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4/20/18 5:30 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The 18th ranked LSU baseball team (24-14, 9-6 SEC) returns to action tonight when they begin a critical road series at South Carolina (20-17, 6-9 SEC). At this point in the season, all games are important, but winning this series feels especially big for several reasons. One is to get the bad taste of Wednesday’s Tulane loss out of our mouths (I really hate losing to Tulane), but there are other more important ones. First, South Carolina is one game out of last place in the overall SEC standings, making this one of the most “winnable” series remaining on the schedule. Another is LSU must show that it can get the job done on the road in order to boost its postseason résumé. In case you haven’t noticed, LSU has only won two games away from home this season and really needs to break out of that road funk. This could be the perfect opportunity to do so as LSU has generally played very well in Columbia, winning all three of its series there under Coach Mainieri. 

SCHEDULE & STARTERS:

Friday, 6 p.m. CT, SECN+
LSU – So. RH Zack Hess (6-3, 3.71 ERA, 53.1 IP, 25 BB, 68 SO)
USC – RH Logan Chapman (2-0, 3.93 ERA, 34.1 IP, 18 BB, 34 SO) 

Saturday, 3 p.m. CT, SECN+
LSU – Fr. RH Ma’Khail Hilliard (7-2, 1.75 ERA, 46.1 IP, 15 BB, 47 SO)
USC – RH Adam Hill (3-4, 4.65 ERA, 40.2 IP, 26 BB, 60 SO) 

Sunday, 12:30 p.m. CT, SECN+
LSU – TBA
USC – RH Cody Morris (6-3, 3.61 ERA, 47.1 IP, 18 BB, 50 SO) 

SEC STATS COMPARISON (SEC games only):

LSU-USC

LSU has the advantage in all categories charted except for home runs, caught stealing by, and fielding percentage. The home run discrepancy is bigger when you look at all games (instead of these SEC-only stats) and what stands out about the Gamecocks is that they have five hitters who have five-or-more home runs: Jacob Olson (9), Carlos Cortes (8), Madison Stokes (6), Hunter Taylor (6), and LT Tolbert (5). LSU has three players with five-or-more dingers: Beau Jordan (6), Zach Watson (5), and Jake Slaughter (5).

The Gamecocks’ pitching doesn’t look particularly impressive on paper and its good to see that none of their starters are lefties. Their Game 2 starter’s stats are a little misleading as Hill leads the league with a .138 opponent batting average. 

SERIES RECORD:

LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 37-26-1; the Tigers and Gamecocks first met on the diamond in 1992. LSU has won 15 of its last 21 games with South Carolina, including a 2-1 series victory last season in Baton Rouge and a win in last year’s SEC Tournament semifinal round. LSU has won five of its last six SEC regular-season series versus South Carolina. LSU posted a three-game sweep over USC in Baton Rouge in 2008, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2009, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2012, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2015 and a 2-1 series victory in Baton Rouge in 2017. The Gamecocks’ only series win in the past six meetings came in 2013, when South Carolina won two of three games over LSU in Baton Rouge.

QUOTING PAUL MAINIERI:

“I think overall our players feel good about themselves; everything is right there in front of us. This is obviously a big weekend, and it’s a great environment at South Carolina. It’s been a great rivalry between two schools that have a lot of history in college baseball, and I’m sure our guys are going to be very excited about playing there this weekend. We’re going to take these games this weekend one at a time and see what we can do.”

Switching gears here…

In football recruiting news, one of the state’s top quarterbacks for 2020, TJ Finley, made an unofficial visit to LSU yesterday. Currently a sophomore at Ponchatoula High, Finley recently made a lot of waves with a huge showing at the Houston Under Armour event where he and LSU OL commit Kardell Thomas were among the top performers. According to 247Sports, Finley currently holds offers from LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, and several others, and the word I’m getting is that LSU feels like it's in good shape with him. Tiger fans who follow recruiting will enjoy this youtube video from the Houston camp which features Thomas in the first three minutes and then switches over to Finley.

