After a solid showing against Ole Miss the last weekend, the No.14 Tigers look to win their third consecutive SEC series with three games against the No.10/13 Tennessee Volunteers.
Fri. @ Tennessee 6PM, ESPN2
Sat. @ Tennessee 12 PM, ESPN2
Sun. @ Tennessee 12:30 PM, SECN+
The Vols have been a bit of a problem for the Tigers, leading the all-time series 30-27-1, though the Tigers won the last round with a 6-2 victory in the 2017 SEC Tournament. 2018 has been a bit of a mixed bag for Tennessee. After starting the year with wins over then ranked Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Utah, and Oregon the Vols have lost their last three SEC series. The strength for UT is the offense, which doesn’t feature several good hitters, though not a ton of power.
Players to Watch
In a lineup of great hitters, Gregg stands out and is probably one of the favorites for SEC Player of the Year in addition to a range of national honors. Her .413 batting average which would likely be best on most other teams, is just third on the Vols. She does lead the team in home runs (12), RBI (56) and (.786). It helps she is surrounded by other exceptional talent giving her protection, but her power could make her an extra problem for the Tigers this weekend, especially in RBI opportunities.
As noted in in the Advocate this week, Walljasper has been outstanding. Her ERA is 0.74, which ranks seventh in the nation, third in the SEC, and best on the team. Opponents are hitting just .158 against her, seventh best in the SEC. Walljasper is particularly important because her style is more contact oriented, against a team of UT hitters looking to do just that. Walljasper is certainly up for the task, though she may have to rely more on strikeouts in this series to calm down the Vol lineup.
The Tigers offensive depth has looked improved slightly of late with performances of Shemiah Sanchez and Shelbi Sunseri, but that doesn’t fully diminish the need for quality bats in the lineup. Serrett started out the year hitting third in the lineup. While some players have stepped up which has bumped Serrett in the lineup, Serrett’s offensive play of late hasn’t been all that great. In her last nine games, she has five hits over 30 at bats, including five games where she didn’t record a hit. Good news is that Sunseri and Sanchez have partially alleviated the need to pick up her game immediately. Even modest production from Serett at the bottom of the lineup could be a huge asset in setting up the offense at the top of the order.
This is going to be a dicey weekend for the Tigers. The Vols “weakness” is the pitching staff which ranks 10th in team ERA, just a head of last week’s opponent Ole Miss. Even against teams ranking near the bottom of the SEC in pitching, there have been few indicators that LSU’s offense can consistently score to provide a sufficient cushion for the pitching. Against a team with the offensive capabilities of UT, LSU cannot afford to get into a slug fest. Beth Torina will probably have every pitcher on a short leash, as big innings have to be limited as much as possible. Offensively, the Tigers need a strong weekend out of Aliyah Andrews setting the table. Two more players who have been fairly consistent offensively, Amanda Doyle and Sunseri, will also have to make the most of their opportunity to drive in Tiger runs. The Tigers can leave Knoxville with the series win, but it’s going to take a lot in order to do so.