LSU continues to make the best of their patchwork roster, taking the series from State over the weekend and maintaining a Top 20 national ranking. While the pitching rotation and the bullpen showed their mettle, the defense, particularly on the infield and behind the plate, are starting to fray a bit at the edges. The “generous” home scoring has kept the Tigers mid-pack in the SEC with a .982 fielding percentage, but watching the games this weekend it is clear that LSU does not have a solid double-play combination and Hunter Fedducia’s struggles continue to become more and more costly. These issues will fade with time, as the injured return to action and the coaching staff does it’s usually excellent work at player development. But the road only gets rougher on this 30 game SEC season marathon. The West in particular appears to contain a few Omaha capable clubs, with Mississippi State’s downward trending season appearing to be the only easy out.
Good news on the injury front is that Josh Smith appears to be headed for a return in two weeks during the Tennessee series. Luke Johnson also reports that Austin Bain will see some action on the mound tonight, no matter the results, because there is a worry the everyman utility player’s pitching form is getting rusty. Fr. RH AJ Labas (2-1, 2.95 ERA, 21.1 IP, 3 BB, 16 SO) will have his usual midweek start and hopefully tonight’s opponent wont be much of a worry.
The Nicholls Colonels (9-18, 4-5 Southland) have had a rough season, though things are slightly better in the always competitive Southland. Besides some nice home wins against Purdue and our friends from Starkville, the Colonels have only a series win vs McNeese to hang their hats on. From LSU:
Starting Pitcher: So. LH Bryan Taylor (2-3, 4.82 ERA, 28.0 IP, 19 BB, 21 SO)
• Nicholls is hitting .262 as a team this season with 46 doubles, six triples, 11 homers and 14 steals in 31 attempts. The Colonels pitching staff has a 5.30 ERA and a .294 opponent batting average with 151 strikeouts in 237.2 innings.
• Nicholls’ leading hitter is junior infielder Brady Bell, who is batting .347 with seven doubles, nine RBI and nine runs. Senior outfielder Chet Niehaus is hitting .303 with a team-best three homers, and senior outfielder Lee Clark leads the Colonels with 21 RBI.
This is one of those midweek games that are bound to frustrate us. LSU’s about to hit the road for a big series in College Station with a Thursday start. Coach Mainieri always seems to have trouble getting a team focused for a game like this that, on paper, should be over before it begins. Nicholls knows this and twice in Mainieri’s career have been able to steal a win and some local pride in this matchup. Hopefully, tonight will be uneventful and LSU will get out of it without further injury