Fans sometimes forget just how difficult it is to win on the road in the SEC. Any series win, is huge no matter who the opponent is. It is even bigger if that win comes against a top-25 opponent.
LSU won Friday night in a 13-inning classic thanks to excellent pitching and a unlikely hero. Kevin Gausman pitched a gem, but in typical fashion stayed in one inning too long. Grant Dozar crushed a game tying home run in the eight and the LSU bullpen held the Ole Miss offense in check.
Saturday the same formula would not compute. At one point Ryan Eades was pitching with a 4-1 lead, but left the game with the score tied at four. Not picking on Kevin Berry, but seriously why is the pitching on the weekend? Berry entered the seventh with a runner on first base, and after a sacrifice bunt, he gave up a two-run home run. The 7-4 Black Bear/Rebel’s lead was too much to overcome.
On Sunday LSU turned the clock back and used some gorilla ball to earn the 12-3 victory. The series wining game was won in large part to the number nine hole hitter Jacoby Jones. Jones finished the day three for five from the plate with a double, homer and five (yes, five) RBIs. Besides Jones, Ty Ross, Mason Katz and Austin Nola all went big fly and I am sure there were some LSU fans icing their shoulders from throwing their drinks in the air to mock the Ole Miss student section.
The series win improves LSU to 16-8 in conference play and tied with South Carolina for the overall lead in the SEC.
The LSU bats exploded on Sunday, but in the first two games only hit .230 as a team. Sunday’s .351 average helped the Tigers bat .268 on the weekend. Lets take a look at the individual batting performances over the weekend.
First of all, welcome back Jacoby Jones. After a (0-4) Friday night, Jones finished the weekend five for eight. Jones’s lack of production in recent weeks has dropped him to the bottom of the lineup, but production like this will force the coaches to move him up in the future.
The move might be sooner than later as Arby Fields struggled his first weekend as the lead-off batter. His stats above speak for themselves. Is it fair to call Raph Rhymes performance this weekend subpar? He did bat .454 on the weekend, but only drove in one run. Remember Rhymes is the clean-up guy and as impressive as his batting average is; his only job is to score/ drive in runs. I know it is a weak argument, but you just can’t pump sunshine on the guy.
Moving onto a more serious matter, what is the deal with Tyler Hanover? He has been fortunate of hiding behind the successes of Mason Katz and Rhymes and the struggles of Jacoby Jones. Hanover has been consistently inconsistent. He was (1-12) from the plate this past weekend and three of 11 against Georgia. However, against Kentucky, Hanover batted .500 over the weekend.
Moving away from the batting, the LSU pitching put up another nice performance on the road. Two of the starters, Kevin Gausman and Aaron Nola, put up quality starts and the bullpen performed as expected.
The one thing that stands out is the lack of strikeouts from Gasman and Nola. Both of these aces usually record more, but helped the team to victory. Ryan Eades had another rough outing and is it too early to start discussing switching Eades and Nola in the rotation? Just a question.
Moving onto the bullpen…
It wasn’t the most dominate effort of the season, but Friday’s performance was enough for high praise. Nick Goody, who was names to the Golden Spike’s list last week, has just become unhittable in the second half of conference play.
Here is a running theme of the week for me, please play Joe Broussard more during the weekend. His success may not last long, but the way his breaking ball is hooking right now force teams into ground balls. I am going to apologize now for my love for Broussard.
Because of the long game Friday, Paul Maineri was forced to use Kurt McCune and Kevin Berry on Saturday…or at least that is how I am coping with the loss. McCune, who had been buried deep in the Sunday bullpen pitching continues to struggle commanding his pitches and Berry continues to prove he just doesn’t have the stuff to shut down SEC offenses.
After reviewing this, it sounds like LSU lost the series. But the negativity comes from the realization that this team isn’t over-achieving, but really is a good team. The team is talented enough to make a run at Omaha, but has some gapping hole that need repair before regional’s start.