Spring games are always huge days for recruiting and tomorrow’s will be no exception. In addition to the two players we told you about yesterday who will be making official visits – five-star cornerback Chris Steele of Bellflower, California and four-star offensive tackle Anthony Bradford of Muskegon, Michigan – several top targets will be in on unofficial visits. These include at least five of LSU’s eight current commitments for 2019 – OL Kardell Thomas, RB Tyrion Davis, OL Thomas Perry, DT Joseph Evans, and LB Zach Edwards – as well as several top in-state and out-of-state targets. In fact, all of the players in the top-10 of our list of Top Louisiana Prospects for 2019 except for two (No. 1 Ishmael Sopsher of Amite and No. 6 RB John Emery, Jr. of Destrehan) and expected in, according to this visitor list compiled by SECCountry. The word is that Sopsher is up in the air and might head over to enemy territory (Tuscaloosa) instead.

With less than 48 hours before kickoff, it’s time to close out with another write-up on things we’ll be watching for tomorrow. Here we go…

LSU 2018 SPRING GAME - WHAT WE’LL WATCH FOR
Part 2 of 5: Who raises the bar in the front seven?

One of the headline stealers this spring has been Tyler Shelvin, and with good reason. From what we’ve heard, Shelvin, though considerably overweight, was a force inside during practice last season and has been a big presence this spring. As of last week, he was “down” to 358 pounds, and Ed Orgeron has singled out his play in goal-line situations. So keep a watchful eye on the big Shelvin inside during the spring game. He should be hard to miss. Another compelling storyline to watch for is the competition at inside linebacker. Who will make the strongest case to be the starter next to Devin White on the inside? Will it be Jacob Phillips or Tyler Taylor? The LSU roommates have shared time this spring, but Taylor won the starting spot a year ago. Still, Phillips turned it on late in the year and looks to be a tackling machine in the spring so far (judging from the stats Orgeron has given the press). Both are sure to play plenty this Saturday, and though there are multiple position battles to be watchful of, this one looks to be one of the most intriguing. Also worth noting is the play of Patrick Queen who has been drawing rave reviews this spring as Devin White’s backup at the Rover position. His continued development could allow LSU to keep White fresh by resting him occasionally, which could play a big part in making this the deepest and best front seven under Dave Aranda at LSU.

Lastly, it’s a big day in LSU gymnastics as Coach D-D Breaux and her ladies begin their quest for a spot in the program’s seventh NCAA Super Six appearance. The Tigers will be competing in St. Louis today in Semifinal 1 at noon CT on ESPN2. LSU is the No. 2 overall seed and the top seed in the first session, which also features No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 Alabama, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 11 Nebraska and No. 18 Georgia. The top three teams from each session will advance to the last ever Super Six at 6 p.m. CT tomorrow (Saturday). Best of luck ladies! Bring home that title!





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4/20/18 5:30 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The 18th ranked LSU baseball team (24-14, 9-6 SEC) returns to action tonight when they begin a critical road series at South Carolina (20-17, 6-9 SEC). At this point in the season, all games are important, but winning this series feels especially big for several reasons. One is to get the bad taste of Wednesday’s Tulane loss out of our mouths (I really hate losing to Tulane), but there are other more important ones. First, South Carolina is one game out of last place in the overall SEC standings, making this one of the most “winnable” series remaining on the schedule. Another is LSU must show that it can get the job done on the road in order to boost its postseason résumé. In case you haven’t noticed, LSU has only won two games away from home this season and really needs to break out of that road funk. This could be the perfect opportunity to do so as LSU has generally played very well in Columbia, winning all three of its series there under Coach Mainieri. 

