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Better Know the LSU Invitational

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Previewing three opponents

2017 Division I Men's College World Series - Florida v LSU - Game 2
Paul will have his hands full
Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

The Tigers rebounded last weekend after a rough opening series, taking two of three from Texas. They couldn’t keep the momentum going, losing a midweek game to SE Louisiana on the road. Now, the team gets a chance at some measure of revenge, playing three teams this weekend, including a rematch with SELA.

LSU is 5-4 right now, but they have played two major conference teams to start their weekend schedules. This is a chance for LSU to pad the record against some smaller schools.

Toledo Rockets

Record: 2-5 (0-0 MAC)
RS/RA: 39/66
RPI/ISR: 209/-

Sacred Heart Pioneers

Record: 1-2 (0-0 Northeast)
RS/RA: 20/17
RPI/ISR: 273/-

Southeastern Louisiana Lions

Record: 6-3 (0-0 Southland)
RS/RA: 61/37
RPI/ISR: 100/-

It’s still early, and RPI doesn’t really mean a whole lot, but… this is not Murderer’s Row. Southeastern is a tough out and a likely tourney team with plenty of motivation, so they are pretty dangerous. But Toledo and Sacred Heart should be completely outmatched here. If everything goes according to form, those two will meet up on Sunday trying to get their first win of the weekend while SELA and LSU will try to complete a weekend sweep.

Mascot Fight!

Who would win in a fight with Mike the Tiger?

A tough weekend for Mike. A rocket has both range, speed, and depending on the rocket… explosive capabilities. Put a warhead on that baby and its all over. Pioneers come with guns, which is essentially the Mike kryptonite. And then there’s a lion, and even bigger and more bad ass angry cat. Mike has a puncher’s chance against the pioneer, particularly once the pioneer needs to reload, but he’s looking at some losses this weekend in the mascot fight. I’ll spot him the person as one bullet won’t take down Mike, but he’s still headed for his first two losses of the season. Sorry, Mike.

Hitters

One guy from each team.

Mike Hansen (Toledo) (345/441/621)
Dan Schock (SHU) (500/571/1000)
Cody Grosse (SELA) (378/452/405)

Toledo can score runs, which is a bit of a concern given our pitching situation right now. They are averaging nearly 5 walks a game, and they have 9 homers in 7 games. This is a patient team with a bunch of power. Now, they haven’t faced LSU caliber pitching (stop laughing), but they’ve shown the ability to put up some crooked numbers. Hansen is hitting out of his mind right now, but he is a bit driven by average, so those numbers might come down. And he, like his teammates, strikes out a ton.

Sacred Heart, by contrast, has a less impressive offense. They’ve scored 20 runs in 3 games, but they don’t show the same kind of patience/power the Rockets do. However, the outfield is full of experienced hitters who have carried the offense, all with at least 5 hits in the opening weekend. Schock led the way with 6 hits, a stolen base, and the team’s only home run.

We’re already familiar with the SELA lineup and while it was Drew Avans who dealt the biggest blow on Wednesday, Cody Grosse has been their best hitter over the early part of the season. He doesn’t have much power, but he is the table setter for the offense, getting on at a 452 clip and making up for his lack of power with 7 steals. Everyone on the team can run, and they already have 39 steals in just 9 games, so you need to keep them off of the basepaths with less than two outs.

Pitchers

LHP Michael Jacob (Toledo) (0-1, 7.15 ERA, 11.1 IP, 11/6 K/BB)
LHP James Taubl (SHU) (0-1, 9.00 ERA, 3.0 IP, 1/1 K/BB)
RHP Kade Granier (SELA) (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.0 IP, 9/2 K/BB)

Why did it have to be soft-tossing lefties? I hate soft-tossing lefties. Toledo has a terrible pitching staff, evidenced by the fact that yes, that is their #1 starter. Sacred Heart has a decent pen, but the back end of their rotation got destroyed in the opening weekend. However, LSU has historically struggled against these types of hitters, so it will be a matter of getting to the pen on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Lions threw perhaps their best pitcher at LSU in the midweek game, but Kade Granier can make a pretty good case to be the #1 starter himself. He only has one start so far, but it was a doozy: a four-hit shutout of Alcorn St. Still, there’s a world of difference between pitching against a SWAC team and an SEC team.

Tiger Bait?

Should be. LSU is clearly the better team, even if they already have a loss to Southeastern. There’s a big difference between a midweek game in Hammond, America and a weekend game in the Box. Also, LSU needs these wins, so it is doubtful they overlook anyone. LSU is not in the position to take anyone lightly. I’m worried about the pitching matchups in the first two games, and the motivation factor on Sunday, but this should be a weekend sweep.

But that’s why they play the games.