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6/17/17 5:50 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans, it’s Game Day!
Today’s the day all of us LSU baseball fanatics have been eagerly awaiting for two years - the day the Fighting Tigers return to College World Series action in an attempt to win their seventh CWS championship. Tonight’s game between the Florida State Seminoles (45-21) and our beloved Tigers (48-17) gets underway at 7 p.m. CT and will be televised by ESPN. The game will also be streamed online at WatchESPN.com and via the Watch ESPN app and can be heard on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 FM in Baton Rouge). For those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter, I will be tweeting a few comments and stats throughout the game.
As you already know from previous reports, Alex Lange will get the start in tonight’s game, but what you might not have heard is LSU’s pitching plans for Game 2 on Monday. Yesterday Coach Mainieri revealed that he plans to start freshman right-hander Eric Walker on Monday (not senior southpaw Jared Poché), provided Walker feels well. Walker threw a simulated game on Saturday and felt some unusual forearm soreness afterward. He will throw again before tonight’s game, and if all is well he’ll get the start on Monday. What that means is that Poché would be available to enter in relief of Lange in tonight’s game should he be needed.
In our previous two reports, we wrote about two keys to an LSU victory and today we’ll give you a third one…
Keys to an LSU Victory Over Florida State | Part 3 of 3
3. Play the stadium well
Much like The Hoover Met, TD Ameritrade Park is characterized by a roomy, but sometimes tricky, outfield. Ever since 2012 and a Super Regional loss at home to Stony Brook, the Tigers’ outfield has been built for moments like this, and it’s important that the speedy trio of Greg Deichmann, Zach Watson, and Antoine Duplantis make sure that is an advantage for LSU.
When Lange is on, his breaking ball – when hittable – and his changeup induce fly balls that tend to hang up, but can also carry, depending on his velocity. As Watson especially showed in Hoover, the ability to go and get balls that might split gaps in smaller outfields could be a major shot in the arm for a defense that is already rock-solid.
With runs so hard to come by in the cavernous stadium, getting to fly balls and saving bases will be a massive hidden detail to watch.
If you missed our first two keys to an LSU victory – 1. Big dog needs to set the tone; and 2. Left-handed adjustments – you can find the complete three-part mini series here.
Here is tonight’s pitching matchup and a few miscellaneous notes about tonight’s game:
LSU – Jr. RHP Alex Lange (9-5, 2.92 ERA, 111.0 IP, 40 BB, 134 SO)
FSU – So. LHP Tyler Holton (10-2, 2.25 ERA, 112.0 IP, 29 BB, 139 SO)
• Florida State is extremely disciplined at the plate and leads the entire nation in bases on balls. This makes things especially interesting with Alex Lange on the mound tonight, as his “out pitch” is often that filthy curveball that ends up low in the zone or in the dirt.
• Tonight’s game marks the first meeting between LSU and Florida State since the semifinal round of the 2000 CWS, when LSU posted a 6-3 win over the Seminoles and went on to defeat Stanford in the CWS championship game. The Tigers are 2-1 all-time vs. Florida State in CWS games; along with the aforementioned 2000 matchup, LSU defeated FSU, 6-2, in the 1987 CWS, and the Seminoles posted a 6-3 win over the Tigers in the 1994 CWS. Florida State leads the overall series with LSU, 9-7.
• LSU has the highest winning percentage in NCAA Tournament history with a 148-58 (.718) record and is competing in the tournament for the 30th time.
• The Tigers are making their 18th College World Series appearance (all since 1986). LSU and Cal State Fullerton are tied for seventh place in all-time CWS berths. The Tigers have won six CWS titles (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2009) and are tied with Texas for the second-most CWS championships. First-place Southern California has 12.
I hope all of you enjoy today's game, and I look forward to recapping a Tiger win in my morning report.
Turning to football, The Advocate reports that Willie Allen, the former John Curtis offensive tackle who announced his departure from LSU earlier this month, is barred from transferring to TCU. According to the article, LSU believes there was illegal contact between TCU and Allen, and that’s the reason for Coach Orgeron’s decision to bar him from joining the Horned Frogs. Allen reportedly indicated via a text message to The Advocate that despite the blocking, he has “nothing but love & respect for Coach O.” Likewise, Coach Orgeron has indicated that if Allen decides to come back to LSU, he would be welcomed.