SCHEDULE & STARTERS:

Friday, 6 p.m. CT, SECN+
LSU – So. RH Zack Hess (6-3, 3.71 ERA, 53.1 IP, 25 BB, 68 SO)
USC – RH Logan Chapman (2-0, 3.93 ERA, 34.1 IP, 18 BB, 34 SO) 

Saturday, 3 p.m. CT, SECN+
LSU – Fr. RH Ma’Khail Hilliard (7-2, 1.75 ERA, 46.1 IP, 15 BB, 47 SO)
USC – RH Adam Hill (3-4, 4.65 ERA, 40.2 IP, 26 BB, 60 SO) 

Sunday, 12:30 p.m. CT, SECN+
LSU – TBA
USC – RH Cody Morris (6-3, 3.61 ERA, 47.1 IP, 18 BB, 50 SO) 

SEC STATS COMPARISON (SEC games only):

LSU-USC

LSU has the advantage in all categories charted except for home runs, caught stealing by, and fielding percentage. The home run discrepancy is bigger when you look at all games (instead of these SEC-only stats) and what stands out about the Gamecocks is that they have five hitters who have five-or-more home runs: Jacob Olson (9), Carlos Cortes (8), Madison Stokes (6), Hunter Taylor (6), and LT Tolbert (5). LSU has three players with five-or-more dingers: Beau Jordan (6), Zach Watson (5), and Jake Slaughter (5).

The Gamecocks’ pitching doesn’t look particularly impressive on paper and its good to see that none of their starters are lefties. Their Game 2 starter’s stats are a little misleading as Hill leads the league with a .138 opponent batting average. 

SERIES RECORD:

LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 37-26-1; the Tigers and Gamecocks first met on the diamond in 1992. LSU has won 15 of its last 21 games with South Carolina, including a 2-1 series victory last season in Baton Rouge and a win in last year’s SEC Tournament semifinal round. LSU has won five of its last six SEC regular-season series versus South Carolina. LSU posted a three-game sweep over USC in Baton Rouge in 2008, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2009, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2012, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2015 and a 2-1 series victory in Baton Rouge in 2017. The Gamecocks’ only series win in the past six meetings came in 2013, when South Carolina won two of three games over LSU in Baton Rouge.

QUOTING PAUL MAINIERI:

“I think overall our players feel good about themselves; everything is right there in front of us. This is obviously a big weekend, and it’s a great environment at South Carolina. It’s been a great rivalry between two schools that have a lot of history in college baseball, and I’m sure our guys are going to be very excited about playing there this weekend. We’re going to take these games this weekend one at a time and see what we can do.”

Switching gears here…

In football recruiting news, one of the state’s top quarterbacks for 2020, TJ Finley, made an unofficial visit to LSU yesterday. Currently a sophomore at Ponchatoula High, Finley recently made a lot of waves with a huge showing at the Houston Under Armour event where he and LSU OL commit Kardell Thomas were among the top performers. According to 247Sports, Finley currently holds offers from LSU, Alabama, Auburn, Louisville, and several others, and the word I’m getting is that LSU feels like it's in good shape with him. Tiger fans who follow recruiting will enjoy this youtube video from the Houston camp which features Thomas in the first three minutes and then switches over to Finley.

Spring games are always huge days for recruiting and tomorrow’s will be no exception. In addition to the two players we told you about yesterday who will be making official visits – five-star cornerback Chris Steele of Bellflower, California and four-star offensive tackle Anthony Bradford of Muskegon, Michigan – several top targets will be in on unofficial visits. These include at least five of LSU’s eight current commitments for 2019 – OL Kardell Thomas, RB Tyrion Davis, OL Thomas Perry, DT Joseph Evans, and LB Zach Edwards – as well as several top in-state and out-of-state targets. In fact, all of the players in the top-10 of our list of Top Louisiana Prospects for 2019 except for two (No. 1 Ishmael Sopsher of Amite and No. 6 RB John Emery, Jr. of Destrehan) and expected in, according to this visitor list compiled by SECCountry. The word is that Sopsher is up in the air and might head over to enemy territory (Tuscaloosa) instead.

With less than 48 hours before kickoff, it’s time to close out with another write-up on things we’ll be watching for tomorrow. Here we go…

LSU 2018 SPRING GAME - WHAT WE’LL WATCH FOR
Part 2 of 5: Who raises the bar in the front seven?

