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3/30/15 5:40 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

It was a tough weekend for LSU baseball as the No. 1 ranked Tigers dropped the rubber match to Kentucky, 10-12 in 11 innings, to lose their first series of the season. With the loss, the Tigers fell to 23-5 overall and 5-4 in conference play. 

Just like in Game 1, it would be easy to point to a single bizarre play in yesterday’s game as the reason for the loss, but that would be over-simplifying things. The play I’m talking about, of course, was when Kentucky tied the game up in the ninth inning on the strangest inside-the-park home run I’ve ever seen. (See video.) The Tigers were one out from victory when Jared Foster misplayed a ball in left-field which allowed the ball to get past him, and then Alex Bregman, who ran down the ball, lost his footing and was unable to recover in time to throw the runner out at home. Yes, that was very unfortunate, but I don’t attribute the loss to that play. No, in yesterday’s case the Tigers pitching staff just didn’t get the job done as they allowed 12 runs on 19 hits.

Freshman Jake Godfrey got the start for the Tigers and was chased after only 1.2 innings, and that’s what I find most disturbing about the loss. Godfrey had looked outstanding all season up to the second inning of yesterday’s game, and at that point it looked like the Wildcats figured out that if they come out swinging on the first pitch they could get to the freshman who was throwing almost exclusively fastballs over the plate on the first pitch in an attempt to get ahead in the count. After allowing a home run and three straight singles on first pitches, Godfrey attempted to start batters off with a breaking pitch, but had trouble locating it effectively and things quickly escalated with a walk, a sac fly and an RBI single to make it a 4-0 ballgame. Collectively, LSU’s bullpen didn’t fare much better as they gave up 13 hits and eight runs in the loss. Now, before you get too down on LSU’s pitching staff, let me remind you that it has been very good overall this year, and LSU has one of the best pitching coaches in the nation in Alan Dunn. Series like this one are just part of the game of baseball, and even the best teams have them. I remain confident that the Tigers’ pitching will be fine. It’s also worth noting one positive in yesterday’s pitching performance: Sophomore Hunter Newman and freshman Austin Bain combined for five innings of one-run baseball and allowed only a pair of hits. 

Aside from the pitching, the Tigers did enough to win the game as they had 15 hits, including two home runs. The Tigers were led at the plate by Foster, Mark Laird, and Hale, who each went 2-for-5 with 2 RBI. Defensively, the Tigers played error-free ball, statistically speaking, but there were a few very significant plays that the defense should have made that weren’t ruled errors. 

Here’s the game’s boxscore, and here’s a brief scoring recap: After falling behind 4-0 in the second inning, LSU answered in the bottom of the third with two runs. Chris Chinea led off the inning with a double and scored on Jake Fraley’s two-out single. Laird followed with an infield single before pinch-runner Kramer Robertson scored on an error by Kentucky’s pitcher. The Tigers exploded for four runs in the fifth to take the lead. Foster hit a two-run homer over the left field fence to tie the game, and then Robertson followed with a triple off the wall and later scored on a fielding error. Hale added the sixth run with a solo home run to left field, his fourth dinger of the season. Kentucky responded with a run in the top of the seventh on an RBI double to make it 6-5. LSU once again responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning, all coming with two outs. Robertson scored from second on a throwing error, and Kade Scivicque doubled to the gap in right-center field to score Hale and give the Tigers an 8-5 lead. In the top of the eighth, reliever Collin Strall gave up back-to-back hits and was replaced by Zac Person. Person hit the first batter he faced to load the bases. Kentucky followed with a 2-RBI single, and two fielder’s choice RBIs to regain the lead, 9-8. LSU scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to get bak on top, 10-9, as Chris Sciambra and Foster singled to right and left field, respectively. Laird singled up the middle to score Sciambra and Bregman followed with a sac fly. Kentucky pulled off an improbable rally in the top of the ninth inning on the bizarre inside-the park home run I mentioned earlier. LSU threatened in the bottom of the ninth after Chinea hit a one-out double to left field, but Kentucky reliever Spencer Jack settled in to strike out Foster and Sciambra to push the game into extra innings. Kentucky took the lead for good in the top of the 11th inning on a lead-off solo home run and a two-out RBI single to make the score 12-10. 

One more tidbit about the game: In the third inning, Jake Fraley hit a double and pulled a hamstring muscle on the way to second base. The good news is that Fraley tweeted later in the afternoon that it was nothing serious and that he would be back “in a couple days.” 

