When LSU got on the buses Thursday, they desperately needed something positive. Anything positive. After a rough series at College Station and what Mainieri called "the worst two innings of baseball" he's ever seen Tuesday against Tulane, LSU was straight reeling.
And then...the flatspin continued. After a rainout Friday night, LSU and Auburn took to a doubleheader on Saturday and Alex Lange got pushed in game one for seven runs on just five hits, each one of them earned. While Lange struck out seven, he also issued six walks and threw three wild pitches. Auburn kept the distance between the two until with ninth inning where LSU mounted a rally that yielded three runs to bring the final to 8-5. LSU had lost three straight including their first home loss to Tulane since 2007, the Wave's first in the new Alex Box Stadium.
And then Jared Poche' said that was enough. Poche' hunkered down and went 6.1 innings strong, only allowing one run on five hits. The offense supported him with runs early and often, culminating with three runs in the seventh inning putting LSU ahead for good.
But at the time that was questionable because Caleb Gilbert came on to retire Auburn for the day and struggled mightily to finish the game, allowing four runs in his last inning of work on five hits and two walks. Gilbert was finally able to shut the door on Auburn after he had let the lead slip to just two, with a 8-6 final.
This set up LSU's second straight rubber match of SEC play, and this time it went a lot better the second time around. LSU went down three to one after the first inning of play but a Beau Jordan home run in the second leveled the winner take all match. In the fifth LSU put Auburn in their rearview for good thanks mostly to Auburn-inflicted errors and dubious at best calls leading three runs for the Tigers in gold. Auburn managed to put up two runs in the sixth but a three run dinger from Jordan Romero locked up the series.
Speaking of, Romero was raking this weekend. He was only four for 12 in the series, but he made the hits he did get matter, dropping two home runs over the green monster in left field. Despite only collecting four hits, Romero directly attributed seven runs to the cause. Coming into the series, seven runs batted in for the entire team would have been a sight for sore eyes. Hell, last week combined LSU could only muster up six runs total.
Mainieri took the liberty to tinker with the lineup this weekend, and to his credit, it worked. Romero may not be catching every game behind the plate but he proved that he belongs in the lineup, probably as the designated hitter. I've been harshly critical of Chris Reid in the lineup but I'm not afraid to eat crow and say after game one where he went 0-fer, Reid was solid at the plate. In the second game of the doubleheader and the finale Sunday Reid went four for eight, including a three for four showing on Sunday. O'Neal Lochridge is still my preferred choice to man the hot corner but until he's able to return to the lineup I can learn to live with Chris Reid.
The odd man out in the situation is Greg Deichman, the round peg forced into a square hole at third base with Lochridge's departure. Deichman's got a lot of pop in the bat, the issue is the consistency of the pop showing up in games. You can't put Deichman in the starting nine without taking Bryce Jordan out, and Jordan's bat is just as valuable as Deichman's if not more.
In all honesty that's a bridge LSU doesn't have to cross until O'Neal Lochridge comes back into the fold. It's dangerous to extrapolate after one weekend, but if we do LSU may have found an offensive combination that can produce for them. Hitting is contagious and if LSU brings the bug back to Baton Rouge then maybe the season can be salvaged after all and the noose can come off some of the necks.
LSU hosts Southern Tuesday at 6:30 in the most recent edition of the Baton Rouge Derby before welcoming Vanderbilt for a Thursday-Saturday series. Thursday's game against the Commodores will be at 6:00 on the SEC Network, Friday will be at 7:30 on ESPNU, and the series wraps up at 2:00 on the SECN+, which will also carry the Southern game.
Game 1: LSU 5, Auburn 8
Game 2: LSU 8, Auburn 6
Game 3: LSU 10, Auburn 5