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Weekend Preview: Boston College (2-2) @ LSU (3-1)

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The Eagles come to town for a weekend series against the Tigers.

Mark Laird will be happy if the Tigers can cut down on the errors
Mark Laird will be happy if the Tigers can cut down on the errors
via Watson Tiger

I'm sure the team got lit into pretty hard about their effort against Nicholls.  It was a lackluster night all around, and LSU paid the price for its sloppy performance.

It's time to flush that performance, and move on to the next opponent, Boston College.  The Eagles come to Baton Rouge after going 2-2 in a tournament in South Carolina to start the season.

The schedule for the weekend has been jumbled a bit due to weather.  Friday features a double header with games at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. CST, and the finale will be played Saturday at 3 p.m. CST. All games will air on the digital service SECNetwork+.

The Bats

Gabriel Hernandez - 0.364/0.364/0.545 (2014: 0.242/0.337/0.291)

Blake Butera - 0.438/0.550/0.563 (2014: 0.269/0.399/0.332)

Chris Shaw - 0.250/0.550/0.500 (2014: 0.329/0.393/0.502)

Michael Stream - 0.389/0.450/0.611 (2014: 0.237/0.327/0.376)

BC returns their entire starting lineup from last season, and it appears that they are improving at the plate.  Blake Butera, Chris Shaw, and Joe Cronin were the top three hitters on the team a year ago, and Butera and Shaw are off to strong starts this year.  Shaw's batting average is a bit deceptive because he's drawn 7 walks in only four games.  Teams are pitching around Shaw, and it's been to the benefit of Michael Stream who hits behind Shaw.  Stream leads the team in doubles with four and is making teams pay for pitching around Shaw.  Gabriel Hernandez is the leadoff man, and he's been on a tear to start the season.  Hernandez leads the team in RBI (6) and runs scored (6), so he's a threat every time he gets to the plate.

I expect some of these early stats are due to the competition that BC has played (Xavier twice, Wofford, and USC Upstate), but these guys are swinging the bat well right now and confidence plays a large part in how guys perform at the plate.

Pitching

Starters (as announced by Boston College)

Fri. GM1 RHP John Gorman - 0-0, 5.06 ERA, 5.1 IP, 0.211 BA, 8/1 K/BB

Fri. GM2 RHP Jeff Burke - 0-0, 9.00 ERA, 4.0 IP, 0.389 BA, 4/2 K/BB

Sat. LHP Nick Poore - 0-0, 5.06 ERA, 5.1 IP, 0.158 BA, 5/1 K/BB

Reserve LHP Jesse Adams - 0-0, 5.79 ERA, 4.2 IP, 0.263 BA, 8/0 K/BB

Bullpen

RHP Justin Dunn - 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 0.143 BA, 5/2 K/BB

RHP Mike King - 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.1 IP, 0.125 BA, 4/0 K/BB

RHP Luke Fernandes - 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 2.0 IP, 0.143, 2/0 K/BB

The starting pitching had a rough opening weekend.  All four of BC's starters gave up at least three runs in their first starts of the season. Jeff Burke had a particularly brutal outing against USC Upstate, giving up two doubles, a triple and a homer in four innings.  BC didn't give up a lot of walks in the opening weekend, so look for them to throw strikes and allow LSU to put the ball in play.

If LSU can get to the bullpen early against BC, the Tigers should be in good shape.  Outside of the three guys listed above, all of BC's bullpen has an ERA over 4.50.  The pen has given up 15 runs in only 15.2 innings of work.  Not a great start to the season, and hopefully this is an area LSU can exploit.

Keys to the Weekend

Starting Pitching Stays Hot: Jared Poche, Alex Lange, and Jake Godfrey need to have similar starts to their first outings.  All pitched well against Kansas and need to keep it up against BC. They'll need to continue to limit mistakes and keep the ball away from the BC power hitters as much as possible.  Not allowing extra base hits to BC's power hitters will be crucial.

Error Free Defense:  With eight errors in the last two games, LSU needs to clear its head and stop making so many mistakes in the field.  The infield defense in particular needs to clean up its act with Bregman, Hale, Zardon, and Robertson all committing errors over the last two games.  LSU needs nearly perfect work in the field with young arms on the mound.

Clutch Hitting:  LSU left 17 men on base, left a runner in scoring position in every inning except the 9th, and only managed to score three runs in the game against Nicholls.  The leadoff man got on base in the first four innings and LSU failed to score in each inning.    You combine that with four errors and you get LSU's first loss of the season.  The bats made plenty of noise on the night with 14 hits, but went 4-19 with runners in scoring position.  The team needs to convert its chances into runs and put as much pressure as possible on the opposition.  The BC bullpen and starting pitching appears prone to giving up runs, so the lineup needs to take advantage of that as much as they can.

Prediction

If the Tigers can put the defensive issues behind them, they have enough fire power in the lineup to win the series.  The BC pitching staff will give them plenty of opportunities to put the ball in play, so LSU needs to capitalize when they get runners on base and in scoring position.  If the defense continues to have poor outings, the BC bats have been hot enough that they could get LSU into some long innings and score plenty of runs.

Overall, I think LSU's lineup is too much for the BC pitching staff to handle and the Tigers win the series.