LSU entered last weekend on the hosting bubble, wondering if they would ever be able to find adequate pitching from the current triage unit of the pitching staff. Thankfully, the Tigers had probably their best pitching weekend of the entire season.
After weeks of struggling, LSU starting pitching delivered strong, sustained outings as Eric Walker and Landon Marceaux both lasted at least 6 complete innings, and Tiger pitching held Auburn to just 2 hits in each of the first two games and secured the series win. The Johnny Wholestaff approach in game 3 also appeared to be working as Fontenot, Beck, Hilliard, and Peterson held Auburn to 5 hits and LSU carried a 4-2 lead into the 9th.
LSU was closing in on a sweep and brought in the fireball closer to Zach Hess to seal it in the 9th. Hess started the inning with a swinging strikeout. But then it all went off the rails as Hess walked the next batter and then gave up a 2 run homer that tied the game. It would go to extras and Auburn would pull ahead in the 11th with an RBI double that scored a runner from 2nd.
Hess’s move to the bullpen this season has not been the reunion tour we all wanted to see. In 5 appearances, he’s got a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 IP, and given up a home run in 4 of the 5 appearances. Hess seemed fine in two innings of work closing out game 2 of the series, facing the minimum and getting 2 Ks. Second Guessing a coach is a fool’s errand, but also the entire reason for this website’s existence. Could Peterson have finished out game 3? I get wanting to keep as many arms fresh for Hoover as possible, but then isn’t giving Hess double duty reducing his possible effectiveness in a win-or-go-home situation on Tuesday?
As a result of the weekend, LSU finished with the best possible seed outside of the first round byes. Their #5 seed in Hoover not only puts them in the late night starting time for most of the week, but it also pairs them in the opening round single elimination game on Tuesday with a hapless South Carolina, who was outscored by a combined 19-43 this past weekend at Mississippi St.
In even more good news, Cole Henry had a good bullpen over the weekend and looks ready to return. As of this post time, LSU has not announced a starter for Tuesday, but it could be Henry. (UPDATE: Henry will start Tuesday in a limited outing) Unfortunately, it looks like Jaden Hill has had another setback and may not even be available for the NCAA tournament.
Polls are useless in sports, doubly so in college baseball where there are nearly 10 of them, but the consensus on Monday appears to have put LSU back in the list of host sites. A good week in Hoover (I’d say, at least two wins, surviving to Friday) should be enough to lock in a top 16 seed. And as we all know, LSU loves Hoover and LSU fans love going to Hoover. Short of playing at home, LSU will have great crowd support for the next week as it builds it’s postseason resume.