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5/27/16 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The red-hot Tigers continued their winning ways yesterday with an impressive 6-2 win over No. 1 seed Mississippi State. The Tigers out-hit the Bulldogs 12-8, received solid pitching, and took advantage of three MSU errors to cruise to victory in a contest that lacked the level of late-inning drama we’ve come to expect from these Tigers.

Jared Poché got the start on the mound, survived a challenging first inning and then settled in to pitch brilliantly through six strong inning. In the seventh, his night was derailed by a miscommunication between Cole Freeman and Antoine Duplantis that allowed a ball to drop. The Bulldogs would go on to score two runs (one earned) in the frame before Parker Bugg entered with two outs and escaped a two-on jam with a huge strikeout. Bugg stayed on through the ninth and was sensational in earning his fourth save of the season.

Offensively, the Tigers were led by the unlikeliest of candidates – Mike Papierski. The sophomore catcher, who entered the game with a .208 average, drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly in the third and a clutch two-out, two-run single in the 7th. Antoine Duplantis also had a big night, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Here’s the complete boxscore, and the following is what Coach Mainieri had to say about the contest.

“We had 12 hits today and faced one of the best pitchers in the league,” Mainieri said. “I thought Papierski had a great game, drove in three runs. Nobody works harder than Michael Papierski. He’s always the first guy to the field and the last guy to leave. He had a big base hit and got the big sacrifice fly with two strikes on him. That was huge. Sometimes in the season you go through ebbs and flows, some real peaks and some really big valleys. When you’re 18, 19 years old sometimes those things are hard to handle, and I think he’s handled them really well. He’s growing up as a man.”

With the win, the Tigers earned a day of rest today before returning to tournament action tomorrow at 3:30 CT. After playing 23 innings in back-to-back nightcaps, I’m sure the break will be just as welcomed by the Tigers as it will for this writer who’s not used to staying up so late. The Tigers’ next opponent will be the winner of today’s elimination game between Florida and Mississippi State. 

One final baseball thought for the day: Last night’s win, the team’s 14th in 15 games, marked the fourth time in a week that LSU has defeated a team ranked No. 1 in at least one of the college baseball polls. There’s not a hotter team in America right now than the Fighting Tigers. 

In softball news, LSU will continue its journey to the 2016 College World Series today at 2:00 when the Tigers begin Super Regional Play in Harrisonburg, Virginia against James Madison. Game two of the best-of-three series is set for 11 am CT Saturday, with the if-necessary third game taking place shortly after at approximately 2 pm. ESPNU will have coverage of today’s  game, with the series shifting to ESPN for tomorrow’s first game. Game 3, if needed, would jump back to ESPNU. At stake in this best-of-three series is one of eight coveted spots in next week’s College World Series. The surging Tigers have gotten to this point by winning 18 of their last 20 games, including a three-game sweep of the Baton Rouge Regional last weekend. Here’s hoping the success carries on today, tomorrow and into Oklahoma City. 

Believe it or not, LSU’s highly-anticipated 2016 football season is less than 100 days away. What that means, of course, is that it’s time for our 100-day countdown. Actually, truth be told, it was time to start the countdown yesterday at the 100-day mark, but in all the late night/early morning excitement of LSU’s 14-inning win over Florida, I completely forgot. (Sorry about that. I guess that’s what happens when I stay up past my bedtime.) So, what we’ll do today is kick things off with Numbers 100 AND 99. But first, I want to thank all of you who sent suggestions for topics to cover. Your input is helpful and appreciated. Keep it coming!

For number 100, let’s get things running with a look at the 100-yard interception return by Craig Loston vs. Mississippi State in the Tigers’ 37-17 victory back in 2012. The play came late in the game with Mississippi State inside the 10-yard line with an opportunity to make it a one-score game. That’s when Loston picked off Tyler Russell’s pass in the end zone and turned on the jets as he returned the ball the length of the field. I went back and re-watched a video of that play yesterday and was so amazed at Loston's explosiveness and speed that I took out my iPhone and timed how long it took for him to bring it to the house. According to my far-from-official timing, he covered the 100-yards in 10.9 seconds, and that's incredible considering he was in full pads and pulled up a bit at the end. I've added the video to our Media Gallery so you can relive the moment too.

