I don't know if it is the rankings love LSU has gotten lately, or that there aren't really very many mysteries left with this team, but last night's game against Southern felt very different than the midweek struggles from earlier in the season. Maybe we just knew that Bregman would come through with two late RBIs, or that our staff could easily make up for the struggles of one or two relievers. Whatever it was, the players knew it too. While Mainieri may have been frustrated with Alden Cartwright giving away his first two walks of the season, or Scivicque making a terrible base running error at second, the team stayed composed.
Russell Reynolds made his second start, which was expected to be an abbreviated appearance from the get go. While not terrible, Reynolds definitely wasn't dominant, giving up three hits and an unearned run in only four innings. Newman would come on in early relief, throwing three innings and only surrendering a single hit. The two would combine for seven strikeouts and no walks. Overall, it was a respectable appearance from the pair of mid-week starters, and I'm sure they are in the same boat as Alex Lange, wondering where the bat support is.
As mentioned, Cartwright struggled with the pressure, giving up a run and a pair of walks before getting the hook before the final out of his only inning. It was honestly his worst outing since last season. I hope he bounces back quickly, because when he is good, he's good. But when he struggles... Parker Bugg would surrender another walk, but ultimately limit the damage and close out the inning on nine pitches.
I know both have had their hiccups this season, but I'm really starting to like the one two punch of Collin Strall and Jesse Stallings. Strall gave up a hit in his only inning of work, and earned the win. Stallings faced the minimum in the tenth inning to close out the game.
Not to take away from a great performance by Southern pitcher Tyler Robinson, but what the hell is going on with this lineup. We know they can hit, and they earn plenty of loud outs, but this game was a clear message that they turn it on when they need to. That's the only excuse I can think of for your only four runs coming in the last three innings. Luckily Bregman can just pull RBIs out of his ass when he needs a few, or else we would be talking about a pretty embarrassing loss right now.
I get that it takes at bats to figure out a pitcher and what kind of strategy they are using to attack you at the plate, but you can't tell me that it was that much easier to hit the ace of Southern's staff, Rafeal Diaz, when he made a surprise relief appearance in the eighth. When we get runs early, we get Sunday's game against Ole Miss. When we don't, we struggle against Southern.
Overall, the Tigers had eight hits, with Bregman, Chinea, and Scaimbra chipping in the four RBIs needed. Bregman also had the only stolen base of the evening, though it was a close one. He had been thrown out at second earlier in the game. Southern catcher Jose De La Torre has got a cannon, and doesn't do too bad behind the plate. He definitely challenged LSU on the base paths, which is saying something. I get the feeling we'll hear his name later in his career, though hopefully without Lynn Rollins trying to roll the Rs.
The Jarred Foster experiment rolls on at second, and although he made two tough errors, he continues to show he can play the position. Grayson Byrd got the start at third, and though he flashed a little leather, his two strikeouts aren't going to help his case getting into the regular rotation.
Although Mainieri has identified a pretty strong starting lineup to date, I don't expect him to stop tinkering, especially with freshman Greg Deichmann making his first appearance as a pinch hitter against Southern. He may not be fully healed from his preseason foot injury, but I expect him to pop up more and more, and eventually become a regular at either third or second.
Baseball plays their first away series in conference starting at 6:00 pm on Thursday in Fayetteville. Hopefully they can take an early lead, and make it easy to flip back and forth between the basketball team's opening round game against NC State, which starts at 8:20.