As is the tradition, LSU opens up the Baton Rouge regional with the first game. Our first victim opponent is the Jackson State Tigers, who will be playing in front of more people today than they have played in front of their entire careers, combined.
Record: 34-20 (19-5), SWAC champs
Odds of winning regional*: 0.0%
*According to boydsworld.com ISR projections
That's right, they have literally no mathematical chance of winning this regional. Simply winning a game would be a success, and LSU has just suspended Cody Glenn. That cracks the door open just a little, but not much. There are only 290 programs in Division 1, and by the more friendly metric, Jackson state ranks 227th. This is not a terribly good team, and the deck is stacked firmly against them.
What Pretentious Indie Band They Resemble: Bikini Kill. This is not to say they are a bunch of girls, because I'm pretty sure any member of Bikini Kill could kick my ass. However, this is a team on the very fringe of the sport. HBCU's are lucky to get 100 people for a game, and they have almost no resources whatsoever. This is a DIY program that really has no hope of ever breaking into the mainstream. Instead, they turn their underdog nature into a virtue, and stand as an alternative to the staid mainstream like LSU. Like Bikini Kill's label says, Kill All Rock Stars. We're the rock stars in this analogy.
RHP Alexander Juday 7-4, 3.14 ERA, 111.2, 60/35 K/BB
Vincent Anthonia 5-4, 5.11 ERA, 75.2 IP, 38/33 K/BB
Brandon Gregory 6-4, 6.46 ERA, 76.2 IP, 39/45 K/BB
The good news is they actually have some decent options in the pen. The bad news is, well, the rest of it. That's a cover-your-eyes awful rotation, which includes a guy with a K/BB ratio that goes the wrong the way. Jackson St has said they will pitch either Juday or reliever Desmond Russell (3-0, 1.56 ERA, 40.1 IP, 43/14 K/BB). Russell has started exactly three games this season, and if the Tigers use him, it creates a hole in their pen, as he's really their relief ace. But it does appear they are going with the kitchen sink option, which you have to respect. This is a team that's gonna go down swinging.
Charles Tilery 344/468/425
Nick Marigny 275/451/363
Malcolm Tate 313/432/430
The problem with starting Russell is that it would deprive the team of a pretty good bat. He's only had 53 AB's this year, but in them he's hit 321/397/585, making him not only the team's best pitcher, but also their best hitter. It makes more sense to play Russell in the field and then move him to pitcher if need be and then give up the DH later in the game. As befitting a SWAC team, they can run like mad. JSU stole 125 bases this year, and while we do have a pretty powerful arm behind the plate, Mainieri has elected to start a righty today. You're guess is as good as mine as to why.
How Can They Win?
They can't. OK, they could win a game, maybe two, by putting pressure on the defense to make plays. They will make contact and run a lot, making the fielders field the ball cleanly and make good decisions. But this is an overmatched team with a pretty wretched pitching staff once you get past the first two guys, who, unfortunately, LSU will likely face.
How Will They Lose?
By giving up way too many runs. Jackson State has a chance if their pitchers play out of their minds this weekend and keep the score down to a 5-4 level, but they do not have the offense to put up a bunch of crooked numbers, and the opposing offenses this weekend do. I expect them to be the first team to give up 10 runs this weekend though, as always, I'll be rooting for the underdog when they aren't playing LSU. I'm a sucker for the little guy.