One reason I picked that play for this year’s countdown is to recognize that explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball have steadily decreased over the last few years for the Tigers. Specifically, LSU’s interceptions have decreased from 18 in both 2011 and 2012 to 11 in 2013 and just 10 in both 2014 and 2015. Fumble recoveries have also declined, as the Tigers had just 7 last year after averaging 11.6 per season the five previous years. For the Tigers to return to the dominating defenses of years past, they will need to force more turnovers, and, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few game-changing plays like Loston’s pick.

Now for number 99, let’s look back at an amazing 99-yard TD drive that beat Arkansas 31-27 in 2013. As many of you will recall, that play occurred with the Tigers trailing the Hogs 24-27 with only 1:49 remaining. Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger had just suffered a season-ending injury on a pass play that resulted in an incredible reception by Jarvis Landry. (You can see that completion at the 1:28 mark of this video). In comes true freshman Anthony Jennings from Marietta, Georgia, and what does he do? Well, he simply leads the Tigers on a 99-yard, game-winning drive to topple Arkansas 31-27. The drive culminated with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Jennings to fellow freshman Travin Dural with 1:15 to play, giving the Tigers not only the win but also a big dose of hope for the future.

After his lackluster season in 2014 and some off-the-field trouble that summer, Jennings lost the starting quarterback job to Brandon Harris last year and has since transferred. Now entering his second season as the full-time starter, Harris will be looked upon to consistently make critical plays with his arm and legs not unlike the ones Jennings displayed in that one drive against Arkansas.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome. Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts on the topics covered here, and keep the suggestions coming!


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5/27/16 5:55 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The red-hot Tigers continued their winning ways yesterday with an impressive 6-2 win over No. 1 seed Mississippi State. The Tigers out-hit the Bulldogs 12-8, received solid pitching, and took advantage of three MSU errors to cruise to victory in a contest that lacked the level of late-inning drama we’ve come to expect from these Tigers.

Jared Poché got the start on the mound, survived a challenging first inning and then settled in to pitch brilliantly through six strong inning. In the seventh, his night was derailed by a miscommunication between Cole Freeman and Antoine Duplantis that allowed a ball to drop. The Bulldogs would go on to score two runs (one earned) in the frame before Parker Bugg entered with two outs and escaped a two-on jam with a huge strikeout. Bugg stayed on through the ninth and was sensational in earning his fourth save of the season.

Offensively, the Tigers were led by the unlikeliest of candidates – Mike Papierski. The sophomore catcher, who entered the game with a .208 average, drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly in the third and a clutch two-out, two-run single in the 7th. Antoine Duplantis also had a big night, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Here’s the complete boxscore, and the following is what Coach Mainieri had to say about the contest.

“We had 12 hits today and faced one of the best pitchers in the league,” Mainieri said. “I thought Papierski had a great game, drove in three runs. Nobody works harder than Michael Papierski. He’s always the first guy to the field and the last guy to leave. He had a big base hit and got the big sacrifice fly with two strikes on him. That was huge. Sometimes in the season you go through ebbs and flows, some real peaks and some really big valleys. When you’re 18, 19 years old sometimes those things are hard to handle, and I think he’s handled them really well. He’s growing up as a man.”

With the win, the Tigers earned a day of rest today before returning to tournament action tomorrow at 3:30 CT. After playing 23 innings in back-to-back nightcaps, I’m sure the break will be just as welcomed by the Tigers as it will for this writer who’s not used to staying up so late. The Tigers’ next opponent will be the winner of today’s elimination game between Florida and Mississippi State. 

