The wind whips all over the place in Alex Box Stadium. It’s proximity to the Mississippi River and the constantly insanity of a Louisiana spring usually makes for a lot of help or hinderance on fly balls from Mother Nature. Today was the rare occasion that a strong, cold gale was blowing directly in from center field. It had the effect of making the high perch of the press box feel like a freezer and also destroyed any player’s hope of doing something spectacular with the long ball. The order of the day was to get ground balls through the infield defense and LSU did that in spectacular fashion, securing the weekend sweep against Wichita St with a 9-2 victory, and showing that they can still score plenty even when they’ve got a power outage.
It started off immediately with the new top of the order trio of Kramer Robertson, Cole Freeman, and Antoine Duplantis each slicing ground ball singles past the Wichita defense, with Twonnie’s grounder to right scoring two. The Tigers would bat around in the first with Chris Reid bringing in another run by grounding one of the foot of Shockers pitcher Zach Lewis, in a play similar to what doomed the Tigers last weekend in Houston.
The ground game continued to work as LSU scored 2 runs in the 3rd on a Jake Slaughter double and Reid forcing an E6 RBI, 2 runs in the 4th on a Duplantis 2RBI single to right, and 2 more in the 5th on a WP and another E6 triggered by Freeman. In these three innings, the Tigers used solid ground ball hits or patience at the plate to get men on, then cashed in the baserunners with more controlled hitting or forcing Wichita to make a costly mistake.
It’s a loooooooong way from here to Nebraska for this team, but in the modern era of Dead Ball Omaha, having an offense that can score without the high power dramatics is critical. Greg Deichmann, who’s been swinging his chartreuse stick like a house afire this season, broke his 11 game hitting streak today going 0-5 at the plate, and his absence in the scorebook was barely noticed.
Eric Walker is really starting to show the 3rd starter capability we were told he would have in the preseason, earning today’s win with a 6 inning outing, giving up just 3 hits and marking 3 Ks. He started kinda wobbly by giving up back-to-back 2 out walks in the 1st before a quick chat with pitching coach Alan Dunn settled him. Walker looked more like Poché than Lange today, letting his defense do most of the work behind him and daring batters to send some high cheese into the strong winds blowing straight in from center and watching it all die at the track.
The LSU bullpen has become the target of a lot of fans ire so far in this young season, and while I don’t think the problem is nearly as serious as some make it out to be, the bullpen certainly hasn’t been doing a lot to inspire confidence. As has happened twice already this weekend, LSU’s relief arms were gifted a shutout and failed to deliver.
Austin Bain stared the relief work in the 7th and immediately gave up back-to-back walks. He would come back to get 2 out, but was then swapped for Caleb Gilbert, who gave up a ground ball single up the middle that scored two. Gilbert would finish the inning with a quick K, have an uneventful 8th, and was then followed by Hunter Newman’s 2 K outing in the 9th.
The Tigers have another busy week ahead. Division 3 Louisiana College has once again been drafted in on short notice to fill the hole in the schedule left by last weeks rain-out against San Diego. That game is Tuesday, followed by the scheduled mid-week revenge bout with UNO on Wednesday, and then the SEC home opener series vs UGA next weekend.