One of the headline stealers this spring has been Tyler Shelvin, and with good reason. From what we’ve heard, Shelvin, though considerably overweight, was a force inside during practice last season and has been a big presence this spring. As of last week, he was “down” to 358 pounds, and Ed Orgeron has singled out his play in goal-line situations. So keep a watchful eye on the big Shelvin inside during the spring game. He should be hard to miss. Another compelling storyline to watch for is the competition at inside linebacker. Who will make the strongest case to be the starter next to Devin White on the inside? Will it be Jacob Phillips or Tyler Taylor? The LSU roommates have shared time this spring, but Taylor won the starting spot a year ago. Still, Phillips turned it on late in the year and looks to be a tackling machine in the spring so far (judging from the stats Orgeron has given the press). Both are sure to play plenty this Saturday, and though there are multiple position battles to be watchful of, this one looks to be one of the most intriguing. Also worth noting is the play of Patrick Queen who has been drawing rave reviews this spring as Devin White’s backup at the Rover position. His continued development could allow LSU to keep White fresh by resting him occasionally, which could play a big part in making this the deepest and best front seven under Dave Aranda at LSU.

Lastly, it’s a big day in LSU gymnastics as Coach D-D Breaux and her ladies begin their quest for a spot in the program’s seventh NCAA Super Six appearance. The Tigers will be competing in St. Louis today in Semifinal 1 at noon CT on ESPN2. LSU is the No. 2 overall seed and the top seed in the first session, which also features No. 3 UCLA, No. 6 Alabama, No. 10 Arkansas, No. 11 Nebraska and No. 18 Georgia. The top three teams from each session will advance to the last ever Super Six at 6 p.m. CT tomorrow (Saturday). Best of luck ladies! Bring home that title!

4/19/18 5:35 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Much like on Sunday night, LSU rallied from a 7-3 deficit to take a ninth inning 9-7 lead, only this time the rally went for naught as the Tigers fell 10-9 at Tulane. Losing to Tulane always leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, but this loss was particularly hard to swallow after watching the Tigers rally for three runs in the top of the ninth only to give them right back in the bottom of the inning. 

Here’s a quick recap of how it played out: 

LSU got on the scoreboard first thanks to a pair of Tulane errors and big hits by Antoine Duplantis and Austin Bain in the top of the third. But the lead would be short lived. Tulane jumped all over starter AJ Labas in the bottom of the inning, plating five runs on six hits including a leadoff double, a one-out three-run homer, and a two-out triple. The Tigers brought in Trent Vietmeier to pitch the fourth and the Greenwave jumped all over him, too. Three runs on a pair of hits made it 7-3 Tulane, which is where things remained until LSU scored a run in the seventh on an RBI single by Duplantis. The Tigers would add two runs in the eighth on a clutch two-out RBI triple by Jake Slaughter, who would then score on a wild pitch. That takes us to the ninth inning with the Tigers trailing 7-6. Cue the drama. 

Brandt Broussard, making his long-awaited return after missing thirteen games with a broken thumb, got hit by a pitch to begin the inning. After two quick outs, Broussard stole second base and advanced to third when the catcher airmailed the throw into center field. That brought up Zach Watson, who was 0-for-4 at that point and due for a big hit. Sure enough, he delivered. After falling behind 1-2 in the count, Watson launched a clutch RBI double down the left field line to tie it up. Daniel Cabrera, the walk-off hero in Sunday’s game, followed with an RBI single back through the middle to put the Tigers ahead and then scored on Nick Coomes’ RBI single, his fourth hit of the night. 

What follows in the next paragraph is disappointing, but it sure was great to see the Tigers demonstrate such late-inning grit at the plate for the second game in a row. That kind of resilience will win games more often than not. Obviously, that wasn’t the case last night.

