My favorite NASCAR driver is Jeff Gordon. Or was rather, given his recent retirement at the end of the 2015 season. There are a lot of reasons why I rooted for Jeff, I can spend an entire post on just listing them.
But probably my favorite reason is a story I have heard many times yet never been able to see printed or discussed on a reputable service. So with that grain of salt in mind, it goes a little something like this: back when Gordon was cutting his teeth on the
Winston Nextel Sprint Cup circuit, he was raising some eyebrows early on in a race with blistering lap times. Unimpressed, Dale Earnhardt told his spotter something to the effect of "this sonuvabitch is about to spin out". And Gordon was indeed driving a loose race car (that's a car that wants to turn too much, and if it's too loose you run the risk of spinning out), but that didn't stop him. Car sliding around the track and all, Gordon went on to win the race and have one of the most successful careers in the history of the sport.
Let's not mince words, LSU got dumped into the wall Friday night and they got dumped hard. The previously sterling Jared Poche' got touched up for five runs on eight hits, four of which were home runs. Doug Norman was unable to put out the fire and allowed two more to touch the plate.
The LSU offense was unable to keep pace with that because Kevin Marnon was throwing some off speed junk with his left hand that the Tigers were just out in front of for the whole night. The Tigers' lone run of the night came in the sixth when Cole Freeman knocked in O'Neal Lochridge with a double. In the next frame Freeman added to Ball State's lead by committing a throwing error that allowed another Cardinal run to score and set up an RBI opportunity, which Ball State capitalized on.
Some nights one aspect of your game doesn't show up, on occasion it's two. Friday night was that rare time that all three didn't.
In the uncomfortable spot of being down a game in a weekend series, LSU turned to staff ace Alex Lange, who himself has been erratic in the past few weeks. And in the third inning Lange's slide towards the wall continued, allowing two runs to score off of a triple following a single and a walk. LSU answered with a run in the form of Antoine "Twonnie" Duplantis doubling in Jake Fraley.
Ball State looked to retaliate in the fourth, with two in scoring position and one out. In a jam that could have tilted the series in the favor of an upset, Alex Lange dug deep and climbed out the hole, coaxing a pop out to shallow right that Twonnie was able to get into home in time to keep the runner in check and ending the inning with an overpowering strikeout.
And in the fourth, LSU fed off that energy and put Ball State in their rear view mirror. Eight Tigers crossed home in that inning and it was goodbye, Mr. Bond.
Sunday was weird because it...really didn't feel like a rubber match at all. There was kind of an assumption in the air that LSU had the series won and the game was just a formality. Offensively, LSU put up the runs that they needed to ensure a victory and set it on cruise control.
In the third the Tigers answered the Cardinals game opening run with three runs stemming from singles from Duplantis and Papierski and a sacrifice fly from Bryce Jordan. LSU added to their total in the following inning as Kramer Robertson doubled in Chris Reid, Fraley bringing Freeman home with a single, and Michael Papierski knocking in Fraley and Robertson for four runs in total. Ball State would push back with a five run surge in the sixth and seventh innings, but a Greg Deichmann two run homer kept LSU in the comfort zone and locked up the series win.
Duplantis had an especially strong weekend, taking five hits in thirteen at bats with a walk to boot. In addition to his show at the plate, Duplantis also showed a strong arm in right, freezing runners looking to advance. Call it regional bias from sitting out in section 101, but I'm excited for the future when it comes to ole Twonnie. I haven't built up the affection for him that I had for Mark Laird, but if this is Duplantis' ground floor as a freshman...man oh man there could be something special brewing here.
As we exit turn one of the college baseball season, LSU currently sits at 12-3 and that doesn't sound too bad until you see that the losses are to Lamar, Sacramento State, and Ball State respectively. It's true that it is early in the season and it's highly likely that they are non-factors come tournament time, but the signs of the car being loose are there. However I don't think spinning out is likely. Far from it, actually. But going into conference play the things that need to be addressed are loud and present. There's plenty of time left, but the clock is officially ticking regardless. LSU came into March with a fresh lineup that has yet to gel offensively and defensively and a pitching staff that yet to find their right groove, and I think the former has been addressed. However, the pitching staff needs to set the pace of the team because as they go, so does the team. It is imperative that LSU leaves March with it resolved and all engines firing. But you can still win a race with a loose car.
Former LSU great Blake Dean has his homecoming Wednesday night at 6:30 when his New Orleans Privateers come calling to Baton Rouge. After that, Alabama kicks off conference play at the Box. Game times are at 7:00, 6:30, and 1:00, so come out and boil some crawfish and tailgate before going to the game Saturday, weather permitting. That's what I'll be doing at least. As per usual, every game this week will be on the SEC Network +.
GM1: LSU 1 - Ball St. 7
GM2: LSU 9 - Ball St. 3
GM3: LSU 10 - Ball St. 6