5/29/15 6:00 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Coach Beth Torina and her Tiger softball team took care of business yesterday with an impressive 6-1 win over Auburn in the opening game of the College World Series. The Tigers’ win was powered by the outstanding pitching performance of Carley Hoover, who threw a compete game and allowed only one run on six hits. Equally impressive were the Tiger bats that pounded out a WCWS-tying 10 hits, including home runs by Bianka Bell and Kellsi Kloss. As one of my readers put it, the Tigers “got their mojo back” and looked sharp in every aspect of the game. For more on yesterday’s big win, including a scoring recap, please see this article on LSUSports.net.
With the win, the Tigers advance in the winners bracket where they’ll face the Florida Gators tonight at 6 p.m. in a game televised on ESPN2.
A few other notes about yesterday’s softball win:
• The victory marked Coach Torina’s 300th win as a head coach.
• Bianka Bell’s first inning home run was her team-leading 18th home run of the season, which is an LSU single season record.
• Emily Griggs matched her career‐high with three hits as part of a 3‐for‐3 performance, making her the third LSU player to ever register three hits in a WCWS game.
As for the LSU baseball team, its road to Omaha begins today in Alex Box Stadium when the Tigers take on Lehigh University at 3 p.m. in the opening round of the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional. The game will be televised by the SEC Network. I know that many of you will be working and unable to watch the game, but if you follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter and can risk taking a peak at your smartphones from time to time, I’ll keep you informed with score updates and occasional comments and stats.
Yesterday it was announced that LSU sophomore right-hander Alden Cartwright will get the start on the mound today. This will be the Baton Rouge native’s first start of the season and the eighth start of his career at LSU. Even though Cartwright (0-0, 3.79 ERA) doesn’t have a whole lot of starts under his belt, he is no stranger to the big stage, and that’s the reason Mainieri has chosen to go with him as the first of what will likely be several pitchers used today. Cartwright’s second to last start came in last year’s SEC Championship game against Florida, in which he allowed no runs and only one hit in four strong innings of work, but his last start was against Houston in last year’s Regional action and it didn’t go very well. I’m happy that Cartwright is getting this chance today and have the utmost confidence that he’ll be up to the task.
Lehigh, who punched their ticket to the tournament by winning the Patriot League Tournament, will counter with senior left-hander Nick Macaione (3-4, 2.82 ERA). One thing you can bank on is that the Mountain Hawks (25-29) will be as fired up as can be to face the No. 1 team in the nation in the greatest venue in College Baseball. If you need help getting fired up for today’s game (I don’t know why you would), here’s a great hype video produced by LSU that should do the trick. Sorry iPhone and iPad users, but the video format used by LSU is not compatible with iOS devices.
One little known tid-bit about Lehigh: It’s the alma mater of LSU director of athletics Joe Alleva, who was the quarterback of the Mountain Hawks football squad and team captain in 1974.
Yesterday Coach Mainieri met with the media after practice and provided the following comments:
On starting the regional…
“I try to make the regional as normal as possible. During the course of the year, I put a lot of pressure on the kids. I try to make them do everything perfect in practice and of course in games. You want them to focus each game because it’s important. I do it so that when we get to the postseason and the regional they don’t have to try harder or do anything out of the ordinary. It’s still the game of baseball. The only thing that is different is that the margin of error is much smaller. You have to take advantage of your scoring opportunities, you can’t make base running mistakes, you’ve got to make big pitches, and you have to make the plays because the stakes are so much higher. If all of a sudden you act differently, then the players get tight. They won’t play as well as they did all year. I’m big about setting a standard every day. They can relax, have fun and play the game like they do.”
On the bullpen bouncing back…
“We sometimes call it the bullpen but it’s actually a bunch of individuals out there. Sometimes guys pitch well and one didn’t pitch well or vice versa. I hate to group them all together and say that they all need a bounce back game. The two games prior to Florida the guys pitched well out of the bullpen. One game doesn’t destroy confidence when they might have pitched subpar. Zac Person has been outstanding all year. He faced two batters and it’s categorized as a poor outing. Jesse Stallings pitched outstanding except for one pitch when he left a changeup, up. He knows and I’ve explained to him that he can’t make that mistake. When a changeup is called he can’t miss it. We’re too late into the season and it could cost the team the season. I think we’re still in the learning phase with some of the guys. I have not lost confidence in any way though. I think that they are all ready to go. I think they’re all going to do a great job for us.”
For quotes from freshman pitcher Alex Lange and junior shortstop Alex Bregman, click here.
Speaking of Lange and Bregman, they are two of four LSU players who received 2015 All-America recognition yesterday from Collegiate Baseball magazine. Lange and Bregman both were named to the first team, while senior catcher Kade Scivicque made the second-team and junior first baseman Chris Chinea was named to the third-team. Congratulations to all the young men on the well deserved recognition. By the way, Bregman is now the sixth two-time first-team All-American in LSU history. The other five are pitcher Ben McDonald, second baseman Todd Walker, first baseman Eddy Furniss, catcher Brad Cresse and pitcher Aaron Nola.
With the 2015 football season-opener 99 days away, today we’ll continue our countdown by taking a brief look at three Tigers who wore No. 99 - Sam Montgomery, Rydell Melancon, and Oliver Lawrence. What these three men have in common, besides wearing No. 99 for the Tigers, is that they each led their respective Tiger teams in number of sacks. Lawrence holds the LSU single-season sack record with 12 and Melancon holds the LSU career sack record with 25. As for “Sonic Sam” Montgomery, he led the legendary 2011 LSU defense with nine sacks and was a huge factor in LSU recording its best regular season record ever that year (13-0). For his efforts, he was named All-SEC and All-American. (Here are Montgomery’s LSU career video highlights for your enjoyment.)
Throughout this year’s countdown, I will often (not always) try to relate the day’s topic to this year’s season, and that’s what we’ll do today. I mention those three sack leaders because pressuring the quarterback is something last year’s LSU defense didn’t do especially well. In fact, the Tigers’ sack totals have steadily declined over the last three years. LSU had 38 sacks in 2011, 35 in 2012, 27 in 2013, and only 19 last year (half as many as in 2011). This is a trend the Tigers need to buck this year, and with Ed Orgeron coaching the defensive line I am confident they will. In Orgeron’s three years as USC’s defensive line coach, the Trojans averaged 34 sacks per year, and in 2012 they had 45. Coach O has emphasized that the Tigers will pressure opposing quarterbacks more this year, and that’s something I’m looking forward to seeing.