Moving on, let’s continue our countdown to the start of LSU’s highly-anticipated football season, which has reached the 77-day mark. You may recognize that today’s countdown topic has been used in previous years, but it’s just so fitting for the number 77 that I had to repeat it. Of course, I’m talking about LSU’s 77-0 thrashing of Rice in the year 1977. There were several records set that night, and most of them involved sophomore split end Carlos Carson who entered the game having never caught a pass in his collegiate career. Carlos left Tiger Stadium that night having caught five passes, all for touchdowns. In doing so, he broke the NCAA record for the most consecutive touchdown passes, and the SEC records for the most touchdowns in a game and most average yards per catch, 40.2. It was an unprecedented individual performance that we’ll probably never see matched again. Carlos earned All-SEC honors that year and ended his LSU career in 1979 with a total of 89 receptions for 1,728 yards and 14 TDs. The 5-foot-11 receiver was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 1980 NFL Draft and went on to a very successful 10-season career in the NFL where he was a Pro-Bowl selection in 1983.
I’d be remiss to not also mention last year’s No. 77, center Ethan Pocic, who finished a brilliant four-year career that included 37 starts and First Team All SEC and All American selections in 2016. Pocic was selected in the second round of this year’s NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks, and I know I speak for all Tiger fans when I wish him the absolute best of luck in his NFL career.
• Following its third-straight appearance in the Women's College World Series and the fourth under head coach Beth Torina, the LSU softball team finished 2017 ranked sixth in USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Softball Top-25 polls. LSU will have a hard time replacing senior All-Americans Bailey Landry and Sahvanna Jaquish, but will return five of eight position players plus pitchers Carley Hoover and Allie Walljasper. (For more on this topic, see the full press release from LSU.)
• If you’re in Omaha or heading that way (I’m jealous), don’t forget to check out our reader-submitted suggestions for Things to See and Do in Omaha.
• If you’ve got some extra time this Saturday morning, here’s a great article posted last night by the Advocate called, “Skip Bertman and Paul Mainieri: Two Miami boys, best friends and LSU coaching winners.”
I’ll close this daily dose on a personal note: Today marks my 22nd wedding anniversary, and I want to thank my lovely bride, Heather, for putting up with me all these years, and for being such an outstanding mother to our three beautiful daughters. As for the Game Day/Anniversary dilemma I mentioned a couple of days ago – we’ve decided to handle it by celebrating the occasion while in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, next week instead of tonight.
6/16/17 5:45 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
The LSU baseball team landed in Omaha yesterday and were greeted by a throng of Tiger Fans as they began a new College World Series chapter in the book of LSU baseball. LSU’s flight arrived at Eppley Airfield in Omaha just before noon on Thursday, and the team checked into its CWS headquarters, the Embassy Suites Old Market on 10th Street. The team practiced yesterday at Creighton University and will step onto the field at TD Ameritrade Park today for a one-hour practice starting at 11:10 a.m. CT Afterward, the team will sign autographs for about 45 minutes. The day will conclude with the College World Series Opening Ceremonies at 8:30 p.m. CT where all eight teams will parade out onto the field. A show by the U.S. Golden Knights parachute team will follow, along with a concert by Grammy-nominated Aloe Blacc and a fireworks show. Sounds like a great time for all, and it’s free to the public.
Of course the main event, CWS baseball, will get underway tomorrow with the first two games being Cal St. Fullerton vs. Oregon St. at 2 p.m and then the one we’re all waiting for, Florida St. vs. LSU at 7 p.m. Sunday Texas A&M will face off against Louisville at 1 p.m. and then it’ll be TCU vs. Florida at 6 p.m. All games will be televised by ESPN except for Sunday’s late game which will be on ESPN2.
Yesterday we started a mini-series on Keys to an LSU Victory over Florida State and will continue it today with Key No. 2 of 3. Thanks to my man Randy Rosetta for his work on this series.
Keys to an LSU Victory Over Florida State | Part 2 of 3
2. Left-handed adjustments
FSU will start left-hander Tyler Holton, and that could be a good sign for the Tigers, who own the SEC’s best team batting average vs. southpaws – .321. However, Holton is one of the top lefties in the country, and with runs likely to be at a premium at spacious TD Ameritrade Park, that throws some onus on the three important left-handed sticks in the Tigers’ batting order.
