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LSU vs. BYU - September 2nd, 8:30 PM CT
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5/18/17 5:50 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans, it’s Game Day!

If you’re an LSU baseball fan, the next three days are about as good as regular-season baseball gets as the No. 5 Tigers are set to battle the No. 9 Bulldogs of Mississippi in a hugely important series beginning tonight at 6:00 p.m. At stake this weekend is an SEC West title, and possibly an overall conference championship, depending on the outcome of the Florida-Kentucky series. Making this regular season finale in Starkville even more compelling is the storyline of LSU Coach Paul Mainieri facing his former assistant, new Mississippi State head coach Andy Cannizzaro, who has done a spectacular job in his first year at the helm of the Bulldogs’ program. 

While there was a lot of talk earlier this season about LSU missing Cannizzaro, the numbers show that LSU’s hitting has been remarkably similar under the direction of hitting coach Micah Gibbs. The Tigers are hitting .292 this season, which is second-best in the SEC and almost identical to last year’s season-ending mark of .295. Similarly, the Tigers are averaging 6.55 runs per game this year, compared to 6.45 in 2016. By comparison, Mississippi State is third in the SEC with a batting average of .287 and is averaging 5.85 runs per game. Of course, stats never tell the whole story and there are a lot of factors in play here, including returning talent. Still, I find these numbers interesting.

Where the “Cannizzaro effect” is more obvious this year – both in terms of LSU’s production without him and Mississippi State’s production with him – is on the base paths. Last year, LSU averaged 1.44 steals per game, whereas this year they are averaging 1.09 despite having more speed in the lineup. Mississippi State averaged 0.81 steals per game last year and are averaging a 1.25 this year. This implies something that most Tiger fans probably already know: Andy Cannizzaro loves to steal bases and put pressure on opposing teams’ defenses. That should make for an interesting point of observation in this series as LSU catcher Michael Papierski has been outstanding in preventing stolen bases. So far this season, he’s gunned down a league-best 20 would-be base stealers.

Another thing to watch in this series: Mississippi State junior first baseman Brent Rooker. This guy leads the nation with a slugging percentage of .885 and sits atop the SEC in batting average (.406), RBI (71) and home runs (20). Many say he’s a shoo-in for the SEC’s Player of the Year award.

Series Record: 

Mississippi State leads the overall series with LSU, 203-179-1, and the first meeting between the teams occurred in 1905. Last year, the teams split four games – MSU won two of three regular-season games over the Tigers in Baton Rouge, and LSU posted a 6-2 win over the Bulldogs in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament. LSU has won nine of the last 10 SEC series with the Bulldogs – last season’s MSU series win in Baton Rouge broke a string of nine straight series wins for LSU over Mississippi State from 2007-15. LSU coach Paul Mainieri has a 25-13 career mark against Mississippi State.

Pitching Match-ups, Start Times & Coverage:

Game 1 - Thursday, 6 p.m., SEC Network (TV)
LSU – Jr. RHP Alex Lange (6-5, 2.92 ERA, 83.1 IP, 28 BB, 100 SO)
MSU – So. LHP Konnor Pilkington (6-4, 3.44 ERA, 81.0 IP, 35 BB, 91 SO) 

Game 2 - Friday, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network + (online only)
LSU – Sr. LHP Jared Poché (8-3, 3.16 ERA, 79.2 IP, 25 BB, 50 SO)
MSU – Fr. RHP Denver McQuary (2-2, 3.89 ERA, 39.1 IP, 32 BB, 31 SO) 

Game 3 - Saturday, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU (TV)
LSU – Fr. RHP Eric Walker (6-1, 3.77 ERA, 74.0 IP, 19 BB, 58 SO)
MSU – TBA 

In other baseball news, hats off to Jared Poché for being named to the SEC Baseball Community Service team. This is an honor given to one athlete from each school who gives back to his community in “superior service activities.” Poché, a native of Lutcher, La., accumulated 79 community service hours during the year by performing tasks such as helping residents who were tragically affected by the August flooding, instructing youth baseball camps, and lifting the spirits of young patients at the Shriners’ Hospital for Children in Houston. Poché, who graduated from LSU last week with a degree in kinesiology, was also voted to the 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll and was the recipient of the 2016 Wally Pontiff Jr. Scholar Athlete Award for LSU Baseball. I’ve always been a big fan of Poché the pitcher, but after learning all of this about him I’m an even bigger fan of Poché the person.

In softball, LSU will begin NCAA play tomorrow against Fairfield at 5:30 p.m. in Tiger Park. Look for more on that game in tomorrow’s report.

Switching gears… Congratulations to the LSU men’s golf team for winning its first-ever NCAA regional in Baton Rouge to qualify for nationals next week. The Tigers (+2) won the event with an 8-stroke victory over Duke (+10). Joining LSU in advancing to the regionals were defending champions Oregon, Duke, Virginia and Jacksonville. Leading the way for LSU in regional action was sophomore Sam Burns who opened with a collegiate course record 7-under-par 65 on Monday and finished at 4-under 212 - one stroke ahead of Oregon's No. 1-ranked Wyndham Clark. For more details, here’s the full press release by LSU.