The Tigers will look to get back on track when they take on UL-Lafayette (15-10, 7-4) tomorrow at 7 p.m. in Metairie for the annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic. The game will be televised by CST. Look for more on that matchup in tomorrow’s update.

Oddly enough, the No. 1 LSU softball team also suffered a gut-wrenching series loss to Kentucky this weekend, although they did win yesterday’s series finale, 2-0. After being unable to capitalize on opportunities Friday and Saturday, the Tigers (32-3, 6-3 SEC) outhit the Wildcats 7-2 yesterday and were the beneficiaries of four Kentucky (23-9, 3-6) errors. For more on that game, please see this article on LSUSports.net. LSU returns home to host its next four games, beginning with a non-conference matchup against the UL-Monroe Warhawks tomorrow at 6 p.m. at Tiger Park in Baton Rouge. The game will be streamed (online only) on SEC Network+.

The LSU football team will return to practice tomorrow and Thursday before taking off for spring break. I plan on making the trip out there for one of the two practices this week to shoot some video and report on what I see, but as of now I’m not sure which day it will be. 

In closing, please note that I will be updating our ticket exchange later today, so if you have any LSU tickets for sale be sure to email me the information. 

 

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3/29/15 5:58 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The LSU baseball team bounced back from Friday’s loss with a 7-3 win over Kentucky last night to even the series at one game apiece. The rubber game of the series will be played today at 11 a.m. Freshman right-hander Jake Godfrey will get the start for the Tigers, and Kentucky will counter with junior right-hander Kyle Cody. The game will be available online only via SEC Network+ and can be accessed at WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app. It will also be broadcast live on LSU Radio Network affiliates, including 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge.

Freshman right-hander Alex Lange got the start for LSU last night and was once again spectacular. Lange lasted seven innings (116 pitches), allowed one run (unearned) on six hits, and matched his career-high in strikeouts with 13. Zac Person and Alden Cartwright each allowed one run in one inning of relief and allowed a combined five hits.

The Tigers collected 12 hits in the game, and every batter in LSU’s starting lineup had at least one hit. With the game tied 2-2 in the eighth inning, Chris Chinea lined a ball into centerfield that got “lodged” under a pipe at the base of the fence, but it was clearly retrievable. At first, the play was ruled a ground-rule double, but then Coach Mainieri stormed the field and vehemently argued that LSU’s ground rules (which were reviewed before the game and are posted in the dugouts) state that when this happens the ball is still live. Remarkably, the ruling was reversed, resulting in a 3-RBI inside-the-park home run for Chinea. Two batters later, Jared Foster smashed a 2-run homer over the left-field wall to give LSU added insurance.

Here are the game’s video highlights and boxscore

Unfortunately, the No. 1 LSU softball team suffered its second consecutive loss to No. 16 Kentucky in Lexington, this time by a score of 5-2. LSU entered the series with only one loss in 32 games and were swinging the bat better than any team in the country, but in the last two games they haven’t been able to get the timely hit and have left a combined 16 runners on base. For more on yesterday’s game, please see this article

Now turning to football, LSU held its third closed practice of the spring yesterday, and according to Coach Miles it was the strongest outing yet for the offense. I know that many of you are most interested in how the quarterbacks did (so I am), so we’ll start with that. After the first scrimmage of the spring, Miles gave Brandon Harris the edge, and after the second one he said Anthony Jennings had the better outing. After yesterday’s scrimmage, Miles wasn’t as specific, but the stats he dished out seem to indicate that Jennings had the better day. Jennings passed for 200 yards and four touchdowns while completing “eight or nine” of 14 throws. Harris, on the other hand, completed 10-12 passes (at first Miles said “a handful” but then he quantified that by saying he has big hands and it was probably 10-12) in 22 attempts and “played pretty well overall.” No yardage was specified. In this article, Miles was quoted as saying, “We want to find a real quality quarterback and have separation from one to the other. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m not necessarily seeing that. Certainly Anthony Jennings has probably performed better more days, and other days its Brandon Harris.” 

Below are a few more scrimmage stats and key points that I gathered from Coach Miles’ post-scrimmage chat with the media, and here’s the official press release on the scrimmage as sent out by LSU’s Sports Information Department:

• D.J. Chark continues to have a big spring and once again led all receivers. Chark caught a 70-yard TD pass on the first possession of the game and ended the game with 99 receiving yards and a score.

