NCAA Baseball Championships:
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4/16/14 5:35 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans. How ’bout this mid-April weather?
With a cold north wind blowing and wind chills near the freezing point, the LSU baseball team swung a hot bat and defeated Southern Miss 13-5 in the annual Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic. The Tigers collected 15 hits in the game, including three doubles, and were led at the plate by Andrew Stevenson who went 4-for-4 with two RBI and Christian Ibarra who went 2-for-3 with four RBI.
The Tiger pitching staff struggled early on, but eventually found it’s groove in the final six innings. Starter Alden Cartwright pitched two innings and allowed two earned runs on two hits, including a three-run homer. Nate Fury pitched two-thirds of an innings and was rocked for two runs on four hits. Henri Faucheux, Parker Bugg, Hunter Devall, Kurt McCune and Zac Person combined for five and one-third solid innings and allowed only one hit and no runs.
With the win, the Tigers improved to 28-9-1 overall and 8-6-1 in SEC play. By the time you’re reading this, the team is already in Memphis where they’ll visit the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital before going on to Oxford, Mississippi for an important road series against a very good Ole Miss team that plays especially well at home. Tomorrow’s game starts at 6:30 and will be televised by ESPNU. Fans can listen to the game on the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 in Baton Rouge).
The hot topic of discussion among LSU football fans during the last couple of weeks has been the quarterback position. Yesterday I wrote a bit about Zach Mettenberger and also linked to an article about Brandon Harris. Last week there was an article about offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Cam Cameron being the best “recruit” of Les Miles’ tenure. Before that, there was the spring game, which gave a lot of folks their first look at LSU’s very competitive quarterback battle. All of this has spurred a lot of discussion (and a lot of emails to me) about LSU’s future at quarterback, and what type of offensive production we should expect from LSU in 2014.
With that in mind, I decided to review a few stats from the previous three seasons to getter a better picture of LSU’s remarkable offensive transformation in 2013, and perhaps a better feel for why it improved as much as it did. Check this out:
A few things to consider when looking at the chart:
- 2013 = Zach Mettenberger at QB, Cam Cameron as Offensive Coordinator
- 2012 = Zach Mettenberger at QB, Greg Studrawa as Offensive Coordinator
- 2011 = Jordan Jefferson & Jared Lee at QB, Greg Studrawa as Offensive Coordinator
- Of course, there are several other factors at play besides the QB and OC, like the receivers, offensive line, running backs, etc.
So where is all this leading? To a poll, of course!
Please take a moment to vote in our poll asking: “What was the biggest factor in LSU’s offensive success last football season?” Was it Cam Cameron at Offensive Coordinator? The talent/experience of Zach Mettenberger? The switch to a pro-style passing attack? Or maybe the incredible receiving tandem of Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry? Click here to vote. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the results and see what (if anything) they tell us about what to expect in 2014.
Speaking of what to expect this season, yesterday the oddsmakers released their opening line on the LSU-Wisconsin season opener and have the Tigers as a three-point favorite. ABC and ESPN also announced yesterday that the game will be in primetime, although a kickoff time has not yet been set.
I’ll close again today with an update on former Tiger Tahj Jone’s condition. According to a report by my friend Jim Kleinpeter of NOLA.com, “Jones remains in intensive care at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria after being shot by another former Tiger player, Brandon Winey, late Friday night in Sulphur, La. But he came through a second surgery Sunday night successfully and continues to show improvement.” Here’s the article: LSU's Tahj Jones survived despite bullet severing major vein, passing through his stomach, father says
4/15/14 5:55 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
After winning three of four games last week, the LSU baseball team moved up in the four major polls. Perfect Game has LSU up three spots to No. 8. Baseball America has the Tigers at No. 12 (up four spots from No. 16). In Collegiate Baseball’s ranking, LSU is up one spot to No. 14. The Coaches elevated the Tigers one spot to No. 7. You can check out all the polls here.
The Tigers have a busy four days ahead of them, starting with today’s trip to Zephyr Field in Metairie to take on Southern Miss in the annual Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic. Tonight’s game, which starts at 7 p.m., will be televised by Cox Sports Television. It can also be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 in Baton Rouge). Right after tonight’s Classic, the Tigers will depart for Memphis, Tenn., where they’ll visit the St. Jude Children’s Hospital on Wednesday, then travel to Oxford, Miss. for the series at Ole Miss that begins on Thursday. The three-game series will be played Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Here’s the pitching matchup for tonight’s game:
LSU – Fr. RHP Alden Cartwright (1-0, 1.23 ERA, 14.2 IP, 3 BB, 13 SO)
USM – So. RHP Cody Carroll (2-0, 2.88 ERA, 25.0 IP, 10 BB, 20 SO)
For those of you who are not familiar with the story of Wally Pontiff, Jr., I’ll give you the very brief version here so you’ll know what tonight’s all about. My hope is that those of you who are familiar with the story don’t mind being reminded of it again. In my opinion, it’s a story worth repeating, and the Wally Pontiff, Jr. Foundation is an organization worth supporting.
