Opinion: LSU did not play all that well this weekend. If you took a random sampling of LSU baseball fans, I highly doubt this would be a controversial opinion.
Fact: LSU swept ULL, and never trailed any game at any point this weekend.
I hesitate to call this an easy series win, but the fact of the matter is that LSU held the advantage all weekend long, and eventually earned itself a sweep. The truth, however, is a bit more complicated. LSU might never have trailed, but LSU needed heroics in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday to get the win, and then spent most of Sunday's game deadlocked in a 0-0 tie.
It was a series in which LSU exhibited both the dominant traits which make the team the odds on favorite to win the national title as well as the weaknesses which have plagued this team all year. The crazy thing is, no one has been able to expose those weaknesses.
LSU lost one series all year, way back on the final week of March to Kentucky. Since then, LSU has not lost two games in the same week. Even LSU's elimination in the SEC tournament was due to the format switching to single elimination in the semifinals. This team has been difficult to beat the last two months, and nearly impossible to beat twice.
The biggest factor in LSU's perceived invulnerability in the postseason is a devastating one-two punch on the mound. Lange and Poche' followed up their outstanding regional performances with merely very good outings in the Supers.
Lange boasted an 11/1 K/BB ratio in Game One. He scattered 10 hits through 8 innings (plus one batter that shall be mentioned in the 9th), and while he showed the chinks in the armor, no one could quite take advantage. Hell, the only time Lange wasn't in total control was during a mini-monsoon in the 8th inning.
Poche' was even more dominant, not allowing a run until the 8th, after LSU had built a 5-0 lead. He struggled a bit in the 9th, but the outcome was never truly in doubt, as the pen closed things out. Lange and Poche' combined for 15.2 innings, 4 earned runs, 17 strikeouts, and just two walks. You're going to win a lot of games when your starters perform like that.
Of course, the downside is that the starters HAVE to perform this well if LSU is to have any chance of winning. We've been critical for years for Mainieri and his slow hook for starters, but it is more justifiable this season given the bullpen. Handed a big lead in the late innings, the pen still found a way to make it interesting on Sunday night. Yes, Mainieri is leaving his starters in for too long, but he's doing so because he trusts his tired starter more than his fresh pen. Given the bullpen's performance this past month, it is hard to question that decision. It took three pitchers to get the final four outs on Sunday, and it wasn't until Bugg got on the hill that he found an effective reliever.
There was the standard postseason complaining about the bats, as LSU hitters refused to work counts and went for a long stretch without any productivity. Over the weekend, LSU went 12 consecutive innings with no runs, save the huge solo home run by Sciambra in the bottom of the ninth. Otherwise, LSU went the last six innings of Game 1 and the first six innings of Game 2 completely floundering at the plate.
Luckily, games are nine innings long.
We can complain about the offense, but LSU scored 10 runs in two games, which should be enough for the twin aces on the pitching staff. LSU is 48-4 when it scores at least four runs. Sure, LSU averages just a hair shy of 7 runs/game, but given the increased quality of competition in the postseason, 5 runs/game is right where you want to be.
It looked ugly, and it might have been a bit too reliant on the home run (three this weekend), but the LSU offense is doing what it needs to do. I'd hesitate to say the offense is clicking on all cylinders, especially with Bregman only getting one hit all postseason long (but what a hit it was, driving in two runs to blow the game open). However, the strength of LSU's offense is not just the Murder's Row at the top of the order, but the depth of production in the order, so it is not a surprise when Chris Sciambra hits a walk-off home run and then can't crack the lineup the next day. Our offense is like the hydra. Cut off one head, and two grow in its place.
After struggling to dominate, yet still somehow dominating, LSU celebrated the win like a true powerhouse. The players jumped around in celebration for a minute or so, but did not dogpile. They took their celebratory lap around the Box, but this was not a team looking back on its accomplishments this year.
This was a team pausing to take a breath before getting to the real work in Omaha. LSU looks ready to dominate, and focused on bringing another trophy back to Baton Rouge.