Leading 9-7, Coach Mainieri elected to send freshman right-hander Devin Fontenot to the mound in the ninth and he was quickly greeted with a leadoff homer by Grant Witherspoon. The next batter drew a base on balls and advanced to second on a wild pitch, prompting Mainieri to bring in Matthew Beck, who promptly gave up the tying run on Kody Hoese’s RBI double. A sac bunt advanced Hoese to third with one out, and that’s when the staff decided to intentionally walk the next two batters to load the bases. Mainieri would later regret that decision as Beck would throw four straight balls to walk in the winning run. “Obviously I did the wrong thing by walking those batters,” Mainieri reportedly admitted after the game. “It put too much pressure on our pitcher and he wasn’t capable of throwing strikes under those conditions.” 

Here’s the complete box score.

As hard as the loss was to swallow, the Tigers will have to do just that and move on. At this point in the season, with two SEC road series in the next nine days, there’s no time to sulk. The team will depart today for South Carolina, where they’ll be challenged to earn their first SEC series on the road and keep their goals ahead of them. Look for more on that critical series in tomorrow’s report. 

Switching to football, anticipation is starting to build for LSU’s Spring Game which is set to kickoff Saturday at 5 p.m. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and can be heard in the Baton Rouge area on 104.5/104.9 FM as well as online, but fans are encouraged to head out to campus to take in the live action. A pregame block party featuring “Vidalia” starts at 1 pm and a postgame autograph session makes it a full day of fun for the family. With the big day quickly approaching, it’s time for us to continue our series on a few things we’ll be watching for. In Tuesday’s report, we wrote about checking out the running backs, and in today’s installment we’ll go with another obvious one…

LSU 2018 SPRING GAME - WHAT WE’LL WATCH FOR
Part 2 of 5: Long-awaited Passing Game 

Speculating on what LSU’s offense will look like in the spring has become an annual event it seems, and this spring isn’t any different. LSU’s new offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger has made comments throughout the offseason that suggest LSU will utilize its strength at wide receiver and throw the ball more this season. But after everything we’ve heard and seen over this last decade, Louisiana might as well be the new “Show Me State.” Well, here’s LSU’s perfect opportunity to unveil just enough to whet the appetites of Tiger fans without revealing too much. Actually, revealing too much shouldn’t be a problem considering the Tigers have only 35% of their offense installed, according to Coach Orgeron. What we want to see is how each quarterback looks in live action and what all the fuss is about at wide receiver. How will Myles Brennan, Lowell Narcisse and Justin McMillan maximize their reps? And will wide receivers Jonathan Giles and Justin Jefferson show fans what they’ve shown players and coaches all spring? That plus the young freshmen wide receivers will give fans plenty to chew on during this spring game.

In part 3 of the series, we’ll touch on something else to look for that will go a long way in determining the success of LSU’s passing game.

Fans aren’t the only ones who’ll be watching the Spring Game closely as LSU is set to host several visitors for the occasion. The staff is expecting double-digit unofficial visitors and at least two prospects will be making official visits. The two are five-star cornerback Chris Steele (6-1, 188) of Bellflower, California and four-star offensive tackle Anthony Bradford (6-5, 320) of Muskegon, Michigan. Steele will be making his second trip to Baton Rouge (he visited back in January) and has tweeted that he’ll announce his school of choice on July 7. As for Bradford, this will be his first taste of Tiger hospitality. 

Before leaving you with a must-see video, I want to pass along these comments tweeted by ESPN’s Peter Burns after he observed LSU football for a show he’s putting together. In my opinion, this is a spot-on assessment:

“They look like the LSU of old with OL and DL size, skill and most importantly depth. Coach O seems MUCH more comfortable with staff around him in 2018. Less uptight than in 2017....more like Interim O that got him gig. LSU’s schedule will be a beast, Miami game will be so damn big to set the mood for year. Impressed as hell with Devin White & Breiden Fehoko. Still need a QB to wow in fall camp to breakaway from pack. O’s recruiting has helped plug major holes left unattended by last regime.” 

From what I understand, Burn’s show will air this morning at 9 am CT on SirusXM SEC Radio.

In closing, here’s an outstanding 6:53 video that tells the story of former LSU running back Derrius Guice’s rise from tragedy and poverty. It’ll leave you rooting for him more than ever.

Have a great day, Tiger Fans.



 

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