LSU: Ryan Eades (2.69 ERA, 1.292 WHIP, 93.2 IP, 0.265 OBA, 75 K, 27 BB)
Jackson St.: Alexander Juday (3.14 ERA, 1.316 WHIP, 111.2 IP, 0.264 OBA, 60 K, 35 BB)
Alexander Juday has been the man for Jackson St. this season, logging 111.2 innings, starting 9 games and appearing in 21 games in total. He has done a reasonable job at keeping opponents in check, only giving up 39 earned runs. When you compare his ERA with his runs allowed per game (R/G), you can see that Jackson St.'s defense hurts him a bit. His ERA is 3.14, but he is giving up 4.030 runs per game, almost one unearned run per game which can really hurt in a tight game. He doesn't overwhelm batters with a K rate of 13% and doesn't walk guys fairly often either with a walk rate of 7%. Overall, Juday is a solid pitcher, so LSU will not be able to take him lightly.
However, Juday has not faced a team with LSU's hitting ability. No team in the SWAC hit above 0.300 this year. Jackson St. led the SWAC with a 0.285 average, and Alabama St. was second with a 0.282 average.
On the flip side, LSU will send Ryan Eades to the mound. Eades needs to have a good game for him, which means he gives up the occasional hit and limits potential damage. If Eades goes seven innings, has a batting average on balls in play below 0.350 and WHIP below 2.000, it will be a quality start. Eades and Ty Ross will need to be on alert though, because Jackson St. likes to steal bases, a lot (more on this in a bit).
Jackson St. Projected Starting Lineup
LSU Projected Starting Lineup
As mentioned, Jackson St. is batting 0.285, but they are fairly one dimensional as far as offense. The look to get on base then push with base running. They don't hit for a lot of power with a team slugging percentage of 0.385, but they get on base at a decent clip with a team on base percentage of 0.394. The two guys to watch are Charles Tilery and Ethan Bright. Tilery leads Jackson St. in almost every major offensive statistically category and is an excellent base runner with 25 stolen bases on 30 attempts. Bright is the power hitter in the lineup with a team leading 0.446 slg%, but he is prone to striking out with a 19% strike out rate. Once a runner gets on base, they tend to be very aggressive with stealing bases. Jackson St. stole 125 bases in 156 attempts on the season. These guys are fast and like to use their speed to test opposing defenses. Eades and Ross need to be alert about base runners and look to hurt Jackson St. for being aggressive.
LSU contrasts very differently from Jackson St. Instead of being overly aggressive on the base paths, they rely on percentage hitting and power. The overall team hit 0.308 during the season, but the starting lineup I have above is slightly better at 0.314. Rumor has it that Mark Laird may not be ready in time for the regional, which is why I have Tyler Moore in the lineup (as the DH, McMullen will probably play RF). LSU struggled a lot in the SEC tournament, but I don't see them having that issue at Alex Box Stadium. The Hoover Met's size limited LSU's typically reliable power hitting, and the Box is more of a hitters' park (I'll look into park factors another time).
Jackson St.'s defense numbers are not pretty. Their fielding percentage is 0.955 and they committed 92 errors on the season. Three of the guys they started in the SWAC championship game have double digits errors, the oddest being starting left fielder Bryce Taylor. Taylor committed 10 errors during the regular season, which is a lot for an outfielder. Gary Thomas and Nick Marigny compose the left side of the infield and have combined for 28 errors. Jackson St. needs a perfect game if they are going to beat LSU, so they will need to play spotless defense.
LSU relies heavily on their exceptional defense to limit opponents scoring opportunities. They lead the SEC in fielding percentage at 0.981 and committed only 41 errors during the regular season. The outfield has been particularly remarkable. The outfield committed no errors during the regular season, and has shown exceptional range all year. Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird are two of the best defensive outfielders I have seen play at LSU. It seems like every week one of those guys makes a highlight reel catch that takes away an extra base hit. Mark Laird may be out this weekend due to an injury, so Sean McMullen will probably step in at right field with a right handed pitcher on the mound. McMullen is capable in right field, but there will be some drop in range.
LSU also has one of the best defensive catchers in Ty Ross, who could make Jackson St. pay for being too aggressive on the base paths. This is the most exciting match up I can see in this game. Jackson St. has two elite base runners in Charles Tilery and Aneko Knowles, so Ross will probably have a few opportunities to show off how good his arm is.
Jackson St. has two guys they rely on out of the pen, Andre Rodriguez and Desmond Russell. Both guys pitched around 40 innings, and have roughly similar numbers. Rodriguez has an ERA of 1.32, WHIP of 1.072, OBA of 0.184, BABIP of 0.231, and walk rate of 11%. Russell has an ERA of 1.56, WHIP of 1.041, OBA of 0.193, BABIP of 0.296, and walk rate of 8%. With those numbers, either guy can come out of the pen and help out their team. However, there is not a lot of depth here. Outside of Russell and Rodriguez, only one other pitcher has over 20 innings pitched and several have less than 10.
The LSU bullpen has been a strength throughout the season. LSU has several reliable guys they can turn to in a pinch, but in a typical game it usually involves some combination of Joey Bourgeois/Nick Rumbelow in the 7th and 8th innings with Chris Cotton coming in to close out the 9th. LSU does have other weapons in the bullpen, such as Brent Bonvillain, Will LaMarche, and Kurt McCune, who all have experience and provide much needed depth.
LSU dominates Jackson St. in every statistical category except base running and has better depth than Jackson St. On paper, this game should not be close. LSU hits better, pitches better, and plays superior defense. Base running can give you an edge, but it cannot win ball games. I think LSU pitching and defense limits Jackson St. to minimal chances, while the LSU bats put on an offensive showcase after performing below their potential in the SEC tournament.
LSU wins 10-2
Offense and Defense
I provided links to the LSU Stats so this article is slightly less cluttered (I love charts. It's a problem.)