You know, I was going to start the March to Perfection campaign today, in which I wrote a mostly tongue-in-cheek column about how LSU was going to go undefeated based on its early play. Once we dispatched of the SLU juggernaut, there would be no stopping us.
However, a funny thing happened last night. LSU didn't so much win the game as SLU lost it. Six errors? Really? Every single one of LSU's runs came in an inning in which SLU made an error. It's hard for the team walk out with the chest puffed out after that one, as pretty much all they did was stay out of the way of SLU's implosion.
Maybe it was the lights. Maybe it was the intimidation factor. Maybe it was just playing in Alex Box packed to the gills full of the Tiger faithful. Let's look at the anatomy of an implosion because maybe, just maybe, LSU can take credit for "forcing" those errors.
ERROR #1. "Katz singled to shortstop, advanced to second on a throwing error by ss (0-0); Nola advanced to third; Mahtook scored, unearned."
The shortstop made a poor decision and tried to nail the lead runner, Mahtook. The throw went wide, Mahtook scored, and the big inning was underway. Mahtook's speed at least forced the shortstop to rush the throw, so LSU wasn't entirely passive here.
ERROR #2: "Ross reached on a fielder's choice, advanced to second on a throwing error by 1b (2-0); Katz scored, unearned."
I'm not sure how this one happened. Ross grounded to the 1st baseman, who botched the throw home. LSU was just the fortunate beneficiary of terrible defense, and Katz became the third unearned of the inning to cross the plate. Once again, LSU wasn't entirely passive, as Katz was running aggresively on contact.
ERROR #3: "Watkins reached on a fielding error by 3b (2-0); Ross advanced to third."
Are mistakes contagious? The third error of the 2nd inning didn't score a run at first, though Rhymes would make them pay with an RBI single in the next at bat. Both LSU runners on base were there by virtue of errors. It was at this point that I was pretty sure SLU had no chance of winning this game. It was just a comedy of errors. You win by putting up crooked numbers, and LSU took a 4-0 lead early with every single run being unearned. This also demonstrates why we should look at college pitchers' RA instead of their ERA. Sure, the defense sucked that inning, but the pitcher didn't exactly help himself out.
ERROR #4: "Mahtook advanced to second on a throwing error by p."
This one was all Mikie. Mahtook worked a leadoff walk and then drew so much attention at first that eventually the pitcher misfired on one of his pickoff attempts. Mahtook took second and then stole third. Nola drove Mahtook in on a sac fly. One run on no hits. Sure, it was an error, but this was clearly a "forced" error by aggressive baserunning. It also came right after SLU scored their first run in the top half of the 5th. This was the sort of run that just demoralizes a team. SLU cut the lead to a manageable 3 runs, only to give it right back without giving up a single hit. The major virtue of small ball in college is that it forces the defense to handle the ball and make plays. Something SLU proved incapable of doing.
ERROR #5: "Edward reached on a fielding error by ss (2-1). Ware pinch ran for Edward."
SLU had managed to tighten the game at 5-3 going into the bottom of the 8th. They desperately needed a quick inning to get back to the plate and hopefully scrounge out two runs against Matty Ice. What happens? The leadoff man gets on by virtue of an error. Just a completed self-inflicted wound. But it was about to get worse as LSU ruthlessly exploited the chink in the armor, the way a good team should...
ERROR #6: "Ware advanced to second on a throwing error by p, advanced to third."
One error immediately spawned a second. This one was all Ware, who drew non-stop attention at first base. On the poor throw, he went all the way to third because that's how he rolls. Of course, he scored, making it the 6th unearned run of the game. Game over. There's no way SLU, or anyone, is scoring 3 runs off of Ott in a save situation.
So, yes, SLU horribly imploded in a series of errors. The first six LSU runs were all unearned, enough to secure victory right there. But several of those errors were forced by aggressive LSU baserunning. And even more importantly, every time SLU made an error, LSU made them pay. Every. Single. Time.
that's what great teams do. When you show weakness, they attack. LSU didn't just sit idly by while SLU gave the game away, they had the wherewithal to take the game being offered. No error goes unpunished. That's how you win.
The March to Perfection starts now. Undefeated, baby!