NCAA Baseball Championships:
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3/11/18 5:50 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Behind three innings of high-powered offense and solid pitching, the Tigers bounced back with a 5-1 win over Hawaii. With the victory, the Tigers improved to 10-6 on the season.
Zach Watson led the game in style with a first-pitch leadoff homer which kind of set the tone for some early inning fireworks. The Tigers would go on to score four more times in the first three innings. With two outs and one on in the bottom of the second, Hal Hughes ripped an RBI triple down the right-field line to give LSU a 2-0 lead. That lead would be extended to 5-0 in the third when Austin Bain’s RBI single was followed by a two-run boomstick off the bat of Hunter Feduccia. Those early inning fireworks were great to see from a Tiger team that had been in a bit of a scoring funk for the last two games. Unfortunately, the Tigers weren’t able to keep it up and only collected one hit the remainder of the game, but that turned out to be inconsequential thanks to solid Tiger pitching.
Caleb Gilbert gave LSU five strong innings and would have probably given more if not for the fact that a hard-hit “comebacker” struck his push-off foot in the second inning. By the fifth inning, it was obvious that the injury was making things difficult for him and he was pulled. Still, in five innings of work Gilbert kept the Rainbow Warriors off the board and only allowed four hits with one walk and a big strikeout in the first to strand the bases loaded. Matthew Beck followed Gilbert and his first inning was completely dominant. In his second, he got into a bit of trouble but then buckled down and escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed. Todd Peterson pitched two-thirds of an inning and gave up two hits and the only run of the game before giving way to Tayler Petersen who slammed the door shut with one-and-a-third solid innings. Overall it was a great night for the LSU pitching staff.
Leading the way offensively for the Tigers were Austin Bain, Beau Jordan, Feduccia, and Watson. Bain, who started at first base (and needs to remain in the everyday lineup, in my opinion) went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Beau Jordan also went 2-for-4. Feduccia had the big two-run homer and Watson got things started with his first-pitch dinger. Also deserving of props is Hal Huges who looked outstanding at shortstop and went 1-for-3 with an RBI triple.
The Tigers will go for the series win today at 3:00 (changed to avoid inclement weather) with freshman right-hander Ma’Khail Hilliard (3-0, 0.00) on the mound. Hawaii will counter with senior right-hander Neil Uskali (2-1, 2.55 ERA). There was some discussion about freshman right-hander Nick Storz making his highly anticipated LSU debut today, but Coach Mainieri said after the game that he’s not quite ready.
Switching gears here… Believe it or not, spring football is upon us. Coach Ed Orgeron and his new-look staff will conduct the first of fifteen practices today and then afterward Orgeron will meet with the media. I won’t be able to make it out there, but my man Jim Kleinpeter will and we’ll have a report on what transpires, and hopefully some video, to share with you tomorrow.
Here are a few things we’ll be looking for in Day 1 of LSU Spring Practice:
NT Tyler Shelvin's weight, or lack thereof
Shelvin can be a game-changing force if his conditioning is up and his weight is down after a year on academic redshirt. Coach Ed Orgeron made reference to him having slimmed down but the last official weight we have is 378 pounds. As of Saturday, the school has yet to post a complete 2018 roster with updated weights, but we should be able to get a good idea of whether Shelvin and several other Tigers, pass the “eye test.”
CB Kristian Fulton's presence/status
A five-star recruit, Fulton saw limited action in three games as a freshman in 2016 and missed all of last season, presumably due to off-field issues. Coach O has been mum on what exactly is going on and whether Fulton will be eligible to play this year. If he’s good to go, that would obviously provide a huge boost at a position of need that is lacking in depth. Here’s hoping we learn a bit about his status today.
With four new faces on the coaching staff and some responsibility shifts, there may be noticeable changes in how practice is conducted. With Steve Ensminger at offensive coordinator instead of tight ends, that position group will likely be folded into the offensive linemen under James Cregg. Jerry Sullivan steps in as a passing game coordinator. Corey Raymond will have cornerbacks to himself with Bill Busch coaching safeties. And Greg McMahon has special teams full time. It’ll be interesting to see whether the new coaches – three of whom are coming directly from the NFL –bring with them some new and interesting drills and practice routines.
QB three-horse race
Coach O has said he feels like he’ll finally have the quarterback Tiger fans have been longing for. Whether that QB is Myles Brennan (the presumed front-runner), Lowell Narcisse, Justin McMillan, or some combination of the three is the big question. Don’t expect us to have an answer today or anytime soon, but we could get an early indication of how reps are divided and how each looks. Hopefully we’ll get some of that on video to share with you tomorrow.
Today’s Closing Tidbits:
• The LSU softball team improved to 2-0 in league play with yet another dramatic walk-off win over Auburn. This time, it was Amanda Doyle’s two-out RBI hit that kept the game from going to extra innings and gave the Tigers the win. Here’s a complete recap. LSU (21-2, 2-0) will look to earn the series sweep today at 4 p.m. CT and you can check it out on ESPN2.
• In men’s basketball, the NIT selection show gets underway tonight at 7:30 PM CT on ESPNU. Hopefully the Tigers can get a good draw and make some noise in the tournament to cap what has been a very successful Year 1 of the Will Wade era. As soon as we hear of LSU’s postseason future, we’ll tweet the news to those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter.