Antoine Duplantis comes in hitting .389 against left-handers, but Greg Deichmann and Josh Smith have both been vulnerable against southpaws at times. Depending on when those two step to the plate – especially Deichmann – situational hitting has to be razor-sharp when it is lefty-vs.-lefty. If that means calling on Deichmann to bunt in the exact right situation or him understanding that a ground ball that moves a runner into scoring position in late innings is just as vital as a big swing, those notions have to be underscored.
LSU will face some of the best pitching it has all season in Omaha, which ironically could mean more chances for Deichmann because pitchers might be more willing to challenge him. It’s important that he continue to wait for those situations and not get antsy.
Stay tuned for Key No. 3 tomorrow.
Before leaving the topic of baseball, here’s some news that’s not directly related to LSU but could impact the way the CWS plays out. Yesterday it was announced that pitcher Luke Heimlich, a top arm for No. 1 seed Oregon State, will not accompany his team to the College World Series in Omaha. Last week, The Oregonian reported that Heimlich had pleaded guilty to a felony child molestation charge when he was 15 years old. Heimlich decided that it would be best for him to not participate in the CWS, as he explained this way in a statement his family issued to the press: “I'm sad to say I am not joining them because doing so would only create further distraction for my teammates, more turmoil for my family, and given the high profile of the national championship, direct even more unwanted attention to an innocent young girl.” As for how this will affect LSU, it’s impossible to say, although the Tigers and the Beavers would meet up in Game 2 if they each win tomorrow.
Now let’s switch gears and move on with our countdown to the start of LSU’s much anticipated season opener in football, which is 78 days away, by remembering two former All-Americans at LSU who wore No. 78 - George Rice and Ronnie Estay. Rice, who played for the Tigers from 1963-1965, was originally from Mississippi but grew up in Baton Rouge where he was a three-sport athlete in high school - football, basketball, and track. As a Tiger, Rice was one of the strongest and most dominating tackles to ever play at LSU. He played in three bowl games for LSU and was named first-team All-SEC as a junior and an All-American as a senior. Rice went on to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. He decided to sign with the Houston Oilers of the AFL and played for the Oilers for four seasons. Rice died on December 26, 2010, at his home in Sealy, Texas at the age of 66. As for Estay, he played at LSU from 1969-71 and was one of the quickest defensive linemen to ever play. During his junior year, he tackled both quarterbacks Pat Sullivan of Auburn and Archie Manning of Ole Miss for safeties. As a senior, he made first team All-SEC and All-American. Many of you older Tiger Fans will remember Estay’s performance during No. 14 LSU’s 28-8 win over No. 7 Notre Dame in 1971. (You can watch video highlights of that historic game here in our Media Gallery.) Notre Dame had an All-American fullback that had been nearly unstoppable and was as large as Estay, but in the first two plays of the game Estay nailed him in the backfield. Estay also played a big role in several goal-line stops in that contest. In 2006, Estay was inducted into the Louisiana Hall of Fame.
• Something I mentioned yesterday that generated a lot of interest was the news of LSU sending caps and T-shirts to Washington D.C. for lawmakers of both parties to wear during yesterday’s congressional baseball game as a way to show support for Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise. Well, as it turned out, LSU sent the caps, but unfortunately, the private sports apparel company that was supposed to send the shirts dropped the ball and didn’t get the shirts out on time. Still, it was nice that LSU could play a part in such a sign of unity and solidarity. Many elected officials, including several from Louisiana, attended the event. In this article by The Advocate, Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans is quoted as saying, "The message for the nation is that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. It’s a time for us to step back and get focused on the things that unite us like faith, family and country.” I couldn’t agree more. By the way, The Advocate reports that Coach Mainieri will make Scalise an honorary coach this weekend as he remains in critical condition after being shot in the hip Wednesday.
• Above, I gave thanks to Randy Rosetta for his work on our Keys to an LSU Victory mini-series, but there are a couple of other DandyDon team members who deserve thanks. Mark Towery has been working diligently on the countdown topics and our stat comparisons, and Jake Martin has helped out on lots of recent topics including MLB draft news. I mention this because you’ll be seeing these three men’s handy work alot between June 22nd and July 03 when my family and I are on vacation in Colorado for a family reunion. Timing-wise, I’m not happy that this reunion - which is held every three years – takes place at the same time as the CWS, but if I can’t be in Omaha, Glenwood Springs is not a bad place to take in the action. Rest assured that our daily updates will continue as normal, only with me spending less time working each day while my guys do the heavy lifting.
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