Wally Pontiff, Jr. was an All-SEC third baseman and captain of the 2002 LSU team who left this world far too soon due to a mysterious, previously undiagnosed heart abnormality that took him in his sleep. Pontiff, Jr. was not only a remarkable ball player; he was also an honor roll student (3.25 GPA Pre-Med) and a great young man who inspired his teammates. The Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic is not only a baseball game, it is also a memorial service, and a way to support the Wally Pontiff, Jr. Foundation which funds an LSU baseball scholarship and aids many worthy organizations. I encourage those of you within driving distance to head out to Zephyr Field tonight to show your support and commemorate a special Tiger. And if you've got a few minutes, please check out this video tribute to Wally Pontiff, Jr. that ESPN aired during it's coverage of the 2007 CWS.
In football news, yesterday I wrote a little about Jarvis Landry and promised to do the same for Zach Mettenberger today. The reason for singling out these two players is that they’ve both been in the headlines lately after impressive performances in LSU’s Pro Day. So, without further ado, here we geaux…
After his disappointing showing at the NFL combine, Landry felt like he had to redeem himself during LSU’s Pro Day. His teammate, Mettenberger, had even more to prove. 13 weeks removed from knee surgery, Mettenberger needed to show that he was well on his way to recovery and worth taking a chance on, and he did just that by pushing off his right leg and making some impressive throws. Because of his injury and some opinions like “he doesn’t throw well under pressure” (by ESPN’s Todd McShay), feelings toward Mettenberger are extremely diverse. Some say he’s a fifth round pick, while others, like ESPN’s Ron Jaworski, say he’s the second best quarterback in the draft. In our Q&A with Mike Detillier last week, Detillier pegged him as going in Round 2.
What LSU fans know about Mettenberger is this – he’s a fearless competitor in the pocket, he can make any throw on the field, and he’s proven he can play within a pro-style offensive setting. His 3,082 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions gave Tiger fans a passing treat they’d hungered to see for quite some time. Judging by Mettenberger’s steady progression and work ethic towards rehabbing his knee, I feel Tiger fans will have plenty to roar about when it comes to Mettenberger representing LSU at the next level.
For a reminder of what a special quarterback Mettenberger was at LSU, check out this video of his 2013 highlights. The video is filled with remarkable throws and catches, and what jumps out to me is not only how much the Tigers will miss Mettenberger, but also the fact that every single pass in this 3:07 highlight video was caught by one of two receivers no longer on the team - Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr.. This spring the focus was on which quarterback would fill Mettenberger’s shoes as the 2014 starter, and that’s a battle that will likely play out through the fall and into the early season. But, undoubtedly, the next most interesting battle will be between the young receivers competing to replace Beckham and Landry. More on that battle in a subsequent report.
After the great success that Mettenberger brought to LSU’s offense with his pro-style passing ability, many Tiger Fans I’ve heard from are a bit uneasy about the prospect of returning to a “dual-threat” quarterback. If you’re one that feels that way, you should be encouraged by this 247Sports.net article about LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, who QB guru George Wittfield says reminds him of Winston Jameis. Wittfield says Harris has the best arm talent of any QB in his class.
In other football-related news, a few of you have asked me about acquiring single-game tickets for LSU’s season opener against Wisconsin in Houston’s Reliant Stadium. I heard from one of my readers who informed me that tickets are on sale to the general public through TicketMaster, but are going fast. Ticket prices range from $80-$320 and may be purchased online at www.ticketmaster.com.
Last but not least, I want to pass along a bit of good news about former Tiger Tahj Jones. Based on several tweets I’ve seen and this article by Jim Kleinpeter of Nola.com, it seems that Jones is doing much better. He is now off of his ventilator and getting nourishment through a feeding tube. Please continue to keep Jones and his family in your prayers.
