work, while Bourgeois protected a narrow 1-0 lead for six innings of scoreless work. 16 innings, 18 strikeouts, 2 walks, 8 hits, 0 runs. That's an impressive weekend, even if it is just Centenary.
I wrote that after our first series last year, and I couldn't have been more wrong about our starting pitching. I don't bring it up to show that I'm an idiot or to rub salt in the wound of last season's pitching troubles. I bring it up to say we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves talking about the pitching just yet. Change those numbers to 16.2 IP, 17 strikeouts, 4 walks, 12 hits, and 3 runs. Great weekend, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.
It's a long way to Hoover, much less Omaha.
However, I don't want to go looking for dark clouds for our silver linings. If LSU is going to make Omaha this year, we likely will need a few things to happen, and we got encouraging signs on almost every front.
FIND A ROTATION. Early returns, as noted, are good. But they were good in 2010 and that turned out as poorly as Napoleon's invasion of Russia. Hell, he had early successes, too.
THE ICEMAN COMETH. One of the biggest stories of last season was the inexplicable decline of Matty Ott. The Iceman, who was as reliable as they come in 2009, couldn't find his groove in 2010. Well, Mainieri threw Ott in a high pressure situation on Saturday. He could've gone the easy route and had him start the 9th up 2 runs, but Mainieri had already burned Eades for the weekend and wanted to get him some extra inning's work. Eades responded by giving up a home run and then handed the ball off to Ott with the tying run on first base and no outs. This was no layup save. One. Two. Three. Ott came through in a big way.
MAHTOOK FOR GOLDEN SPIKES! LSU needs Mahtook to be a star. Well, he already is a star, but they can't afford him to have a Dean-in-2010 kind of season. With so many big bats leaving, Mahtook's got to carry the load. He responded by going for 4-9, with all 4 of those hits leaving the yard. His 444/545/1.778 line was impressive, as was this little factoid: Mahtook reached base 6 times in 11 plate appearances. He scored every time he reached base.
THE FRESHMEN. JaCoby Jones had a terrific series, as did Raph Rhymes. Freshmen dominated both the rotation and the pen this weekend. Everywhere you looked, new players were making contributions. Ty Ross had a bit of rough weekend, both at the plate and in the field. He didn't get a hit and Wake baserunners stole four bases in five attempts. Still, an encouraging early sign from the freshmen class.
All in all, a perfect weekend for the Tigers. But a perfect weekend does not make a perfect season. LSU has to build off of this. Click your heels together and remind yourself, "It's only Wake Forest..."