Sorry for the delays in coverage, but real life intervenes some times.
So I haven’t been able to write about the weekend in Houston until now. There’s a very good reason that everyone is starting to freak out about this team, but with some more time to process the results, I’ve come to believe the sky isn’t quite falling yet. A big ass piece of it may have landed on the back patio, but we’re not at total collapse just yet.
The weekend started well enough. LSU closed the Friday night session against a then-undefeated Texas team and did what LSU has continually done to Texas in this academic year.
I HEAR THIS IS AN INSULT IN SOME OF THE LESSER REGIONS OF THIS COUNTRY pic.twitter.com/6tkxdOuWxV— PodKATT (@valleyshook) February 29, 2020
Cole Henry had another great start (10 K, 2 BB), Jaden Hill was electric in relief (6K, 1BB), and Daniel Cabrera put one into the seats in right for the 4-3 win. We even had the ultra rare sighting of a successful LSU sac bunt, from Collier Cranford of all people. It was a very intense game, and honestly one of the more fun LSU baseball games I’ve seen in the last few years.
The follow up on Saturday started well enough.but the strong winds swirling around Minute Maid and blowing out to left proved to be a problem for both teams. LSU got early home runs from Alex Milazzo and Saul Garza while Landon Marceaux dealt for 6 innings, giving up a 2 run homer in his last frame before ending the 6th. Unfortunately, his relief only allowed Baylor to continue their push, as Nick Storz, Brandon Kaminer, Matthew Beck gave up 4 runs on 2 big home runs to left and an RBI single, all in the 7th inning. The Tigers would get a shot at taking the game back in the 9th, with 2 runners in scoring position and 1 out as the lineup turned over, but back-to-back strikeouts from Zack Mathis and Milazzo sealed the 4-6 loss.
Sunday saw LSU’s batting problems come screaming back and get amplified up to 11. For possibly the first time ever in program history (records before 1972 are incomplete), LSU failed to get a hit in a nine-inning baseball game. AJ Labas and OU’s Dane Acker took dueling no-hitters into the 8th inning. On the leadoff pitch of the 8th, OU catcher Justin Mitchell launched one into the Crawford Boxes in left field. It was the lone blemish on a spectacular outing from Labas, who went 8 IP with just 2 hits , 7 strikeouts, and no walks. Unfortunately, Acker was just that much better, facing only 29 batters, striking out 11 with 1 walk.
Some of the issues can partially be blamed on the closed roof, which turned a park that had been playing with strong winds out to left all weekend into dead air that killed nearly everything. But that’s not so much an excuse as a condition that LSU failed to adjust for. And I don’t want to take away anything from OU’s Dane Acker here either. Even if you’re pitching to a team with offensive problems, a no-hitter is still an amazing accomplishment. But LSU’s problems are the ones you already know. First pitch swinging and failing to extend counts and work an at-bat tactically. Acker threw a total of 117 pitches and was clearly laboring in the final two innings, yet the Tigers continued trying to tie the game on a single pitch instead of working the count and pushing Acker till he broke. It was immensely frustrating to watch.
As will, I suspect, the next couple of weeks. LSU starting pitching showed spectacular stuff this weekend, and I have a bad feeling we will continue to see this output paired with bad days at the plate. (Well, maybe not the next few days, as this week’s slate of SELA, Grambling, and a weekend with UMass-Lowell is a bit less than inspiring.) The bottom 3rd of the lineup went hit-less on the weekend, and if you remove Cabrera’s steady output, the Tigers were a combined 12 of 79 at the plate for the weekend, an awful .151.
If I’m looking for optimism, I’d say that bad hitting is easier to correct than bad pitching and this team can still be molded into a more competitive form. There wasn’t anything glaringly wrong from a defensive standpoint, and I think Cranford can probably hold on to the SS job for now, though he is statistically doing even worse than Hughes at the plate. Milazzo continues to impress as a sniper, and he’s starting to climb the ranks of great LSU defensive catchers.
Sometimes teams take a few games to get right, but as we approach the end of the 1st month of the season, the time to get ready is running out. Mainieri’s getting paid the big bucks, time for him and Eddie Smith to go earn it.
Which leads us to this evening’s contest, the start of another 5 game week for LSU (though Mother Nature certainly seems to have her own plans for tomorrow.) Southeastern (5-6) have had an inconsistent start to their season. They have series wins over Jacksonville and (gasp) Stony Brook, but have struggled with in-state competition, splitting with USL and losses to La Tech and ULM. The Lions are coming off a 33-27 2019 season that ended in the Southland Conference tournament after finishing 2nd in that league. LSU squeaked by SLU last season on an 8th inning RBI single from Brock Mathis for an 6-5 win. Head coach Matt Riser has a 1-8 record against LSU in his current tenure, but the Lions have played LSU pretty close the last few years. SLU is starting Daniel Dugas, a Delgado CC transfer who has had some rough midweek starts so far this season.
LSU – Jr. LH Brandon Kaminer (1-1, 2.70 ERA, 6.2 IP, 2 BB, 5 SO)
SLU – Jr. RH Daniel Dugas (0-2, 11.12 ERA, 5.2 IP, 6 BB, 6 SO)
• SLU is 5-6 this season, and the Lions are batting .233 as a team with two home runs and 24 steals in 32 attempts … the SLU pitching staff has a 4.31 cumulative ERA … the Lions won two of three games over Stony Brook last weekend in Hammond.
• The Lions are led at the plate by freshman infielder Jacob Burke, who is batting .333 with two doubles, one triple, one homer, five RBI and five stolen bases … Burke is a product of University High School in Baton Rouge.
• Redshirt freshman infielder Champ Artigues is hitting .270 and has driven in a team-best 11 runs … Artigues is the son of former SLU head coach and current athletic director Jay Artigues.