4/14/14 5:50 am CT
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Midway through the SEC schedule, the LSU baseball team was confronted with its biggest weakness yesterday in a 10-4 loss to Arkansas. Of course, the weakness I’m referring to is Game 3 pitching. At the beginning of the season, it looked as though Kyle Bouman and Jared Poché would be the Game 2 and Game 3 starters, respectively, but Poché quickly elevated himself to the Game 2 role, and shortly thereafter Bouman suffered a severely sprained ankle. Yesterday Bouman made his second start since returning to action, and let’s just say it didn’t go very well. The Tigers have now lost four out of five series finales and will have to find an effective, consistent Game 3 starter in the second half of the SEC slate in order to be successful in postseason play.
In yesterday’s game, the Razorbacks loaded the bases and hit a grand slam off of Bouman to jump out to a 4-0 lead before the first out was recorded. Cody Glenn came in to pitch the next three innings and started strong, but ended up allowing three earned runs on one hit, three walks and a critical throwing error to second base on what should have been an ending-inning double-play. The Tigers sent six pitchers to the mound after Glenn and they combined to allow three earned runs on four hits, including a two-run homer off of Brady Domangue.
While pitching was the biggest reason for LSU’s loss yesterday, the Tigers’ offense had a rough day as well. LSU only collected four hits in the game and couldn’t take advantage of the seven bases on balls issued by the Razorback pitching staff. The most encouraging thing to come from the game was the hitting of freshman left-fielder Jake Fraley. With the bases loaded and two outs, Fraley hit a 2-RBI single up the middle make it a 4-2 ball game. The Tigers added single runs in the sixth and seventh on a sacrifice fly by Andrew Stevenson and an RBI single by Kade Scivicque.
The good news from this weekend’s baseball action is that LSU won the series and improved to 27-9-1 overall and 8-6-1 in SEC play. With five series remaining, the Tigers are only 1.5 games out of first place in the SEC West and all of their goals are still clearly in reach. The Tigers have won seven of their last eight games, and although it wasn’t apparent yesterday I believe LSU’s hitting has improved since two weeks ago when I conducted our glass half-empty/half-full poll. I also feel good about LSU’s chances of winning two out of three games each weekend with Aaron Nola and Poché in the weekend rotation. Still, to be successful in postseason play, Coaches Mainieri and Dunn will have to find another consistent weekend starter who can give the Tigers a good five or six innings per outing.
The Tigers have a busy week ahead as they’ll play four games in five days, starting tomorrow night with the annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic against Southern Miss at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m. on Cox Sports Television. The game can also be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 in Baton Rouge). This “weekend’s” series at Ole Miss will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday because of the Easter holiday.
In softball news, LSU came through with a huge come-from-behind victory to earn an impressive series win against No. 13 Georgia. Staring down a five-run deficit, the Tigers exploded for seven runs in the seventh inning, capped by a Kailey McCasland pinch hit two-RBI single with two outs to make the final score 13-11. With the win, the Tigers are now 24-18 overall and 6-9 in SEC play. The team will be back in action tomorrow to take on the Fordham Rams.
Now turning to football…. With LSU’s Pro Day behind us and the NFL draft a less than a month away, today and tomorrow we’ll take a look at two former Tigers who have been getting a lot of publicity lately - Jarvis Landry and Zach Mettenberger. Landry is gaining publicity because of his incredible showing at LSU’s Pro Day. Last week, Mike Detillier made a point in our Q&A that I think was spot on about Landry. He said Landry has the best hands to ever come out of LSU, which is why I think Landry will be a stud in the NFL. Here’s a wide receiver that can change direction and track down any ball thrown his way. In some ways, he was the Vladimir Guerrero of LSU football — producing home runs with balls thrown outside the strike zone, or in Landry’s case, turning sometimes ill-advised throws into touchdown receptions. But on second thought, maybe those throws weren’t ill-advised at all, considering the chemistry between Mettenberger and Landry and the confidence they had in each other. Suffice it to say that whoever drafts Landry will be inheriting a heck of a football player who can block, catch and run with “field-fast” speed. On top of Landry’s physical abilities, he’s a young man that represented LSU with the utmost class, and he will do the same for whichever team decides to take a chance on him. Detillier has Landry as an early second-round selection, while NFL.com has him as a second-to-third round projection. If Landry falls below the second round, an NFL team will be getting quite a steal. For a reminder of what a man he was at LSU, check out this video of Landry’s Career Highlights.
Couple of tidbits in closing:
• As for the status of former Tiger Tahj Jones who was shot Friday night, the latest word I’ve seen is that he is doing better but is still in very serious condition at Rapides Regional Medical Center. Please continue to keep Tahj and his family in your prayers.
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