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3/18/17 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

The LSU baseball team came out swinging to open SEC play and defeated Georgia 22-9 in an offensive explosion. The Tigers’ bats were historically hot, and it’s a good thing too, considering that starter Alex Lange struggled on the mound. We’ll have more on Lange and the pitching in a bit, but let’s start with the Tigers’ offensive clinic.

I said earlier that LSU’s bats were historically hot, but to be more precise, it was Antoine Duplantis who made history with his remarkable hitting. The sophomore from my hometown of Lafayette etched his name in the LSU record book by becoming the only Tiger to ever collect six hits in a game as he went 6-for-6 with seven runs batted in. As remarkable as that accomplishment is, it was nearly matched by senior Kramer Robertson who went 5-for-5, making the two the only pair of LSU players in school history to collect at least five hits apiece in the same game. Duplantis and Robertson were far from the only players to produce offensively. In fact, every Tiger in the starting lineup crossed home plate and all but Josh Smith collected at least one hit in the 22-hit, 22-run rampage. While the 22 runs scored were not a school record, they were the most by a Tiger team in nearly 20 years and far more than enough to overcome a less-than-stellar night on the mound for LSU ace Alex Lange. 

In a night where LSU was hoping to see Alex Lange go deep into the game, LSU’s ace was unable to make it out of the fifth inning. Things were rough from the get-go for Lange as he allowed four runs on two walks, a double and a three-run homer in the first inning alone. He would go on to pitch a total of 4.1 innings while allowing a career-high eight runs on eight hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. Austin Bain entered in relief in the fifth and fired 2.2 innings to earn the win. Bain allowed one run on four hits while walking two and striking out three. Freshmen Matthew Beck and Will Reese each pitched a scoreless inning to close things out. Overall, it was a solid outing from the LSU bullpen, but obviously a disappointing one from Lange.

Since there were a whopping 31-runs scored in the game, I hope you’ll excuse me for not giving you a written scoring recap. What I do have for you, though, are these LSU video highlights and this complete boxscore.

The Tigers will look to secure their opening SEC series win today when they return to action for Game 2 at 6:30 p.m. Jared Poché will get the start on the mound and try to continue his phenomenal streak of scoreless innings pitched, which is currently at 29. Just like last night’s game, today’s will be viewable online at WatchESPN.com or via the WatchESPN app. 

Speaking of series wins, it’s time to give you the results of the poll we conducted yesterday asking how many SEC series you think the Tigers will win. The winner with 40% of the vote was “seven.” In second place with 30% of the vote was “eight.” In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll tell you that my vote was for “seven,” though if the Tigers swing the bat like they did last night, it could easily be more. Of course, the flip side to that is if Lange doesn’t snap back from his rough outing it could be hard to reach seven.

In football recruiting news, LSU is holding its annual Junior Day event today. This article by SECCountry.com highlights some of the headliners who are expected to attend, which include the state’s top prospect for 2018, wide receiver Terrace Marshall, his Parkway teammate, quarterback Justin Rogers, and a pair of five-stars from Texas – running back BJ Foster of Arlington and cornerback Anthony Cook of Houston. Of course, these players represent just a small sampling of the many elite 2018 prospects who will be in attendance. And, despite the name of the event, there will be many top sophomores (class of 2019) there too. These include five-stars like running back Noah Cain of Bradenton, Florida and Georgia linebackers Owen Pappoe and  J.D. Bertrand. Typically, LSU picks up a commitment or two at this event (last year it was in-state linebacker Patrick Queen who gave his verbal pledge), and if any commitments break today I’ll be sure to let you know.

Just as it was a great day in LSU baseball, yesterday was also a big day for the LSU softball team. The Tigers improved to 22-6 with two wins in the Rock Chalk Challenge in Lawrence, Kansas. In the first game, LSU shut out Omaha 7-0 with the offensive highlight being Bailey Landry’s three-run homer. In Game 2, LSU defeated  Kansas 10-2 in six innings. Sydney Springfield led the Tigers at the plate in that one by going 3-4 with a pair of home runs and six runs batted in. LSU will close out the Rock Chalk Challenge today with a game at 9 a.m. against Tulsa and another at 11:30 a.m. against Southeast Missouri State. Both games will be televised live on Cox Sports Television.

Attention LSU gymnastics fans: The second-ranked LSU gymnastics team (13-1, 7-0 SEC) will compete for the 2017 SEC Championship at 5 p.m. CT today inside Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville. If you thinking to yourself, “Wait, I thought LSU already won the SEC?” what you’re thinking of is the fact that LSU won the regular season SEC title. The Championship meet today, which is kind of equivalent to the SEC tournament in baseball (well, except that it’s not a tournament), will be televised live on the SEC Network with Bart Conner, Kathy Jonson Clarke and Laura Rutledge on the call. It will also be streamed live on WatchESPN. 

Between softball in the morning, gym in the afternoon and baseball at night, Tiger fans could make a full day of watching nothing but LSU sports. While that sounds tempting, I have other plans in mind. After a morning in the garden, I’ll be enjoying our first family crawfish boil of the season, hosted by my niece in celebration of my sister’s birthday (which was yesterday) and my birthday (which is coming up a little later this month). However you spend your Saturday, make it a good one, and be sure to tune in tomorrow for a recap of today’s action.

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3/17/17 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

Borrowing Coach Paul Mainieri’s words, “the 30-day grind we call the SEC schedule” begins tonight at 7 p.m. when the 6th ranked LSU baseball team (13-5) opens a three-game series versus Georgia (8-10, 0-0 SEC) at The Box. Game 2 of the series starts tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. and Game 3 is set to begin at 1 p.m. CT Sunday. All three games can be viewed live online via SEC Network +, accessible at WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app.

