Didn't think I'd have to break out the Ol' Delusional Optimism(tm) on the first SEC weekend, but here we are. Swept by the #1 team in the nation and yet with plenty to be hopeful about. Like the fact that we won't see the Gators again until Hoover...
Friday in front of yet another record crowd, Florida and LSU battled to a 2-2 game heading into the 8th. LSU jumped out ahead with a 2-run 1st, powered by the kind of "Get'em across at any cost" play we have seen all season. Florida had their hands full with Kurt McCune, getting just 5 hits and 2 runs through 5 1/3 before he was pulled for an excellent appearance by Ryan Eades. LSU got one more run in the bottom of the 8th and needed just 3 outs to start the weekend off right. Coach Mainieri gave the ball to Matty Ott and the nightmare we thought we had escaped came roaring back with a vengeance.
UF got 3 runs on 4 hits, with a single shot homer (Ott's first of the year) and a bases loaded RBI single to deep right. Ott was pulled with only 1 out for Peterson, who benefited from a UF baserunning mistake and only faced one batter before ending the inning. The TIgers had their work cut out for them in the bottom of the 9th, but quickly got 2 on in scoring position (including a near home run ball by Ty Ross) with no outs and the team's best hitter in JaCoby Jones at the plate. For reasons I still do not understand, Jones was told to bunt, but did badly and popped one up behind the plate that was caught. That was all the swing UF's great closer Anthony DeSclafani needed, as he struck out Watkins and Rhymes to end the game, 5-4.
Saturday was a textbook pitcher's duel and one for the ages at that. The national press is all over the shutout performance of UF's Hudson Randall, but with the exception of just the first 2 batters he faced (a walk and an RBI double that became the only run of the night) Kevin Gausman was the better pitcher, with more innings, less hits, and more Ks. He has more than lived up to his recruiting hype, and will hopefully be a main reason LSU wins SEC series this year. LSU threatened all night, but as happened all weekend, left 10 men on base and got smoked as UF's epic closer Nick Maronde struck out the side in the 9th for the 1-0 win.
With the series out of reach, LSU was just looking to save face on Sunday and gain back some respect. The Tigers jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the 3rd off of some UF fielding errors. Alsup got in trouble in the 3rd with the bases loaded, but was saved as UF's Daniel Pigott, their offensive leader who had a horrible weekend at the plate, hit into a double play (one of 7 on the weekend for LSU). Alsup immediately loaded them again in the 4th, but with no one ready had to stay out there and gave up 5 runs on 6 hits before getting Pigott to K again to end the inning. Alsup was pulled for Dykstra in the 5th, who was pulled for Peterson in the 6th after giving up a solo homer, followed by Broussard, Eades, Berry, Ott, and Cotton, all who pitched an inning or less. Berry gave up his first homer of the year on a single shot off his very first pitch, while Ott's appearance was shaky as he hit a batter and gave up a walk before being pulled. LSU again left 10 men on and would not score again in the 3-7 final.
All in all, not a horrible series, despite the sweep. LSU stayed competitive all weekend and had a shot at taking this series if we could just get some guys home. Eyeballing the team BAs is starting to show some guys who are slumping and I'm thinking it may be time for some lineup shuffling. 27 men LOB for the weekend, many in scoring position, is such a momentum killer and a serious problem to have in conference play. And it can't be understated how great UF's pitching was this weekend. They have a staff that looks Omaha-ready and I am very anxious to see what they do at home next weekend with S Car.
NOTES OF INTEREST
- Dozar subbed for Edward at 1B all 3 games due to Edward falling ill at the last minute on Friday night. He wasn't really better or worse than I think Edward might have been, so there's no way to tell if he's going to become a regular starter.
- Meanwhile, Ross seams to have found his groove at C, both behind the plate with some great pick-offs this weekend and at bat with 5 hits on the weekend and no longer the worst regular-starting BA.