One final baseball thought for the day: Last night’s win, the team’s 14th in 15 games, marked the fourth time in a week that LSU has defeated a team ranked No. 1 in at least one of the college baseball polls. There’s not a hotter team in America right now than the Fighting Tigers. 

In softball news, LSU will continue its journey to the 2016 College World Series today at 2:00 when the Tigers begin Super Regional Play in Harrisonburg, Virginia against James Madison. Game two of the best-of-three series is set for 11 am CT Saturday, with the if-necessary third game taking place shortly after at approximately 2 pm. ESPNU will have coverage of today’s  game, with the series shifting to ESPN for tomorrow’s first game. Game 3, if needed, would jump back to ESPNU. At stake in this best-of-three series is one of eight coveted spots in next week’s College World Series. The surging Tigers have gotten to this point by winning 18 of their last 20 games, including a three-game sweep of the Baton Rouge Regional last weekend. Here’s hoping the success carries on today, tomorrow and into Oklahoma City. 

Believe it or not, LSU’s highly-anticipated 2016 football season is less than 100 days away. What that means, of course, is that it’s time for our 100-day countdown. Actually, truth be told, it was time to start the countdown yesterday at the 100-day mark, but in all the late night/early morning excitement of LSU’s 14-inning win over Florida, I completely forgot. (Sorry about that. I guess that’s what happens when I stay up past my bedtime.) So, what we’ll do today is kick things off with Numbers 100 AND 99. But first, I want to thank all of you who sent suggestions for topics to cover. Your input is helpful and appreciated. Keep it coming!

For number 100, let’s get things running with a look at the 100-yard interception return by Craig Loston vs. Mississippi State in the Tigers’ 37-17 victory back in 2012. The play came late in the game with Mississippi State inside the 10-yard line with an opportunity to make it a one-score game. That’s when Loston picked off Tyler Russell’s pass in the end zone and turned on the jets as he returned the ball the length of the field. I went back and re-watched a video of that play yesterday and was so amazed at Loston's explosiveness and speed that I took out my iPhone and timed how long it took for him to bring it to the house. According to my far-from-official timing, he covered the 100-yards in 10.9 seconds, and that's incredible considering he was in full pads and pulled up a bit at the end. I've added the video to our Media Gallery so you can relive the moment too.

One reason I picked that play for this year’s countdown is to recognize that explosive plays on the defensive side of the ball have steadily decreased over the last few years for the Tigers. Specifically, LSU’s interceptions have decreased from 18 in both 2011 and 2012 to 11 in 2013 and just 10 in both 2014 and 2015. Fumble recoveries have also declined, as the Tigers had just 7 last year after averaging 11.6 per season the five previous years. For the Tigers to return to the dominating defenses of years past, they will need to force more turnovers, and, of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few game-changing plays like Loston’s pick.

Now for number 99, let’s look back at an amazing 99-yard TD drive that beat Arkansas 31-27 in 2013. As many of you will recall, that play occurred with the Tigers trailing the Hogs 24-27 with only 1:49 remaining. Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger had just suffered a season-ending injury on a pass play that resulted in an incredible reception by Jarvis Landry. (You can see that completion at the 1:28 mark of this video). In comes true freshman Anthony Jennings from Marietta, Georgia, and what does he do? Well, he simply leads the Tigers on a 99-yard, game-winning drive to topple Arkansas 31-27. The drive culminated with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Jennings to fellow freshman Travin Dural with 1:15 to play, giving the Tigers not only the win but also a big dose of hope for the future.

After his lackluster season in 2014 and some off-the-field trouble that summer, Jennings lost the starting quarterback job to Brandon Harris last year and has since transferred. Now entering his second season as the full-time starter, Harris will be looked upon to consistently make critical plays with his arm and legs not unlike the ones Jennings displayed in that one drive against Arkansas.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome. Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts on the topics covered here, and keep the suggestions coming!

