Skip Bertman retired as LSU baseball coach in 2001. That means an incoming freshman at LSU was about six years old when Skip coached his last game, so we are rapidly approaching the point at which no player on the team will have any memory of the Skip Bertman Era. Right now, it's a hazy memory at best, but there might be some memories. Soon, even that will be gone.
Feeling old yet?
I'm about to become one of those old timers who tries to get the young kids to hate Ole Miss football because they used to be good in the 1960's. Well, that and the fact they are Ole Miss. That is my hatred for Mississippi State baseball. It's so old it feels like it has always been a part of me.
When Skip arrived at LSU, he set his sights on turning LSU from a baseball backwater into the best program in the nation. Step one was taking aim at the regional bully on the block: State. He immediately worked up as much hatred for the best team in the SEC at the time, so much so that anti-State quotes are pretty much the basis of Skip's program. Starkville is the Native American word for trailer park. Amen, Skip. A friggin' men.
Mississippi State Bulldogs
Look, they are good. When you are outscoring teams 3 to 1, you are doing something right. The computers were apparently programmed by Skip Bertman because, man, do the computer polls hate State. This was a team knocking on the door of a 20-game win streak to open the season, and they can only manage an RPI in the 20's? Ouch.
This is where I get to point out State's season opening 17-game win streak was stopped by Central Arkansas. Now, it would be fair to point out Central Arkansas is 15-2 and ranked 26th in the ISR, but let's focus on the fact Mississippi State lost to Central Arkansas. At home. Twice.
That's as fun to read as it was to type. Mississippi State lost a home series to Central Arkansas. I cant stress this enough. Not because it's important or anything, but because it's really, really funny. Hating State baseball just feels right, ya know?
Not a single notable person has ever attended Mississippi State.
Pretentious Music Video:
When I think Starkville, I think of places I simply do not want to be. If I could pick a phrase to describe Starkville, I'd use "backyard tire fire". Luckily, there's a band with that exact name, so they are this week's pretentious music video choice. Here's Backyard Tire Fire with Good to Be.
LHP Jacob Lindgren (2-0, 0.96 ERA, 18.2 IP, 22/4 K/BB)
RHP Evan Mitchell (0-0, 2.30 ERA, 15.2 IP, 19/13 K/BB)
RHP Kendall Graveman (1-1, 2.61 ERA, 20.2 IP, 16/8 K/BB)
State is second in the SEC in ERA, so let's not pretend they can't bring it. Lindgren is currently not eligible for the SEC lead in ERA due to a quirk in eligibility (a pitcher must have at least 1.0 IP per games played, and he's just short), but he would clearly be near the league lead if he met the requirements. Lindgren was effective out of the pen last year and he's just mowed down teams since moving into the rotation this year, though no one of LSU's caliber. But those peripherals are pretty ridiculous. Mitchell's another guy who worked his way into the rotation after an effective year in relief, though he was a starter in the second half of the season. But how good are those two? They forced Kendall Graveman to a Sunday role, and he was a starter last year, and a good one at that. He's coming off a 2.81 ERA season which included a complete game victory over LSU. He's the exact kind of guy you want on the mound to decide a possible rubber match. There's no other way to say it, this staff is deep and good. LSU has its work cut out for it.
OF Hunter Renfroe 436/469/873
1B Alex Detz 418/560/564
SS Adam Frazier 403/460/558
You think the Bulldogs have good pitching? You should see their lineup. State leads the SEC in runs scored, hits, doubles, total bases, and RBI. Yeah, it's tough to gauge early season statistics against outmatched clubs, but there's only so much that can be schedule effects. This team can flat out rake, especially Renfroe, a preseason All-American who is living up to every little bit of the hype. He has five of the team's nine home runs, showing his power stroke. He's the straw that stirs the drink, though he's not the only guy you have to worry about. Yeah, that's three starters State has that are currently hitting at least 400. What of it? They also have speed on the bases, led by Frazier's 6 swipes on 7 attempts. State also has juggled lineups to the point that they have a flexible and dynamic bench full of guys who are comfortable taking big at bats. It's hard not to be impressed by how they have managed to get everybody some work in the early goings. State doesn't quite have the power LSU has, and they aren't quite as patient at the plate, relying more on making contact and putting the ball in play. But this has been an effective offense that has not struggled to put up runs in bunches by putting pressure on the defense to make plays.
Forget rational analysis and the fact that State is clearly one of the best teams LSU will play all year. They can pitch, they can hit, and they can run. There's nothing this team really can't do, and this is the first legitimate test for the Tigers. Forget all of that. It's State. It's time to channel our inner Skip, look across the diamond at a respected and worthy adversary and tell them, "TIGER BAIT! TIGER BAIT! TIGER BAIT!"