- That dubious distinction goes to Trey Watkins. He leads with 16 Ks and his BA is nearing the Mendoza line at .232. It's a good thing he continues to make spectacular grabs in left.
- Who is that stranger at SS and what has he done with Austin Nola? Far and away leading what is the worst defensive team in the SEC with 9 errors and a fielding percentage at a flat .900.
- If starting off the SEC slate at home with an 0'fer feels weird, it's because it is. In this list of oddities from the weekend from Rosetta at The Advocate, there is one that stings more than the others. The last time LSU started SEC play winless at home: 1966 against Tucking Fulane (yeah, when they were still in the conference).
- Despite multiple attempts, some of which failed in spectacular fashion, LSU recorded just one successful bunt all weekend.
- The 10,220 actual attendance mark on Friday yet again raises the single game record (3rd time this year if my memory serves), and the 28,215 combined actual is the largest recorded series crowd in LSU history, beating the record set way back on...last weekend. Forget other college teams and the Minor Leagues, that's threatening and in some cases beating MLB spring ball.
- And speaking of crowds, let me extend my gratitude to the boisterous group of hecklers in LF Sec. 125 for a fantastic performance during the CS-F weekend. As was true in the Old Box, the farther away from the grandstand you get, the more entertaining your fellow fans are.
- Also, the work of GeauxTiger, AllSaintsDay, and everyone else in the CS-F Gamethread is most appreciated, especially on short notice. Let me say that my next weekend at The Box in person will be the Auburn series on April 15th so any volunteers feel free to speak up now.
- I missed it with no recap for the Fullerton series, but lets not let another "Les Miles/Hat" reference go unnoticed. Here he is grazing in the infield
ATVS Pitcher of the Weekend - Kevin Gausman
I dare say his performance on Saturday would be good for a win against anyone else in the conference. And it would have been with just the slightest bit of run support.
ATVS Newcomer / Player of the Weekend - C Ty Ross
Ross really came into his own this week behind the plate and was inches from tying the game Friday night. He gets both nods this week due to a lack of candidates.
KEVIN BERRY APPEARANCE COUNT: 11
LSU AT-BATS SINCE LAST HOMERUN: 348 (GM1 against Princeton)
BBCOR ERA HR COUNT: 14
BBCOR ERA DOUBLES COUNT: 44
PAID ATTENDANCE TOTAL: 206496
ACTUAL ATTENDANCE TOTAL: 135953
UNUSED TICKET TOTAL: 70543
OTHER ACTION OF NOTE
- LSU was the only SEC team swept this weekend, but not for lack of trying. Miss St. stated the weekend losing 10-0 and 4-0 at Vandy before taking the Sunday game 9-8. Georgia has nearly completed their turn-around, coming within 1 run of taking the series at South Carolina. Auburn nearly swept Arkansas in a top 25 matchup, Bama took 2 of 3 at Ole Miss, and Kentucky took 2 of 3 from Tenn.
- Wake Forest won a series at home last weekend against ACC favorite UNC, but followed it up with getting swept at home by Miami this weekend.
- Holy Cross took 2 from Princeton in a mini-tourney last weekend, but is struggling in their non-conf schedule. Princeton was also swept at Georgetown this weekend.
- CS-Fullerton dropped a midweek at A&M to complete their road trip, but rebounded to sweep Washington at home this weekend
- SLU dropped 2 of 3 to McNeese St. at home and lost a midweek to Tulane, Nicholls St was swept again in conference play, USL dropped 2 of 3 at home against ULM to start conference play, UNO is on a 17 game losing streak after being swept by Tulane this weekend, and the Greenies took 2 of 3 from Wichita State last weekend and will likely start conference play next weekend at Southern Miss ranked in the Top 20.
Tuesday: USL, 6:30pm
Weekend: @ UGA, 3GMS (Saturday Televised on CSS, might be on ESPN3.com as well)
GM1 v Florida
GM2 v Florida
GM3 v Florida