After an outstanding weekend against Auburn, the No.8 LSU Tigers face off against No.24 Kentucky in Lexington.
LSU at Kentucky, March 17, 11 a.m. CT, SECN
LSU at Kentucky, March 18, 3:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU
LSU at Kentucky, March 19, 6 p.m. CT, SECN
2018 did not get off to a great start for the Wildcats, losing two of three to a New Mexico State team that is 11-12 at the moment. Although UK now sits with a 17-6 record, they opened conference play losing three straight to Florida, in a series where they were shutout twice. Offensively the Wildcats are a bit of an enigma. They rank third and fourth, respectively, in batting average and slugging percentage in the SEC, but only rank eighth in runs scored. Kentucky also ranks third in the SEC with 46 steals on the year. The UK pitching staff ranks in the bottom half of the conference in most areas, being particularly bad at limiting opposing walks.
Players to Watch
Walljasper is setting up to have potentially her best year in Baton Rouge, already on pace to set a career best for strikeouts in a season. If there is one issue with Walljasper is that she has been a little prone to surrendering hits, 39 in 64.1 innings. Not only hits, but extra base hits, eight on the year including two triples and two home runs. The Kentucky offense has a proven ability to hit for power, and if the series comes down to a slugfest, that would not suit LSU.
If you’re looking to identify the biggest potential problem for the Tigers in the Kentucky lineup, look no further than Cheek. She leads the the Wildcats with seven home runs, which ranks fourth in the SEC, and 28 RBI’s, that ranks sixth in the conference. What might be exploitable by the LSU pitching staff is that Cheek is hitting “only” .356 and with only three walks on the year, it doesn’t appear that many teams are pitching around her, perhaps setting up a weekend where LSU hurlers only deal with the UK slugger out of neccesity.
In the past it’s always been about the Tiger slugger being the one tasked with carrying the offense. Recently, that has not been the case. The reigning SEC Player of the Week, who leads the Tigers in hitting, has been absolutely critical in setting up some big innings for the Tigers. While it isn’t ideal to have the Tiger offense so heavily reliant on big innings from one player, it is a formula that seems to be working well. Against a potentially suspect Kentucky pitching staff, Andrews could see her run scored totals take a nice spike with a strong weekend giving LSU’s hitters some RBI opportunities.
Things really seem to be clicking for the Tigers, and that should continue this weekend. Kentucky certainly has the bats that could cause problems, however the Wildcats play against upper echelon teams hasn’t been nearly as good. Meanwhile, the UK pitching staff on paper doesn’t have an elite ace. While usually it’s the Tiger offense that has to step up, this weekend its the pitching. Kentucky has the looks of a pretty one dimensional team if the offense cannot get going. If Hoover and Walljasper can neutralize the Kentucky offense, it should up nicely for the Tigers. Offensively, LSU seems to be in a good spot. The bottom of the lineup after Amanda Doyle is still a work in progress, though Sydney Springfield’s play of late is certainly promising. This is another series that looks fairly winnable for the Tigers, even if it is the first true road test of the year.