• Lastly, here’s a good read to go along with that second cup of Sunday morning coffee: Rabalais: LSU's veterans salute gives a higher meaning to the games the Tigers play
3/10/18 5:45 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
In what was second consecutive frustrating game offensively for the LSU baseball team, the Tigers lost 4-2 to Hawaii in game one of the weekend series. After managing only three runs earlier in the week against UL-Lafayette, LSU only mustered two runs last night despite logging double-digit hits (10). With the loss, the Tigers fell to 9-6 on the season.
LSU was only 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position and that pretty much tells the tale of a night filled with missed opportunities. The first and biggest opportunity missed came in the fourth inning when LSU had runners at second and third with no outs and ended up stranding the bases loaded. Another came in the ninth when Brandt Broussard doubled to put the tying runs in scoring position with one out before a strikeout and popup ended the threat and the game. All told, the Tigers left runners in scoring position in seven of the nine innings. On the flip side, it was a good night offensively for Daniel Cabrera who went 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles, and for Brandt Broussard who also went 3-for-4 including a double in the ninth that gave LSU a chance to tie.
As for pitching, Zach Hess got the start and only struck out nine batters while walking only one and allowing only five hits. That’s the good news. The bad news is that three of those five hits were solo home runs, which is especially strange when you consider that the Rainbow Warriors only had three homers through the first 11 games of their season. Following Hess, LSU used four pitchers in relief with mixed results. Nick Bush pitched a solid eighth inning in which he sent Hawaii down in order. Devin Fontenot pitched very well to get LSU out of a one-out bases loaded jam in the ninth. Sandwiched between those pitchers were Matthew Beck and Tayler Petersen. Beck gave up one hit in 0.1 innings of work and then Peterson surrendered back-to-back singles which allowed a run to score.
Zach Watson led the game off for LSU with a double down the left field line, advanced to third on a bunt by Brand Broussard, and scored on a grounder by Antoine Duplantis. Hawaii wasted no time in answering with a first-pitch solo homer to knot it at one in the second, and another solo shot to take a 2-1 lead in the third. Things were quiet until the bottom of the sixth when Hunter Feduccia led with a single and advanced to third on a hit from Daniel Cabrera. Cabrera tried to stretch it to a double, but slipped rounding first and was thrown out after a rundown. With two outs, Chris Reid came through with an RBI single to make it 2-2. But just as the Rainbow Warriors did earlier, they wasted no time in answering in the seventh with yet another solo home run (their third of the night) to make it 3-2. Hawaii added an insurance run in the ninth on three consecutive one-out singles. The Tigers appeared poised to rally in the ninth when Watson’s one-out single was followed by Broussard’s double, but were unable to bring them home.
The Tigers will look to even the score and avoid the series loss tonight at 6:30 with Caleb Gilbert on the mound.
In softball news, the 8th-ranked Tigers won their SEC opener with a hard-fought extra-innings, 3-2 walk-off win against No. 10 Auburn. The game, which lasted four hours and 17 minutes, ended in the bottom of the 14th when second baseman Becca Schulte broke through with a hit down the left side to drive in Amanda Doyle for the win. For a full recap, click here. The Tigers will go for the series sweep tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Switching gears to the gridiron… With LSU set to begin spring football practice tomorrow, the school has released practice times for Week 1. The team will practice for the first time tomorrow morning and then Coach Orgeron will address the media afterward at 1:15. They’ll practice again on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday of next week. My schedule won’t allow me to make the trek from Lafayette for any of the first four practices, but don’t worry. Dandy Don team member and veteran sportswriter Jim Kleinpeter will cover it in my stead so that we can keep you well informed.
In the meantime, let’s continue our series on LSU football players who could see their stock rise this spring. (For previous installments, click here.)
TIGERS WHO COULD SEE THEIR STOCK RISE THIS SPRING: PART 7
OL Damien Lewis
6-3, 326, Fr.
Back in February, folks made a big deal out of LSU signing JUCO sensation Badara Traore, and understandably so. After all, he was the nation’s top-ranked JUCO tackle. But lost in all the hoopla over Traore is the fact that LSU signed another big-time JUCO O-lineman who could make a huge impact this season, Damien Lewis. Hailing from Northwest Mississippi CC, Lewis was the nation’s third-ranked JUCO guard. The word is that he has been absolutely tearing up offseason workouts and is right up there with defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko (you know, the guy Coach O said bench presses 500 pounds) as one of the Tigers’ strongest players.
Currently, we have Lewis penciled in behind returning veterans Garrett Brumfield and Ed Ingram at the two guard positions, but after hearing new offensive line coach James Cregg rave about Lewis last week, it would not be surprising to see him work his way into the starting lineup. Cregg made it clear in his radio interview that he’ll start his five best linemen and seemed to imply that Lewis is among them when he suggested Lewis could get a look at center even though he’s never played the position. Another thing Lewis has going for him is the fact that tackles Saahdiq Charles and Austin Deculus will be limited - if not out altogether - for spring workouts while recovering from recent shoulder surgeries. Those absences could cause some shuffling along the line and create greater opportunity for Lewis to make his mark.
One more thing about Lewis: Not only does he stand out in the weight room and on the field, he’s also an outstanding student. Lewis was named to the 2017 Capital One Academic All-District Football First Team, the 2016-17 MACJC All-Academic Team, and the 2016-17 NJCAA All-Academic Third Team.
• The second-ranked LSU gymnastics team posted a 197.585 to defeat No. 24 NC State in the Tigers’ final road contest of the regular season. Here’s more on the meet including video highlights.
• Lastly, here’s a good read by The Advocate: Ross Dellenger’s Q&A with Coach Ed Orgeron on the pressures of the job, a “critical” 2018 season, doubling his number of analysts to compete with the big boys, and more.
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