After taking two from the Aggies over the weekend, LSU baseball managed to go from being nearly eliminated from the SEC Tournament field, to finishing a comfortable 9th place and keeping their NCAA tournament hopes alive. The seeding also helps LSU avoid the dreaded Morning half of the bracket and it’s brutal 9am start times. That is, as long as LSU can keep winning.
Pundits are pretty mixed on the teams on and off the NCAA bubble right now, and for all the charts and percentages of past SEC teams with 13 conference wins getting in, it’s important to remember that this is a Covid year, and using the past to predict anything this season is inherently foolish. According to WarrenNolan, LSU sits with an RPI ranking of #21 with the #3 Strength of Schedule. Notably, this gives LSU a better RPI than several of the pre-chosen host site teams for the Regional round that the NCAA announced a few weeks ago, including Gonzaga, Southern Miss, La Tech, and Pittsburgh. So the numbers look good, but in this crazy year, don’t take anything for granted.
The good news is that the SEC being what it is, there is plenty of opportunity to get resume building wins in Hoover. LSU will start play in the Single Elimination opening round at 4:30pm against 8th seed UGA, who LSU missed during the regular season. Georgia finished 5th in the East behind world beaters Tennessee, Vandy, and Florida, and surprisingly resurgent South Carolina. Notably, the Dawgs lost every series they played against SEC West teams this year (A&M, Auburn, Arkansas, and Ole Miss) but did win a series on the road at then-#1 Vandy. Georgia could be without a few of their best bats, RF Connor Tate (344/545/405) (out/ankle) is listed as out for the tournament and LF/RF Riley King (269/425/346) (questionable/knee) is doubtful, though both did see some action in last weekend’s series against Ole Miss. On the mound will be FR LHP Luke Wagner (3-3, 4.75 ERA) From the game notes:
Wagner retired the first five batters he faced in last Thursday’s game against No. 11 Ole Miss. With one out in the second, Justin Bench lined a shot off Wagner’s leg who fielded it and threw him out. However, Wagner left the game after the play.
Georgia’s game notes (LSU’s release lists both starters as TBA) say that Landon Marceaux will get the start for LSU. Marceaux only pitched 4 innings of Thursday’s loss at A&M, saying he was “fatigued” and leaving the game after 60 pitches. He says there’s no injury, so hopefully the extra rest does him some good. Hoover is a grinder for pitchers, especially if you’re having to start play on Tuesday.
And the reward for getting past Georgia is to face National #1, SEC Regular Season Champion Arkansas.
I’m very bad at predictions, but I wont feel confident about LSU making the NCAA tournament unless they can at least reach Friday in Hoover. That’s a win over UGA, then at least 1 win in the double elimination rounds. If LSU falls short of that, it’s going to be a very nervous Selection Monday.
Before all that, we get something special on SEC Network tonight. The SEC Storied documentary series will premier it’s film on the career of legendary LSU baseball coach and AD Skip Bertman, the coach who built LSU from practically nothing to the program of the 90’s and the catalyst of SEC Baseball that we know today. The film airs at 6pm CT tonight on SEC Network (and will no doubt enter the SEC Network’s rain-delay filler rotation until the end of time)