5/26/16 3:27 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Five hours and seven minutes.  That’s how long it took the relentless Fighting Tigers of LSU to defeat Florida, 5-3, in 14 innings. Now that was a ballgame, folks! There’s so much that could be said about the game that I don’t know where to start. It doesn’t help that I’m writing this after 2:00 in the morning, knowing that my nerves are so frayed that I couldn’t sleep if I wanted to. And if I could fall asleep, I surely wouldn’t wake up in time to publish my daily dose of Tiger news at its normal time. So, bear with me while I do my best to give you a brief recap of how this thriller of a game – the longest in SEC Tournament history – played out.

It started rough on the mound for LSU’s Alex Lange as the Gators jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on three consecutive one-out extra-bases hits, but it ended up being his most gutsy outing of the season. Remarkably, Lange was able to settle down and escape a bases-loaded jam with two huge strikeouts to get out of the first without allowing further damage. From that point on, he would only get stronger while keeping the Gators off the board in what turned out to be a solid seven-inning, 11-strikeout outing. The problem for the Tigers was that Florida ace AJ Puk, the projected first-round pick in the upcoming major league draft, was every bit as good as advertised and completely shut down the Tigers through seven innings. In the eighth, the Tigers rallied from behind, like they’ve done so many time this year, to take a 3-2 lead, but the game was far from over. In the ninth, things got interesting when Florida led with a double on a ball that was first ruled foul. Upon review, the officials ruled that the ball, which bounced out of the glove of a hustling Brennan Breaux in left field, was indeed fair, and awarded the runner second base. After that, a sacrifice bunt and RBI single tied the game and sent it to extras. The contest remained knotted until the 14th inning when Coach Mainieri made what I think was an excellent coaching decision by pinch hitting Jordan Romero with runners on first and second and two outs. Romero had been in an awful slump as of late, going hitless in his previous 17 at-bats, so it was safe to say he was due. Sure enough, Romero embraced the hero role and laced an RBI single through the right side to give LSU a 4-3 lead. Cole Freeman would follow with an RBI-single of his own to give LSU an insurance run and make the score 5-3. Jesse Stalling would shut the door on the Gators in the bottom of the inning, bringing to close a remarkable five-inning, two-hit outing that earned him his third win of the season. All told, it was one of the most exciting and exhausting games I’ve ever seen, and one I won’t forget anytime soon.

Here’s the complete boxscore and the following is what Coach Mainieri had to say about the game. (Unfortunately, LSU had not published video highlights at the time of this posting.) 

“Jesse Stallings was remarkable and Romero came off the bench to get the big hit… Without Newman pitching so well, Lange doing what he did, and without the clutch hits, we wouldn’t have been in that situation. It’s an amazing total team effort. I’m just happy it’s over. It only counts as one win but it sure feels like more than that.”

With the win, the Tigers advanced to the winners’ bracket of the SEC Tournament where they’ll face No. 1 seed Mississippi State at approximately 8 p.m. CT tonight. (The game will be televised on the SEC Network.) Florida, on the other hand, will have the unenviable task of turning around on less than 12 hours rest to face Alabama in an elimination game at approximately 1 p.m. For a look at the complete bracket, click here.

Getting the start for the Tigers on the mound tonight will be junior Jared Poché. And because of Jesse Stallings’ outstanding performance last night, LSU’s bullpen should be  well rested. 

One more note about the baseball game in case it hasn’t dawned on you: The Tigers have now beaten the No. 1 team in the nation three times in less than a week. 

Now let’s turn to football and wrap up today’s daily dose of Tiger News with the conclusion of our series on LSU’s 2016 opponents. We’re bringing this to a close today so that tomorrow we can begin our 100-Day Countdown to Game Day. (Yes, it’s already that time!) Here we go…

Week 12 - Nov. 19 vs. South Alabama

The 2015 season pitted a murderer’s row in November while LSU’s 2016 schedule has swapped a contest with Ole Miss in mid-November with a South Alabama squad. The Jaguars won just five games in the Sun Belt a season ago, and lost 48-9 to Nebraska and 63-13 against N.C. State. To make matters worse, they lost their starting quarterback and multiple receivers entering 2016. Obviously, this contest has all the makings of a lopsided affair. LSU will likely be bruised up after facing two of the most physical offenses in the SEC, so this game against a South Alabama team that has to replace pivotal offensive starters and undergo a new strategy from a newly hired defensive coordinator should be just what the doctor ordered.