• Miles also praised wide receiver Trey Quinn, calling him “very competitive.” Quinn had two catches for 35 yards and a pair of TDs.

• Tight end Jacory Washington had two catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.

• Leonard Fournette continues to have an impressive spring, rushing for 100-plus yards and a touchdown. Miles said that Darrel Williams, “ran hard” and finished with 55 yards. As for the fullback position, Miles said JD Moore is doing a really good job.

• Defensively, Miles singled out linebacker Deion Jones (six tackles and pair of sacks), Duke Riley (7 tackles), Jamal Adams (6 tackles, 1 sack), Sione Teuhema (6 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD). He also said Kendell Beckwith made some real significant speed plays. 

• Miles said Christian LaCouture and Devon Godchaux are the top defensive tackles, as expected, and added that Greg Gilmore is currently No. 3. Quentin Thomas hasn’t been practicing this spring in order to fully heal from a few nagging injuries, but should be good to go in the fall.

• Miles said they will be looking at freshman Donte Jackson as a return man when he reports in August. Travin Dural and TréDavious White are currently working as punt returners. 

In football recruiting news, several of LSU’s top targets participated at the New Orleans Regional Nike Opening yesterday. I spoke to a friend who attended the event and was told that LSU 2016 commits Donavaughn Campbell (OT, 6-5, 340, Ponchatoula, No. 11 on our list of Top LA Prospects) and Stephen Sullivan (ATH, 6-6, 230, No. 5) were extremely impressive. Campbell showed that he’s extremely light on his feet for a young man of 340 pounds, and Sullivan is an extremely well put together athlete at 6-6, 230 pounds. Sullivan was working as a receiver and making several spectacular catches, but has the frame to add 20-30 pounds and be an elite defensive end. LSU commits Clifford Chattman (2016, LB/S, 6-5, 190, McDonogh 35, No. 19),  Jamal Pettigrew (2016, TE, 6-6, 218, St. Augustine, No. 18 ) and Dylan Moses (2017, LB/RB, 6-2, 220, University Lab) were also at the event, although I didn’t get much feedback on them. Evidently Moses did very well as he and Sullivan were two of three Louisiana prospects who earned invitations to the Opening Finals in Oregon later this summer. The other in-state prospect to earn an invitation was Kriston Fulton (CB, 6-0, 165, Rummel, No. 9). 

As I usually do on Sundays, I’ll leave you today with a couple of good reads to go along with your Sunday morning coffee:

Miles wanted to keep Chavis, but had changes in mind

Rabalais: His resilience on display, Anthony Jennings won’t give up LSU’s starting quarterback job without a fight

Reader Comments: I remember you and others saying LSU should not pursue Jonathan Taylor, the big D-tackle who was kicked off of the Georgia team and then signed with Alabama. Looks like y’all were right. He was arrested again last night for domestic violence. Glad Miles passed on him.

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3/28/15 6:15 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

First of all, I want to thank all of you who wished me a happy birthday yesterday. I had an outstanding day working in the garden, eating supper with the family and then heading out for a long overdue night out with my wife. I don’t know what is says about my age when our night out ended long before the Friday night LSU baseball game did, but I’m not complaining. I was happy to be able to catch the last hour of the extra-innings game, even though it didn’t end the way any of us would have liked. 

In what Coach Mainieri described as one of the most frustrating losses of his career, the No. 1 ranked LSU baseball team lost to Kentucky, 5-4 in 12 innings. The Tigers left 15 men on base, including the bases loaded a couple of times, had a few base-running blunders, and didn’t take advantage of several opportunities to win the game. The Tigers also had a bit of misfortune in the 11th when what would have likely been a game-winning line drive by Hale hit Alex Bregman on the base path to end the inning. As I mentioned above, I didn’t get to listen to much of the game, so rather than give you my own report I’ll pass along to you the recap issued by LSU. But before doing so, I will comment on one play that a lot of you have asked me about. In the 11th inning the Tigers had runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs and freshman Greg Deichmann at the plate. Instead of bunting Deichmann, Mainieri let him swing away and he ended up hitting into a double play. The best possible explanation I can think of for Mainieri’s decision is that Deichmann, the Brother Martin High School career home run leader, probably had never been asked to bunt before in a game. Still, I suspect Coach Mainieri is regretting that decision, and others, today.

Below is an extract from LSU’s press release on the game, and here is the boxscore.

