The LSU baseball ambulance pulls into home this weekend to play hated rival Ole Miss. The good news is that it seems the team might finally be getting healthy, and just in time for the postseason. This is an LSU team that has underperformed, but to their credit, they haven’t been able to put out anything resembling their best roster all season long.
A lesser team would have cracked under the pressure. Instead of bemoaning that LSU is not the #1 team in the nation, blowing away all comers, let’s take a moment to appreciate that this team is tied for second in the SEC West at 13-8 despite the difficulties in finding healthy bodies.
Paul Mainieri is a coach who likes to rely on his core group of players and not muck about with shuffling the bench constantly. And here we are, 45 games into the year, and only two players have started 40+ games (Duplantis and Smith). Two others, Zach Watson and Cade Beloso, will reach the 40+ plateau this weekend.
Still, due to injuries, 13 different position players have played in at least 20 games this year, which is very much unlike a Paul Mainieri team.
The pitching has been even worse. The bullpen was ravaged by injuries these past few weeks, and is finally getting healthy enough that Mainieri can shift Zack Hess back into the closer’s role. Every primary starter has had at least one relief appearance. Two starters from the opening weekend rotation, Landon Marceaux and Jaden Hill, have spent most of the season dealing with injuries. Marceaux gives it another go as the Sunday starter, and will attempt to have his first start of over 5 innings on the entire year.
Due to the scramble, LSU has 9 pitchers who have thrown 20+ innings and another 5 pitchers who have thrown between 10-20 innings. 7 different pitchers have multiple starts, and Friday’s starter, Ma’Khail Hilliard will be making just his fifth start.
It’s May, and I don’t know a damn thing about this LSU team other than that they are super resilient. So I don’t know what to say about another team.
Ole Miss Rebels
Record: 30-16 (13-8)
I feel that Ole Miss should have a better record than they do. They have better underlying numbers than LSU, and they can score runs by the bushel, but here they are, with the same SEC record and similar rankings with both people and computers.
LSU isn’t better than they are because they’ve been running out a different lineup every couple of days as they try and plug a different leak in the dam. Ole Miss? I don’t know. They are. Weird team to figure out. They’ve lost series to Missouri, Auburn, and Kentucky, but then beaten Arkansas and swept Florida and Texas A&M. They play to the level of their opponent.
Slash stats: 287/398/443
Four different starters are hitting at least 300, five guys in the lineup get on base at over a 400 clip, and four guys slug over 500. Two players do all three: Grae Kissininger (360/458/511) and Thomas Dillard (316/468/532). They also have both stole over 10 bases, been caught stealing just once, and Dillard throws in 9 home runs on top. These guys can f’n mash.
There just aren’t many easy outs in the lineup. Not only do they boast a bevy of elite hitters, the back end of the order can hurt you as well. There’s simply no let up anywhere in the lineup.
Jr. RHP Will Ethridge (5-3, 2.67 ERA, 54.0 IP, 20 BB, 50 SO)
Fr. LHP Doug Nikhazy (5-3, 3.44 ERA, 52.1 IP, 18 BB, 55 SO)
Ethridge is pretty good, but he’s not a big time strikeout guy like most of the Friday starters in the SEC. The pitching for Ole Miss is not like the offense: it’s good, but it doesn’t strike the fear of God in you. Parker Caracci looms in the bullpen. He’s been the Rebels’ most effective pitcher, and he can go more than one inning usually. Bianco won’t hesitate to go to his relief ace as needed.
On paper, Ole Miss is better right now. But, they’ve been better on paper all year and here we are, right in the same place. Throw in a home Alex Box crowd honoring the 2009 National Championship team, let’s hope some of those good vibes from a decade ago can rub off on this team. We need all the help we can get.