There are only two guarantees in life, Death and Taxes, but for LSU baseball there is a third…beating Mississippi State. For the sixth straight season, LSU recorded the series win over the Bulldogs. LSU won on Friday and Saturday in dramatic fashion.
Friday night, LSU won the game in extra innings, 3-2, thanks to clutch hitting from Grant Dozar and Jacoby Jones. Dozar hit a RBI doubled that tied the game up, then Jones singled in Arby Fields to win the game. LSU over came striking out 17 times and from the fourth innings till the ninth, LSU did not put a runner on base. Saturday LSU took an early 2-0 lead thanks to a Mason Katz two- run Homers, hit fourth on the season. The Tigers would add two more runs and looked to run away with the game. Entering the eighth the score was 4-1; the Tigers gave up a massive RBI, but ended the inning still up 4-2. The bullpen would make the game come down to the last out. Nick Goody pitched the last inning and loaded the bases for State with no outs. Thankfully two Bulldogs flied out and Goody was able to strikeout the final batter to win 4-3.
On Sunday, LSU dug itself into a hole that was too deep for the offense to win. Aaron Nola recorded his first weekend start in his young career and looked rattled in the first inning. Here is his series of at bats in the first inning: double, hit by pitch, single (RBI), double (RBI), sac fly (RBI), double (RBI), strikeout, double (RBI), strikeout. When he went to the bench Nola had allowed five runs on seven hits, but he would bounce back. Nola pitched six innings and did not give up a hit in his final five innings of work and struck out four. LSU put 11 runners on base, but would not convert them into runs.
Like I mentioned last week in our pre-SEC review, LSU is not a team right now that can comeback from four or more runs. The team struggled to earn extra base hit or even string together base hits. On the weekend, LSU has three extra base hits, two doubles (Dozar and Jones) and one homerun (Katz). Take a look below at LSU’s production from the plate this weekend.
The team batted .221 on the weekend and had a .336 on-base percentage. Jacoby Jones and Chris Sciambra secured another weekend at the top of the line up. They combined to reach base ten times on the weekend (LSU only reached base 31 times all weekend). That is the type of production you need, just get on base and let the power guys get you around. The problem is LSU doesn’t have those guys. Playing the role of a power hitter is Mason Katz and he looks the part; an aggressive out of control swing, undisciplined at the plate and a high strikeout percentage, but he only has four homers on the season. Katz does lead the team with 12 extra base hits, but those are buried by the 18 strikeouts.
Raph Rhymes had a nice weekend from the plate if he was the lead off batter. The problem is he is batting cleanup. He reached base safely eight on nine plate appearances, but failed to produce a extra base hit, RBI or score a run. Rhymes weekend looks even better when you looks at Austin Nola’s line. I checked, double checked and triple checked to make sure this was accurate…and it was. Going 0-11 from the plate with two strikeouts and leaving nine runners on base could not even be masked by Nola turning four double plays on State.
When opposing pitchers look at the LSU’s lineup, who is the most intimidating batter? Is there anyone they are trying to pitch around? Do you thing Mississippi State’s Chris Stratton would have recorded 17 strikeouts against the 2009 LSU line up? I don’t think he would have attacked that many batters. I know this isn’t the same type of offense as 2009, and they are more “small” ball, but where is the small ball? Instead of saying small ball, can we just say they aren’t very good right now? I think it is, this lineup will be tougher to watch that a Nick Saban’s positive- thinking seminar if they can’t figure out how to hit breaking ball. Most of the Tigers 27 strikeout came from a curving ball.
I know I am only basing this after one weekend of SEC play, but give me a second to explain. Mississippi State is in the top half in the SEC in overall talent, but was missing five starters from their normal lineup. If State was 100 percent, do they lose on Friday and Saturday? What scares me about LSU is this was a home series and they struggled from the plate. How much worse will they look when they travel to other SEC stadiums?
The series win improves LSU’s SEC record to 2-1 on the season and 16-4 overall. The Tiger’s win moves them up to 11th in Baseball America’s most recent poll.