Week 13 - Nov. 24 @ Texas A&M

Leonard Fournette feasted on Texas A&M with a Hershel Walker-like, truck-stick two years ago on Thanksgiving. On Nov. 24, Fournette will have a chance to repeat history. Texas A&M is a bit of a quandary after what has been a brutal offseason for the Aggies. First, quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen both transferred, then a wide receiver commit decided to change courses after with receivers coach Aaron Moorehead made some controversial comments on Twitter. All this leaves many wondering what in the heck is going on at Texas A&M. Still, even with the drama, the Aggies figure to be a very good team in 2016. The defense is one year better under John Chavis, and though they lost two prized quarterbacks, they still have a capable signal caller in Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight. Many will remember Knight is the quarterback that torched Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago. The Aggies also still have players like Speedy Noil and Christian Kirk on the perimeter, so stability or no stability, Texas A&M will still be a handful. Look for LSU to take a similar approach to this game as last year when the Tigers rolled up their sleeves and won a gritty contest. If it plays out in a similar fashion, I like the Tigers’ chances of securing a playoff berth in this battle. 

If you missed Weeks 1 through 11, you can find the complete series here. Thanks to all of you who shared your comments on this feature, and to DandyDon.com contributors Jake Martin and Mark Towery for their help in producing it.

5/25/16 12:48 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

How ’bout that LSU baseball team! Trailing Tennessee 4-0 heading into the 7th inning, the Tigers rallied to win 5-4 on a walk-off single by Kramer Robertson, earning the right to advance to today’s double-elimination round of the NCAA Regional. If you’re one of several fans I heard from who turned off the TV before the game was finished, well, you missed a great one. Lesson learned: Never count out these Fighting Tigers! 

As incredible as his clutch hit was, Robertson was far from the only hero in the game.  Major props are due to Greg Deichmann who led off the ninth with what might have been the furthest hit homer a Tiger has ever launched in Hoover. Deichmann was also responsible for a one-out RBI double two innings prior to plate the Tigers’ first run. And how bout Jesse Stallings and Hunter Newman who pitched the final 2.2 innings and completely shut the door on the Vols, retiring all eight batters they faced?

Perhaps the most encouraging and uplifting component of the game in terms of what it means going forward for the Tigers was the pitching of redshirt freshman Jake Latz. Making just his fourth collegiate appearance and his first SEC start, Latz retired six batters in a row after giving up a leadoff single in his two innings of work. I heard from a few of you who questioned why Latz wasn’t left in longer, but I fully support Coach Mainieri’s pre-game decision to limit Latz to two innings. After all he’s gone through to get this point, including surgery in November, the last thing one wants to do is throw out his arm. It’s better to take it safe and slow with anyone in his situation, especially someone with such a bright future and such major potential to aid the Tigers in postseason play.

I also heard from several of you about LSU getting thrown out three times at home plate. As I’ve stated before, there have been plenty of times this season when LSU hurt itself by being overly aggressive on the base paths. In last night’s game, however, I do understand third base coach Nolan Cain sending the runners home on the questionable plays, considering the situation. In my opinion, those outs were more about Tennessee defenders making exceptional throws than about what might have been bad coaching decisions on LSU’s part. 

