NCAA Baseball Championships:
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3/19/17 5:55 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Despite having a baseball game, two softball games, and an NCAA women’s basketball tournament game to recap, I’m going to do something today I’ve never done before and lead with a word on gymnastics. Why? Because the LSU gym team pulled off something really special yesterday in winning the program’s first SEC Championship since 1981. After earning the SEC’s regular season title two weeks ago, the Tigers dominated the SEC Championship meet to make the season even more spectacular. They did so by earning an overall score of 198.075 and claiming five event titles along the way. Senior Ashleigh Gnat earned the titles on vault (a perfect 10!), beam and floor. Sophomore Lexie Priessman won the individual title on bars. Fellow sophomore McKenna Kelley also earned a share of the floor title for the Tigers. Here are a few video highlights for your enjoyment.
The convergence of my youngest daughter beginning gymnastics and LSU having such an exceptional season has really piqued my interest in this sport and has shown me what incredible dedication it takes to excel at the sport. It’s also shown me that these Tiger gymnasts are at least as dedicated to their craft as any football, baseball, softball or basketball player, and every bit as athletically talented. In fact, I’d bet that some of these 5-foot Tiger gymnasts could learn to dunk a basketball with a mid-flight flip and a twist. If you still haven’t seen what it’s all about, you can still see the Tigers in action this season in NCAA postseason competition which begins next week. More on that in a subsequent report.
Now on to baseball… Behind a strong, gutsy performance from Jared Poché on the mound and another outstanding outing from Antoine Duplantis at the plate, the Tigers secured their first SEC series win with a 5-1 victory over Georgia. Poché (5-0) wasn’t at his sharpest but still managed to work seven strong innings while allowing only one run on seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts. The senior southpaw got himself into several jams, but showed great composure and kept the ball down in the zone where his defense could help him. And man did it ever. The Tigers turned three double plays to get Poché out of innings – one in the first, another in the second, and a huge one with the bases loaded in the sixth. Caleb Gilbert entered in the eighth and earned his first save of the year by pitching two scoreless innings. Seven innings by Poché and two by Gilbert is a great bullpen-saving combination that I hope, and expect, to see often this season.
Offensively, the Tigers missed out on several golden opportunities and only collected four hits, but still managed to score five runs. Three of the five runs came off the red-hot bat of Antoine Duplantis who followed his historic six-hit night with two hits in four at-bats including a solo homer and a 2-RBI single. I don’t know what to say about this young man from down here in Cajun country other than he is simply en feu! In the two games so far this weekend, Duplantis has 8 hits and 10 RBI.
For those of you curious as to how LSU scored five runs on four hits, below is a brief scoring recap to go along with this complete boxscore. LSU has not yet released video highlights.
In the bottom of the second inning, Zach Watson walked and Jake Slaughter was hit by a pitch. After a wild pitch advanced the runners, Josh Smith hit an RBI groundout that gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Georgia evened the score in the top of the fourth on a solo home run to right field hit by McGovern. That hit ended Poché’s remarkable streak of scoreless innings pitched at 32, and earned him a well-deserved ovation from the Alex Box Stadium crowd. The Bulldogs’ lead would not last long, as a solo shot by Duplantis in the bottom half of the inning put the Tigers back up, 2-1. Duplantis continued his hot hitting in the bottom of the fifth, shooting a two-RBI single through the right side of the infield with the bases loaded to make it 4-1. LSU added a run in the bottom of the eighth on a bases-loaded walk to make the final score 5-1.
The Tigers will go for the series sweep today at 1 p.m. with freshman right-hander Eric Walker (2-0, 2.14 ERA) on the mound. He’ll face junior right-hander Chase Adkins (3-0, 2.08 ERA) of Georgia. Just like the first two games of this series, today’s can be seen online on SECN+, accessible at WatchESPN.com and via the WatchESPN app.
Turning to the hardwood, LSU suffered a heartbreaking 55-52 loss against Cal last night in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament. The Lady Tigers and Lady Bears traded leads in the fourth until Asha Thomas hit a 3-pointer with a minute remaining to give Cal a 53-50 advantage. After a Chloe Jackson jumper, LSU had the ball with 30 seconds but Cal star Kristine Anigwe got a crucial block to thwart LSU’s last-second chance. California used its post play to build a nine-point lead in the early goings of the first half. Ten of Cal’s first 13 points came inside the paint, but after a few defensive adjustments, LSU was able to scratch and claw its way back into the game. The Lady Tigers used turnovers to do so, getting 10 of their first 14 points off of turnovers. LSU trailed 31-25 in the first half but effectively limited Anigwe to just two points in the first half. The Tigers tied it up in the third after Jackson made consecutive baskets, and took their first lead of the game in the fourth on a Jackson jumper. Despite having four players reach double-figures in the scoring column, a 33 percent shooting night prevented the Lady Tigers (20-11) from continuing their season.
In softball news, LSU split yesterday’s two contests in the Rock Chalk Challenge. First, the Tigers fell to Tulsa 1-0, as LSU stranded five runners in the loss. LSU’s best opportunity for victory came in the sixth inning when Emily Griggs doubled before advancing to third on a Bailey Landry bunt. Unfortunately, the Tigers were unable to capitalize when back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning. Carley Hoover drew the loss after allowing just one hit and striking out eight in six innings pitched. It didn’t take long for LSU to bounce back, as the bats heated up in a 7-3 victory against Kansas. Sahvanna Jaquish, Allie Walljasper, and Taylor Satchell homered in the victory. Landry, Aliyah Andrews and Satchell each produced two hits. Walljasper picked up the win after allowing just one hit and striking out three. Up next for LSU is a home game against Nicholls State at 6 p.m. Tuesday. For a full recap of yesterday’s games, here’s LSU’s press release.
Today’s closing tidbits:
• There’s no big news to pass along in football recruiting, although all indications, including several tweets from prospects in attendance, suggest that LSU’s Junior Day event was a success. LSU did not secure any public commitments, but they did extend an offer to a new quarterback target – Jarren Williams (6-2, 206) of Lawrenceville, Georgia. Williams is a dual-threat quarterback currently committed to Kentucky.
• As I do most weeks, I’ll leave you with a good read to go along with your second cup of Sunday morning coffee: The Advocate: How close was K.J. Malone to leaving LSU this winter? Real close
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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