In football news, msn.com released its “Top 10 players not among Heisman favorites that deserve attention” and LSU was well represented. As a Tiger fan, I would not have expected Derrius Guice to be on this list since I think of him as a Heisman favorite, but the article suggests that the early favorites are Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley. Right after these four, ranked No. 1 on MSN’s list of Heisman challengers who deserve more attention, is Guice. Author Paul Myerberg suggests the junior running back should have an easy time surpassing his 1,378 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns from a season ago now that he’s the featured back. And at No. 5 on the list was a player Tiger fans can’t wait to see back on the field, Arden Key. 

Speaking of Heisman hopefuls and LSU reminds me to close out with the news of Leonard Fournette inking a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Fournette, who was taken fourth overall in the recent NFL draft, signed a four-year deal Wednesday that is expected to be worth more than $27 million, with a signing bonus of about $18 million. I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing Fournette nothing but the best at the next level, as he provided a wealth of memories for Tiger fans the past three seasons while always representing LSU with class.

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5/17/17 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

In a game where five Tiger runs were scored on three homers, LSU defeated Northwestern State 9-3 in the final mid-week game of the regular season. With the win, LSU improved to 36-17 on the season and continued to build momentum heading into this weekend’s huge series against Mississippi State. LSU has now won four consecutive games and nine of its last 11, calling to mind the expression, “Getting hot at the right time.”

While the offensive fireworks were nice, the real highlight of the game was the pitching of freshman Todd Peterson. I wrote yesterday that a strong performance by Peterson would likely earn him a spot as the Tigers’ fourth starter in tournament play. Well, after seeing him in action last night, I suspect that role is his. Peterson turned in his best outing of the season with five economical innings of four-hit ball with five strikeouts and only one walk. LSU would go on to pitch seven different pitchers in the final four innings with mostly good results. The only one of the group who allowed a run was freshman Will Reese who faced just three batters but gave up two earned runs on a leadoff walk and a one-out homer. Aside from Reese’s rough patch, it was a solid night for LSU’s pitching.

Offensively, the Tigers collected 14 hits on the night and were led by Kramer Robertson who went 4-for-5 with a homer and two doubles. Anchored by Robertson’s success, the Tigers’ top of the order – Robertson, Freeman, and Duplantis – hit a combined 7-for-11 with a pair of RBI. Clean-up hitter Greg Deichmann chipped in two RBI on an extremely hard-hit (114.8 MPH off the bat) two-run homer, his 17th dinger of the season. LSU’s other homer in the game, also a two-run shot, came from freshman Zach Watson who’s been on fire of late. While dishing out props, I would be remiss to leave out Michael Papierski and Nick Coomes who each had two hits on the night. Those two guys, along with Watson, have been hugely instrumental in the Tigers’ success the last few weeks.  

Here are LSU’s video highlights and the complete boxscore.

With last night’s game in the books, every one of the Tigers’ remaining games will have a championship at stake. Next up, LSU faces Andy Cannizzaro’s Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville for the final SEC series of the season with an SEC West Championship on the line. That series gets underway tomorrow (Thursday) at 6 p.m. CT on the SEC Network. After that, it’s the SEC Tournament which kicks off Tuesday in Hoover. Buckle up, Tiger Fans, things are about to get real and LSU is in prime position to make this season the special season we thought it would be back in February. It’s a great time to be a Tiger!

Oh, one more baseball note: Many of you are probably wondering about the status of Greg Deichmann who was assisted off the field with an apparent knee injury after tripping over the first baseman in the eighth inning. The good news is that Deichmann is fine. According to reports, he said after the game that he was 100% and could have played in the ninth inning if needed. 

Turning to football, congratulations are in order for former LSU tight end DeSean Smith who was signed by the Carolina Panthers yesterday. Smith participated as a tryout player in Carolina’s rookie camp and impressed enough to make the roster. I couldn’t be happier for him. You might recall that Smith and Trey Quinn made up the best pass-catching duo in the state in 2011 when they played together at Barbe High School. We at DandyDon had huge expectations for both of those players at LSU, and I think it’s safe to say that neither was able to fully shine as Tigers for one reason or another. Here’s wishing Smith the brightest of careers as a Panther.

In recruiting news, it’s no secret that running back and wide receiver are the two biggest positions of need in LSU’s 2018 class, and there’s some news to pass along about the later. According to SEC Country, LSU and Florida State lead for four-star receiver Joshua Moore (6-0, 170, IMG Academy). Why? Because those are the only two schools who have offered him the possibility to participate in both football and track and field. LSU offered him a track scholarship yesterday afternoon. He is expected to announce his school of choice one month from tomorrow, on June 18th. 

One more recruiting brief: LSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada reportedly was in Atlanta yesterday to visit with Justin Fields, one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2018 class. Fields has been committed to Penn State for a while and has said recently that his commitment is firm, but that hasn’t stopped LSU and a host of other schools including Georgia and Florida from pursuing him. 

Closing tidbits: 

• Here’s a good Q&A with LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda by The Advocate: LSU DC Dave Aranda on how heavily he'll rely on incoming freshmen, his scheme change in Year 2, Grant Delpit and Devin White

• And in this article by the Advocate, Ross Dellenger writes about something that Joe Alleva has been telling crowds during this year’s Tiger Tour stops: That major changes could be coming to the PMAC: Architects planning major renovations to 'modernize' LSU's PMAC

Lastly, a tidbit on LSU pass rusher extraordinaire Arden Key. Yesterday he posted this video of himself working on an agility drill with a caption that read, “One more week until I'm back in the lab!!”



 

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