In just a bit, I’d like to gauge your confidence in this LSU team by conducting a poll asking how many of LSU’s 10 SEC series you think the Tigers will win this season, but before doing that, it’s only fair that I pass along a bit of news…

According to multiple reports, Coach Mainieri stated yesterday that LSU closer Hunter Newman has a back injury that could keep him out of action for two to six weeks. In his absence, LSU will look to Caleb Gilbert to serve as LSU’s closer. This is a tough blow for an LSU team that’s already having to deal with losing featured bullpen pitcher Doug Norman who injured his elbow against Maryland on Sunday, February 26th and will be out for the season. The news of Newman’s injury makes Wednesday night’s strong performances by Austin Bain, Russell Reynold, Matthew Beck and Collin Strall all the more significant. It also makes me suspect we’ll see Mainieri use current Game 4 starter Zach Hess in a  primary relief role and go with a “Johnny Wholestaff” approach for midweek games. LSU is fortunate to have that option this year after struggling in recent years to identify even a solid third starter.

With that said, let’s get to that poll I mentioned. Last year, I forgot to conduct the poll until after LSU lost it’s opening series to Alabama. When I conducted the poll a few days later asking how many of the remaining SEC series you thought LSU would win, the top vote-getter was “six” with 30.72% of the vote. As it turned out, that was correct. LSU lost the next weekend’s series but then went on to win six of the next eight. So, without further ado, please take a moment to click the link below and cast your vote. Voting will close at 6:55 p.m., just before the start of tonight’s game.

Poll: How many of the Tigers’ 10 SEC series will LSU win this season?

Now back to this weekend’s games… LSU leads the all-time series with Georgia, 64-22-3, and this is the first meeting between the teams since 2015 when LSU swept a two-game series in Athens (Game 3 of the series was canceled due to rain). LSU has won nine of its last 11 SEC regular-season series versus UGA and holds a 13-7-2 advantage over the Bulldogs in games played during the past nine seasons.

The Bulldogs are 8-10 on the season and are coming off a 4-3, 12-inning loss to Mercer on Tuesday and an 8-7 win over Presbyterian on Wednesday. As a team, the Bulldogs are batting .259 on the year, which ranks 12th in the SEC. Their leading hitter is catcher Michael Curry, who is hitting .294 with two doubles, five homers, and 22 RBI. Curry is second in the SEC in homers and fourth in the league in RBI. LSU, on the other hand, enters the series fourth in the SEC in hitting with a .315 team average. Second baseman Cole Freeman is the league’s second-leading hitter, batting .444 with five doubles and 11 RBI. Right fielder Greg Deichmann leads the SEC in homers with seven and is second in the league in RBI with 24.

Here’s a look at the series pitching matchups:

Game 1 - Friday, 7 p.m.
LSU – Jr. RHP Alex Lange (3-1, 3.05 ERA, 20.2 IP, 5 BB, 29 SO)
UGA – Sr. LHP Andrew Gist (0-0, 2.20 ERA, 16.1 IP, 2 BB, 21 SO) 

Game 2 - Saturday, 6:30 p.m
LSU – Sr. LHP Jared Poché (4-0, 0.00 ERA, 29.0 IP, 2 BB, 18 SO)
UGA – Fr. RHP Tony Locey (2-2, 7.47 ERA, 15.2 IP, 12 BB, 15 SO) 

Game 3 - Sunday, 1 p.m.
LSU – Fr. RHP Eric Walker (2-0, 2.14 ERA, 21.0 IP, 5 BB, 22 SO)
UGA – Jr. RHP Chase Adkins (3-0, 2.08 ERA, 26.0 IP, 8 BB, 20 SO) 

Switching gears to football, the LSU football team practiced in full pads yesterday for the first time this spring. In years past, that would mean the internet would be full of Big Cat videos today, but that was before the regime change.  There was no such drill yesterday. According to all reports, the quarterbacks and receivers appeared to be much more in sync in yesterday’s practice. Other noteworthy tidbits picked up from media reports include TE Jamal Pettigrew being out with an undisclosed injury and former LSU star and potential first-round NFL draft pick Jamal Adams watching from the sidelines. I also understand that LSU had another important visitor observing the practice – four-star linebacker James Miller of Seffner, Florida. 

In other football news, here’s a good article by The Advocate on sophomore cornerback Kevin Toliver. In it, author Ross Dellenger writes about Toliver coming to LSU as the nation’s top-ranked prospect but then struggling in his sophomore year after a promising freshman campaign. The struggle, he writes, was due to a combination of two injuries – one to the shoulder and another to the knee - inconsistent play and, even, a suspension for missing team meetings. Toliver is now fully healthy, in a better mental state, and running as the No. 1 cornerback opposite Donté Jackson in LSU’s practices.

Today’s closing tidbits: 

• The LSU softball team improved to 20-6 with a 4-3 win over Wichita State in extra innings. Freshman Sydney Springfield hit the game-winning home run in the come-from-behind win. More on the game including the complete boxscore can be found here. Next up for the Tigers is a doubleheader in the Rock Chalk Challenge in Lawrence, Kansas. The first game, against Omaha, is set to being in a few hours at 9 a.m. The second will be against Kansas at 4:30 p.m. Cox Sports Television will have coverage of the second game.   

• Don’t forget to take a moment to vote in our poll asking, “How many of the Tigers’ 10 SEC series will LSU win this season?” Voting will close at 6:55 p.m., just before the start of tonight’s game.



 

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