Thursday was one of the worst days for LSU sports in recent memory. Not only did the basketball team lose in the tournament, but the baseball game dropped the opening game in its series at Arkansas. I'll leave it up to you which bothered LSU fans more.
The bad news of Game One shifted the narrative of the series into the Good News of LSU showing some grit and rallying back, on the road, to take a series win. LSU responded to its opening loss like it usually responds to any loss: by blowing the doors off its opponent at the very next opportunity. The storyline quickly flipped from disappointing to loss to "this team is coming together". Sure, we don't like the team putting itself in a deep hole, but it's nice to see them calmly rally and take the series after dropping the opener.
Composite Poll: 1st
Those jerks at Collegiate Baseball prevented a clean sweep of the polls. LSU is ranked 1st in five out of the six polls in the CBI Composite, so obviously, no one cares about the loss to Arkansas. Really, LSU is over-ranked right now, as is the SEC in general. Four of the top five teams are SEC squads which is, let's face it, sort of ridiculous. Meanwhile, the RPI still likely severely underrates the Tigers, but that number is sure to rise as LSU starts getting to the meat of its schedule. Right now, LSU only has six wins over teams in the RPI top 100. Six. Such is a function of LSU's 249th ranked out of conference SOS.
If you're name isn't Alex Lange, you probably had a bad weekend. That's a tad harsh, as the team did win two games, but the pitching staff did struggle all weekend to make outs. That happens, particularly in a tough road environment, and this will likely lead to calls for Lange to move to the #1 spot in the rotation, particularly because he can do it this week on normal rest. However, I rather like having our ace in the #2 spot, as it means every game he pitches will either be to secure a series win or to set up a rubber match in Game Three. And come postseason, there's a lot to be said for saving your ace for the marble game, and this would come without the bulletin board material, as Lange is always the #2. Lange is the ace, but I think I prefer him as the #2 starter.
Jared Poche' got lit up on Thursday night, allowing 5 runs in just 3.2 innings. Most of the damage came in the third, in which Poche' allowed three runs on a series of singles, aided by an error, a balk, and some aggressive baserunning by the Hogs. It was just that sort of inning, and those things happen sometimes. I wouldn't be too worried about it going forward, as guys are going to have rough nights here and there. The good news is Austin Bain was effective in long relief, giving Mainieri one more option in the pen.
Jake Godfrey gave us what he usually gives us: a solid, yet inefficient outing which leaves him gassed in the middle innings, requiring bullpen support. Another reason to have Lange be your #2 is that its more likely he can give the bullpen a rest for Game Three. And boy, did they need the rest.
Leading 5-1 in the 7th, you normally think LSU has the game well in hand, especially with the quality arms in the pen. But the last nine outs were anything but easy, requiring the rare 5-2-3 double play to bail the Tigers out of the 7th. Person had a rough outing, giving up a double and a home run to the first to batters he faced, then getting deep into trouble again. Strall came in to get out of the jam, and hit the first batter he faced, the second HBP of the inning. After the double play, Strall continued to struggle in the 8th, walking the first two batter she faced. Cartwright offered no help, plunking a batter as well. Finally, Mainieri had to go to Stallings early, and get the two-inning save. It was exhausting, and really, it shouldn't have been.
Or What Lil Poseur Wanted to Watch Instead of Baseball
We haven't had quite the horrible winter in the deep south that the rest of the nation has had, but it has been wet, chilly, and gloomy for far too long. My back yard looks like a lake, as it has rained pretty much every day the entire month of March. It's made it difficult to go outside and play. So, when the sun peaked through the clouds on Saturday afternoon, giving us our first honest to God nice day in what has seemed like an eternity, the Lil Poseur wanted to go to the park and go on the swings.
The NCAA basketball tournament was going on, and I wanted to watch it. I had plans to settle in and live tweet the SEC gymnastics championships, and there was both an important LSU baseball and softball game to be played. These are the things I wanted to watch, but Lil Poseur had no interest in any of that. She wanted to swing.
So we want swinging. And sliding. And then a fairly epic game of hide and seek, which was rather difficult because I'm not sure anyone was actually seeking us. We just ran around looking for hiding places for an hour. You can always watch a game on replay. You can't record your daughter for later viewing.
Yes, it was a great sports weekend. It was an even better playground weekend.
Mainieri seems to have settled on his lineup now that he has come to the conclusion that Kade Scivicque is one of his best hitters. I consider my work on that front a complete success. Now, we move on to the long standing ATVS campaign of Bunting Is Stupid.
Alex Bregman, only one of the best players in all of college baseball and a near certain 1st round draft pick, laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 1st inning on Friday. The. First. Inning. There were two runners on and no out. This is the situation that you WANT your best hitter up in, not taking the bat out of his hands. LSU would go on to win 16-4, so no big deal, but geez, guys. Don't ask Alex Bregman to sac bunt with no outs in the first inning. I can't even believe I needed to type that sentence.
Honestly, Mainieri has done a fantastic job this year of not throwing away outs, so it's what made the Bregman decision really stand out. LSU only has 11 sacrifice hits on the season, and five of them were by Kramer Robertosn and Michael Papierski, two guys you want laying down bunts because they aren't terribly good hitters. He's almost there, so we'll just let this Alex Bregman thing slide the one time. Don't do it again, Paul. It was dumb.
It appears from last weekend's lineup decision that Mainieri has finally settled on his infield: Chinea (1b), Foster (2b), Bregman (ss), and Hale (3b). Hale is the team's cleanup hitter and still has the ability to move around the diamond, but it looks like he's found a home at third. Kramer Robertson's calling card is defense, and he's been inconsistent in the field, so it's allowed Jared Foster to break into the lineup. Foster leads the team in slugging, and he's provided good defense (the team only had one error this weekend). He might come out in close games for a defensive sub, but the job appears to be his, as his bat is just too powerful to waste as a pinch hitter. That leaves Zardon as the odd man out, getting spot starts here and there (at first base on Thursday), and coming in as a super sub (for Hale on Saturday).
Jake Fraley has struggled a bit at the top of the order, so Mainieri tried out Chris Sciambra in the job as a DH. Getting his first back to back starts in what seems like an eternity, Sciambra came through, going 5 of 10 on the weekend. Sciambra in at DH is further bad news for Zardon, as he can get in the field when Chinea moves to DH. I'm not sure if Fraley's demotion is permanent, but it's not like he's been awful. He just hasn't been the hitter we expected.
Tuck Fulane. Then a home series against Kentucky. The Cats are 2-4 in the SEC and coming off a series win at home against State.