For those of you who missed the thriller, here’s a quick summary of LSU’s four-run come-form-behind rally: Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the seventh, Bryce Jordan led off with a double and scored on Deichmann’s one-out double. With two outs, Cole Freeman singled to right to make it 4-2. After Fraley drew a walk, Robertson singled to left field to score Freeman before Duplantis was thrown out at home on a perfect throw. In the ninth, trailing 4-3, Deichmann led off the inning by hitting a 2-2 fastball way over the centerfield wall to tie the game. Beau Jordan walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, pinch-runner Brennan Breaux advanced to third base on a wild pitch, and Fraley was intentionally walked to load the bases for Robertson. That’s when the junior leader of the team atoned for two earlier errors at shortstop by blasting a base hit down the third-base line for the walk-off win! 

Here is LSU’s video recap of the game, and here’s a great video of Robertson’s postgame interview where he talks about the amazing finish.

With the win, No. 5 seed LSU (40-17) earned the right to advance to the double-elimination round where they’ll face No. 4 seed Florida (44-11) tonight at 8 pm CT. They also avoided what would have been Coach Mainieri’s first loss in round one of an SEC tournament since arriving at LSU. In tonight’s game, Alex Lange will get the start on the mound for LSU while Florida is expected to go with projected first round pick AJ Puk in what’s sure to be another thriller. As was last night’s game, this one will be televised on the SEC Network and streamed on WatchESPN.

Turning to football recruiting news, LSU landed yet another commitment yesterday – it’s fifth in five days – when offensive guard Saahdiq Charles gave his verbal pledge to the Tigers. At 6-foot-5, 314 pounds, Charles is a huge get for the Tigers both literally and figuratively.  247Sports has him ranked as the No. 7 prospect in Mississippi and the 15th best offensive guard in the nation for 2017. A native of New Orleans, Charles and his family were displaced by Hurricane Katrina and eventually wound up in Jackson, Mississippi, where Charles played defensive end and tackle at Madison-Ridgeland Academy before a teammate’s injury caused him to be moved to offense. Charles did so well on that side of scrimmage that offensive guard became his permeant position even after his teammate’s return from injury. Charles chose LSU over offers from Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Cincinnati and a handful of other schools. With his pledge, LSU’s 2017 recruiting class moved ahead of Alabama and Miami and now occupies the No. 3 spot in 247Sports’ National Team Recruiting Rankings

Now let’s conclude today’s report with the continuation of our series on LSU’s 2016 opponents. We left off yesterday with the Bama battle and we’ll pick up today with the fight in Fayetteville. If you missed the previous installments of this series, you can find them here.

Week 11 - Nov. 12 at Arkansas

While Alabama is definitely LSU’s arch rival, the Arkansas Razorbacks have become a formidable challenge to the Tigers over the last several years. After narrow victories in 2012 and 2013, LSU has been thoroughly beaten by the Hogs the last two years. Entering his fourth season as Arkansas’ head coach, Bret Bielema has the Razorbacks trending in the right direction, improving the team from 3-9 in 2013 to 7-6 and 8-5 in 2014 and 2015, respectively. One reason Arkansas has enjoyed success over LSU the prior two seasons is their ability to match LSU’s talent in the trenches of the offensive and defensive lines. Despite the loss of running back Alex Collins, the Hogs are expected to reload with Kody Walker, Rawleigh Williams and Devwah Whaley in the backfield. At quarterback, the likely replacement for three-year starter and departing senior Brandon Allen is his younger brother, Austin, who is considered by many to be more talented. He’ll be helped by having five of the Razorbacks’ top six receivers returning, although the Hogs will be faced with replacing highly heralded Hunter Henry at tight end, a position Bielema’s offenses have used extensively in the passing game. On the other side of scrimmage, the Razorbacks return nine starters on a defense that allowed only 116.5 rushing yards per contest last year. The returning talent on both sides of the ball (5 offense, 9 defense), Bielema’s track record of improvement, and the fact this game will be in Fayetteville make this one of LSU’s most difficult contests of the 2016 season.

Stay tuned as tomorrow we’ll conclude this series before beginning our 100-day countdown to the start of LSU’s 2016 season on Thursday.

 

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