One of the advantages of being the grizzled veteran on the blog is that I can slag off the stuff I don't want to do on the rest of the staff. So, as you've probably noticed, I have managed to weasel my way out of doing weekly previews and the game recaps. I feel this is a massive accomplishment, and a testament to my laziness.
So, this season, I give myself an extra day to think about the baseball weekend, and can give y'all a delayed weekly review. And because we love our themes around this place, I give you our new weekly baseball feature: The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly.
Baseball is back! Before we complain about anything, let's talk about how wonderful it is to have made it to baseball season. While MLB fans have to pretend to be excited about people just showing up, and the prospect of a month and half of practice, college fans have actual baseball being played in anger. This time of year is awesome. So let's just enjoy the giddiness of another season wash over us before we do anything else. Cool? Cool.
The rotation. Jared Poche' allowed one run off of one run through six innings before the seventh inning completely got away from him. We'll have more on that in a second, as we're trying to focus on the positive here. Alex Lange was even more impressive, allowing only one hit over 6 2/3 innings and no runs. And the mystery of who will be the third starter seems answered before the season gets off the ground. John Valek III was not as dominant as the top two, but he was plenty effective, and he boasted an impressive 7/0 K/BB ratio. Sure, it's just Cincinnati, but that is an impressive way to start the year.
Jordan Romero. Romero only started one game this weekend, but he made the biggest impact of anyone in the order. In a lineup full of unknowns and question marks, Romero announced his presence with authority, making a pretty good case for more playing time. He came in as a pinch hitter on Friday, but stayed in the game as Papierski was lifted for a pinch runner. Romero would go 2 for 3 with 2 RBI, with both of those RBI coming with two outs. He drove in the game-winner, but if he doesn't drive in one run in the 9th, there's no chance for 12th inning heroics. In his start, he hit a ball that still hasn't landed. Romero finished the weekend 3 for 4 with a walk and a sac fly, plus a HR and 4 RBI.
Moxie. Give a young team credit, LSU could have rolled over in the opener. LSU twice came to the plate in the bottom of the inning, three outs away from a loss. Twice, the Tigers rallied, getting the tying run with two outs in both the 9th and the 10th, and scoring the winning run I the 12th with two outs as well. That is a huge moment to grow on. We didn't know how this team would play under pressure, as it needs lots of young kids to grow up quick. They seemed to grow up pretty fast.
Bullpen management. Paul Mainieri again showed off his slow hook for struggling starters, waiting for the situation to get out of control before doing anything on Friday night. Poche' had allowed one hit after six, and Mainieri had already stated every starter would be on a short pitch count. Poche' started the 7th and gave up a double, a walk, a single, an intentional walk, and another double before Mainieri finally pulled his starter. Two plays at the plate kept the score under control, but Poche' let five consecutive batters to reach base in the opening game of the season, when it is most likely a pitcher lacks the stamina to go deep.
Hunter Newman came in to get the final out, and he cruised for two more innings before encountering trouble in the 10th. He waited for Newman to load the bases without recording an out before summoning Parker Bugg from the pen. That's twice in one game that Mainieri fiddled while Rome burned.
The middle infield. The defense was fine, except for an error by Trey Dawson, but both Dawson and Kramer Robertson had miserable weekends at the plate. They combined to go 1 for 19. Both were nursing injuries/sickness, so let's not write off the season for these guys yet, but this was a discouraging start. Especially for Robertson, who as one of the few veterans in the lineup, is expected to be a guy LSU can lean on.
Extra innings. Hey, comebacks are nice and I'm thrilled we won, but that was some brutal, boring baseball. LSU's 10th inning comeback was keyed by three hit by pitches. Three. The 10th inning took about an hour to play, and it's not like it was marked by a series of a great plays. Everyone was knocking off the rust, and everyone likes to win, but that was not a pretty game to watch. Cincinnati's final score line tells the tale: 5 runs, 6 hits, 4 errors.
Sunday. LSU took out the whooping stick and repeatedly abused whatever pitcher Cincinnati threw up to the mound. The Bearcats starter only last 2/3 of an inning, loading the bases before Olasz managed to escape without letting in another run. LSU would then put up crooked numbers in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, keyed by a grand slam by Bryce Adams. Eventually, five different pitchers would allow at least one run for the Bearcats. Not one they'll put on the season highlight package.
All in all, a fine weekend of baseball for the Tigers. LSU ranks in the top 10 in every major poll, and it got valuable playing time for a young lineup, which also earned a bunch of confidence. And thanks to a gritty rally, the team managed to keep its Opening Day win streak alive, extended it to 15 years.
That's a lot better than just pitchers and catchers reporting.