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Baseball Weekend Review: The Wrong Side Of Catharsis

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March Badness.

Behind sharp pitching and a stellar defense, Alabama frustrated LSU to death
Behind sharp pitching and a stellar defense, Alabama frustrated LSU to death
Adam Henderson

Nothing in baseball is permanent. I personally think that's why the sport has such an obsession with the past and a fascination with it's own history. The entire sport is built upon established means and lives in the margins of the deviations from it.

The mean in this case, to simplify things, was that LSU owns Alabama. The Tide haven't take a series from LSU since 2011 and haven't won a series in Baton Rouge since 1996. In the last five years, they have only two wins against the Tigers.

That gets frustrating, but you already knew that because the inverse is true for football. And after the conference opener getting pushed back to Saturday due to rain, Alabama entered their catharsis.

There was no secret to it. There were no disadvantages to LSU that didn't exist for Alabama as well. The Crimson Tide just played better baseball across the board than the Tigers did. Batting, pitching, defense, Alabama was better in all three phases of the game Saturday.

In game one, Alex Lange and Geoffrey Bramblett entered into a pitching duel and Lange blinked first. And he blinked hard. For six innings, Lange looked like he returned to his old form, only allowing two hits. He finished with 10 hits surrendered, leading to four runs. On the first pitch of the inning, second baseman Chance Vincent doubled to left center, and a botched fielding of a bunt from Georgie Salem set the table for a Will Hanie (who has been at Bama F O R E V E R) two run double. Two more singles did the game in, and that was more than enough to be the difference. The Tide added two more in the 9th via a Chandler Tayler two run homer.

Jared Poche' was given the rock in game two, and after a solid first third of a game, a fielding error by Kramer Robertson and two hit by pitches loaded them for Cobie Vance and Chase Vincent to single in two runs. Down two-nil in the 5th, Poche' was kept in the game and Will Haynie took him deep to start the inning off. The game winning run for the Crimson Tide came when Keith Holcombe singled in Salem against Parker Bugg, which proved big when LSU came at the Tide with their last gasp flurry in the final frame.

Offensively, Saturday was an extremely poor showing from LSU. Only four Tigers collected on hits in game one, with Antoine Duplantis doubling down to extend his hit streak. The wind was a hindrance for sure, but Alabama had to play in it too and they had to do it against Alex Lange to boot. It's not like LSU didn't make solid contact on the ball, they did, but they just kept getting too far under it for the wind. It was like they were thinking "ok, THIS time the wind will carry the ball into the gap". LSU was much better in game two, racking up thirteen hits but now the issue became bringing players home. LSU left 11 on base in game two, bringing their two game total on the day to 18. By the time LSU began stringing hits together, there literally were no more outs to give. LSU scored their first run in SEC play in the 6th inning when Bryce Jordan doubled to left and was brought home on a Jordan Romero single up the middle. In the ninth with two outs, Jake Fraley singled to left and was followed by a Duplantis walk. A wild pitch advanced both runners, and Beau Jordan knocked in Fraley, while Twonnie was held at third and was scored by a second wild pitch. But it was all too little too late, as Michael Papierski worked the count full but popped out foul to end the game.

Alabama made the most of their offensive chances and kept LSU as in check as possible with their pitching, but their defense was also putting the clamps on LSU. LSU tagged the balls quite a bit, but a grey shirt was always under and in front of it. After a while it began to show that LSU was just frustrated. Nothing went right for LSU on Saturday, and instead of the usual post-game meeting out in shallow right, Mainieri called the team into the locker room for a more formal pow-wow where I'm sure more colorful language was used.

But hey, Sunday was a brand new day! Except for the part where it wasn't. Alabama jumped on John Valek III in the first for a run and did it again in the third, all the work of singles. A Daniel Cucjean error in the fifth lead to Cole Freeman getting on and getting scored via a Duplantis single.

In the seventh Alabama struck back when Chandler Taylor put a ball into the jetstream that carried it into the Diamond Deck in right, scoring Cucjean and putting Alabama up four to two.

With the outs available dwindling, Romero walked on a full count to lead off the eighth inning. Bryce Jordan and Greg Deichmann both singled to load the bases for pinch hitter Brody "Bordy Waffles" Wofford who scored Romero and Jordan with a single up the middle to tie the game. After Cole Freeman got hit by a pitch, Kramer Robertson put a ball into shallow right that was misplayed pretty horrifically, scoring Bryce and Brennan Breaux, who pinch ran for Wofford. Bryce Jordan added some very important insurance runs by singeing in Robertson and Freeman home. Alabama was able to put up a run in the 9th, but by then it was too little too late for Alabama and they had to leave Baton Rouge with a series win, but not a sweep.

***

Now, let's start with the bad from the weekend. I plan on writing about this more, but Alex Lange nearly broke through and re-emerged as his 2015 self. But that last inning ended up being too much, and it ended up being the potential difference in the series. While O'Neal Lochridge has been out with a back injury, Chris Reid has been tapped in to man the hot corner and while he has held up his end defensively, offensively the freshman went a cold one for nine on the weekend. I'm not trying to throw the kid under the bus for being a freshman in the SEC, but I think it's time to explore the prospects of Bordy Waffles out on third.

Really what sucks the most about this weekend is that LSU played a doubleheader on a day where the team just wasn't firing on all cylinders. The old adage is that each day is a new opportunity in baseball and a chance to wipe the slate clean, but it's harder to wipe the slate when you don't have time to sleep on a loss and instead have an hour without batting practice. These things happen and it isn't the end of the world for LSU, but it is a red flag.

It wasn't all bad though. For instance, Twonnie's hit streak is now at 19 and while he isn't the hardest masher on the team, he's incredibly consistent. And then there's...Kramer with his weird ass ability to get on base in clutch situations in the most bullshit way possible and...well, that's really all the positives from this weekend. All that's left to do is to close the book on it and move on to the next one, getting better along the way.

Hopefully significantly better, because Tuesday LSU goes to New Orleans Metairie for the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic against ULL at 7 and then turns around to go to College Station for a series with Texas A&M from Thursday-Saturday (7:00, 8:00, 2:00). The Classic will be on CST and the A&M series will be on the SEC Network on Thursday and Friday before getting bumped to the SEC Network + on Saturday.

GM1 LSU 0 - Alabama 6
Box Score

GM2 LSU 3 - Alabama 4
Box Score

GM3 LSU 7 - Alabama 5
Box Score