“This was one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever coached, because we made mistakes that we don’t usually make,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “That falls back on coaching – it’s my responsibility to make sure we don’t make those kind of mistakes, and I have to make sure the players understand how to correct them and are prepared to execute the right way. Kentucky has a good ball club, so we have to brush this game off and look forward to tomorrow for a chance to even the series.”

In the top of the second, centerfielder Andrew Stevenson singled up the middle to lead off the inning, and first baseman Chris Chinea followed with a single through the right side. With runners on first and third and no outs, left fielder Jake Fraley grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Stevenson from third. After second baseman Jared Foster reached on a walk, designated hitter Chris Sciambra singled to right-centerfield, scoring Fraley from second base. The Tigers lead Kentucky 2-0 heading into the third inning.

Poche’ retired 12 straight batters, heading into the fifth inning. Kentucky second baseman JaVon Shelby reached on an error by third baseman Conner Hale. Poche’ worked out of the inning after giving up his first hit to right fielder Dorian Hairston.

In the top of the seventh with one out, Hairston doubled to right-centerfield, and third baseman Thomas Bernal followed with an RBI single. After Bernal advanced to second base with two outs, back-to-back singles by shortstop Connor Heady and centerfielder Kyle Barrett plated two runs for the Wildcats. Kentucky was up 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh.

With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Laird singled through the right side. Hale reached on an error by Bernal, allowing Hale to advance to second and Laird to score with two outs. The score was tied at 3-3 after seven innings, and the game eventually headed into extra innings.

In the top of the 12th, Barrett singled through the right side, and first baseman Evan White was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second for Tom with two outs.  Tom doubled down the right field line, and Kentucky took the 5-3 lead.

In the bottom of the 12th, pinch hitter Grayson Byrd and Andrew Stevenson reached on throwing errors by the third baseman and second baseman, respectively. After a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to scoring position, Fraley flied out to right field, scoring Byrd, leaving the score 5-4.

Jack retired Foster on a ground ball to shortstop to end the game.

I look forward to seeing LSU bounce back in Game 2 of the series today at 6:30 p.m. CT. The game will be available online only via SEC Network+ and can be accessed at WatchESPN.com and the WatchESPN app. It will also be broadcast live on LSU Radio Network affiliates, including 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge. Fans can also go to LSUsports.net for live stats and audio through the GeauxZone. Freshman right-hander Alex Lange will get the start on the mound for LSU, while Kentucky will counter with junior right-hander Dustin Beggs.

Unfortunately, the LSU softball team didn’t fare any better against Kentucky

than the baseball team. As the temperatures cooled in Lexington, so did LSU’s bats as the Tigers fell to the Wildcats 3-1 in the series opener.  LSU couldn’t capitalize with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners on base in the contest. It was such a slow night offensively for the Tigers, LSU didn’t get on the board until the sixth inning. A.J. Andrews led LSU at the plate, going 2-for-3 in the loss. For more on yesterday’s game, please see this article by LSUSports.net. The Tigers will look to even the series today at 11 a.m. in a game that will be televised by the SEC Network.

In football news, there was a mighty big buzz in the LSU indoor practice facility yesterday as nearly 100 NFL representatives, including NFL head coaches, gathered to watch LSU’s Pro Day. Danielle Hunter, Kwon Alexander, La’el Collins, Elliott Porter, Terrence Magee, Jalen Collins and Kenny Hilliard garnered the most attention for the Tigers. In a bit of a surprise,  Quantavious Leslie recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time with a 4.45, while Porter had the most bench press reps (225 pounds) with 34.  Another surprise was that Hilliard improved his 40-yard time from 4.83 at the NFL combine to an impressive 4.6 yesterday.  Danielle Hunter led the way with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and was also first in the broad jump with a leap of 10-feet, 10.5-inches. You can see the complete Pro Day results here. Among the NFL coaches in attendance was Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who was likely there to watch both Jalen Collins and La’el Collins. La’el is being looked at by many teams as either a guard or a tackle, and NFL scout Bucky Brooks said La’el could have an impact similar to Zach Martin’s for the Dallas Cowboys. Nick Underhill, who covers the New Orleans Saints for The New Orleans Advocate, tweeted that Jalen said the Saints were high on him. Jalen did not participate as he continues to recover from his foot surgery. NFL draft analyst Mike Loyko said New England Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears was present, likely getting a good look at both Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard. One side note from the event: LSU great Rohan Davey was the QB throwing passes during position drills. 

The LSU football team will hold it’s third closed scrimmage of the spring today, and I hope to have some stats to share with you in tomorrow’s update.

 

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