LSU baseball vs Vanderbilt: Pitching matchups, preview and prediction

Jun 18, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers outfielder Jake Fraley (23) slides in with the first run of the game in the first inning against the TCU Horned Frogs in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; LSU Tigers outfielder Jake Fraley (23) slides in with the first run of the game in the first inning against the TCU Horned Frogs in the 2015 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

Pitching matchups, preview and predictions for the LSU baseball team’s series with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Two of the nation’s perennial powerhouse programs will meet at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge this weekend as no. 14 LSU (19-9, 4-5 SEC) hosts no. 3 Vanderbilt (24-5, 6-3 SEC). Both programs experienced significant roster turnovers in the offseason, leading to some growing pains through the first two months of the 2016 season.

Of course, growing pains is relative when the teams’ ranking and record are what they are. This will be the first meeting between the Tigers and Commodores since the 2014 SEC Tournament, when LSU came away with an 11-1 win.

LSU picked up its first SEC series win of the season last weekend at Auburn, taking two out of three games. The Tigers opened up with a loss in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader before the offense came alive in the next two games to secure the series win. On Tuesday night, the team routed Southern by a score of 11-1, using eight pitchers on the night.

Vanderbilt took two out of three from South Carolina at home last weekend, winning on Thursday and Saturday. They escaped with a 4-3 over Lipscomb on Tuesday, holding off a rally in the ninth inning. The offense has been hot and cold lately, scoring six, zero, 10 and four in the team’s last four games.

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The ‘Dores got off to a 16-1 start this season, perhaps exceeding early expectations, but have put up a more modest 8-4 record since. The pitching staff is second in the SEC with a 2.77 ERA and leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.8.

Below are the pitching matchups for the weekend, as well as a look at the key players to watch for each team:

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (4/7)- Vanderbilt: Jordan Sheffield (4-1, 2.27 ERA), LSU: Jared Poche (3-3, 2.38 ERA)

Friday (4/8)- Vanderbilt: Kyle Wright (4-1, 1.60 ERA), LSU: Alex Lange (2-2, 5.02 ERA)

Saturday (4/9)- Vanderbilt: Hayden Stone (0-1, 3.44 ERA), LSU: John Valek III (5-1, 2.92 ERA)

Players to Watch


Jeren Kendall- In 29 games this season, Kendall is hitting .333 (39-for-117) with eight doubles, five home runs and 31 RBIs. He is second on the team with 33 runs scored and has stolen 17 bases in 22 attempts.

Bryan Reynolds- Reynolds’ .308 average (33-for-107) is fourth among Vanderbilt’s regular starters. He leads the team with six homers and 34 runs scored.

Jordan Sheffield- The sophomore right-hander has been pitching well through the first two months of the season, going 4-1 in seven starts, two of which were shutouts. He owns a 2.27 ERA and leads the team with 60 strikeouts in just 43 2/3 innings pitched. Sheffield will start the series opener on Thursday night.

Kyle Wright- Another sophomore right-hander that has been reliable in the first two months of the season is Wright. In seven starts, he is 4-1 with a 1.60 ERA and 40 strikeouts. He will get the start on Friday.


Beau Jordan- Jordan has unseated Antoine Duplantis as the Tigers’ leading hitter, putting up a .354 average (34-for-96) in 28 games played. He has six doubles, two home runs and 23 RBIs.

Jordan Romero- It might be time for Romero to finally find a consistent place in the LSU lineup. He’s been a consistent bat off of the bench this season, hitting .327 (18-for-55) while leading the team with five home runs. Last weekend at Auburn, he launched two homers and drove in seven of the Tigers’ 23 runs.

John Valek III- At the start of the season, Valek was the biggest question mark in the LSU rotation. Two months in, he has been the most consistent, giving the Tigers a chance to win in every game. In seven starts, the senior left-hander is 5-1 with a 2.92 ERA.

Alex Lange- With a 2-2 record and a 5.02 ERA, Lange has fallen completely flat since his stellar freshman season, making him an intriguing player to watch. If he can get back to his 2015 form, it would be big for an LSU team that needs to find some consistency on the mound to compensate for an offense that is still growing.

The Commodores certainly have the edge in this series as they have played as if Dansby Swanson (the no. 1 pick in the MLB Draft) and their entire weekend rotation from 2015 didn’t depart. The rotation, led by Sheffield and Wright, has Vanderbilt in the top five as the season reaches its midpoint. They’ve hit .289 as a team, which has been enough with what they’ve been able to do on the mound.

The Tigers need a lot to go right for them to win this series. A young lineup that is still in the process of improving may have a hard time this weekend and the unpredictability of the rotation might make for a long weekend.

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This series plays out much like LSU’s series with Texas A&M two weeks ago, meaning the Tigers have a shot in every game and steal one with a good pitching performance and just enough offense.