NCAA Baseball Championships:
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4/15/18 5:30 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
Whoa! How about those Tigers! Much like the night before, LSU jumped out to a quick five-run lead in the first inning and rode it to a 14-5 win over Tennessee to clinch the series. If you’re like me and were wondering whether Friday night’s big offensive performance was a fluke or a sign of LSU’s bats truly coming to life, last night’s win made a good case for the latter. After collecting 15 hits the night before, LSU erupted for a season-high 17 hits with every batter in the starting lineup except one (Hunter Feduccia) collecting a hit. I’m not going to run through every one of those hits and runs, but here are a few highlights: Pinch-hitting Nick Webre launched the first home run of his Tiger career and it hit the top of the Diamond Deck in right field. Antoine Duplantis and Nick Coomes each went 3-for-5 with three RBI. And Jake Slaughter outdid everyone with a 2-RBI triple to go along with his third home run in two days for a 4-RBI night. It was especially good to see Slaughter and Coomes have such big nights offensively as they had struggled heading into the series. Their increased production could be a big difference maker for this LSU offense down the stretch.
On the mound, Ma’Khail Hilliard got the start and was brilliant through six innings despite having a rough fifth frame. All told, he allowed five hits and three earned runs on the night while facing the minimum in five of six innings pitched. Hilliard gave up a leadoff homer in the fifth which was followed by a four-pitch walk, a single, and a two-out two-RBI double. But credit the freshman phenom for minimizing the damage with an inning-ending strikeout and for bouncing back with a 1-2-3 shutdown inning in the sixth. Former Sunday starter Caleb Gilbert pitched the final three innings and gave up two runs on four hits.
With the win, LSU improved to 23-13 overall and 8-6 in SEC play. The Tigers will go for their first SEC series sweep today at 4 p.m. CT with freshman right-hander Devin Fontenot (.379 ERA) getting his first start on the mound. The Tigers will likely send several pitchers to the mound and you can watch it all on the SEC Network.
Switching to softball…
While LSU baseball took care of business against Tennessee at home, the 14th ranked LSU softball team was swept by the Volunteers in Knoxville. Games 2 and 3 of the series were both played yesterday in doubleheader format because of anticipated storms today, and things didn’t go well for the Tigers. The Tigers lost the first game 3-2 after falling into an early two run deficit on run-scoring passed balls in the first and third innings. In the second game, the Tigers had a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the seventh, but a couple of miscues allowed Tennessee to tie the game up at 4-4. Tennessee ended the game in the eighth inning on a two-run homer. With the losses, LSU fell to 32-10 on the year and 7-7 in the SEC.
Now for yesterday’s football scrimmage…
Turning to the gridiron, the football team held a spirited scrimmage, one that Coach Ed Orgeron described as the best they’ve had since he’s been coaching at LSU. Unlike in the previous scrimmage where the defense dominated, this one was very competitive and sounded much more productive for the offense.
During the “situational” portion, which consisted of scenarios like “third-and-3-6” and “third-and-7+,” pass protection was improved and the quarterbacks threw the ball “very well.” The offense won that period. When they moved on to the game-like portion, the first-team offense drove downfield and scored on the first-team defense twice, something they hadn’t done yet this spring. The Tigers then turned to red-zone work, where the defense “stood up” and both sides did very well.
While describing highlights of the scrimmage, the first name Coach O mentioned was running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. He had 18 carries for 109 yards, including five touchdowns which mostly came during goal-line work. Later, Orgeron mentioned that Nick Brosette had 16 carries for 32 yards and said that many of Edwards-Helaire’s carries were against the second team defense.
On defense, Patrick Queen, Jacob Phillips, Rashard Lawrence and K’Lavon Chaisson led the team in tackles and Devin White was “all over the field,” according to Orgeron. The coach also had high praise for freshman D-lineman Davin Cotton who is “really progressing.”
As for the quarterbacks, it sounds like Lowell Narcisse gained the most from the scrimmage. He completed 7-of-10 passes for 143 yards. Myles Brennan was 10-of 20 for 98 yards and Justin McMillan was 5-of-16 for 62 yards. Orgeron said Narcisse took a share of the reps with the first team and had some big completions on scrambles.
Justin Jefferson led the receiving corps with four catches for 23 yards but Coach O sounded most impressed by tight end Thaddeus Moss who had “two fantastic catches.” Derrick Dillon, Jonathan Giles, and Drake Davis each had three catches. Freshman Terrance Marshall, the former No. 1 prospect in Louisiana, is still not 100% but had a really big practice last Thursday where he hauled in some one-handed catches and showed why he’s so highly regarded.
As for the offensive line’s performance, there were still some pass protection issues, but overall it was much better, especially in the run-blocking department. Damien Lewis spent some time working with the first team at the guard positions and continues to draw praise. It’s becoming more and more obvious each time we hear Coach Orgeron speak that Lewis is one of the five best linemen on the team and will play a significant role, most likely as a starter even though LSU returns veteran guards Garrett Brumfield and Edward Ingram.
A little side note here: Back on National Signing Day in early February, the O-lineman signee who was garnering the most attention was OT Badara Traore, the No. 1 ranked JUCO OT in the country. We haven’t heard his name nearly as much as we thought we would and instead it’s Lewis, the former No. 2 ranked JUCO OG in the country, who is really standing out as the most significant newcomer on the O-line.
Orgeron admitted that the offense has struggled in earlier scrimmages but seemed really excited about its progress yesterday. He said rather emphatically that the quarterbacks threw the ball “very well” and that their stats would have been even better had it not been for a couple of drops.
Addressing fan expectations for next Saturday’s spring game, Orgeron said they only have about 35% of the offense installed at this point. “We want to look good next Saturday,” he said. “We want the quarterbacks to look good… We want to throw the ball… We want all of that to happen and I do believe some of that will happen, but we’re not there yet. So I ask fans to be patient. We’re not where we need to be yet but we will get there.”
And speaking of the Spring Game, Orgeron said it’s going to be “1s vs 1s, best against best. Crank it up!”
I don’t have a good “second cup of Sunday coffee” read to leave you with today, but hopefully 1,300 words of good news on the baseball and football fronts will suffice. Have a great Sunday, Tiger Fans.
4/14/18 5:50 am CST
Good morning, Tiger Fans,
If you watched the first three innings of last night’s 9-3 Tiger win over Tennessee, you saw just how good this LSU baseball team can be. And the next five innings weren’t too shabby, either. The Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead on one swing of the bat when Beau Jordan launched a leadoff homer over the left field wall. That solo shot led to a three-run first, and the Tigers were just getting started. The hitting rampage continued in the next two innings with five runs on seven hits, including another leadoff homer in the second (by Jake Slaughter) and back-to-back homers to lead the third (one by Hunter Feduccia and another by Slaughter). By the time the fourth inning started, LSU led 8-0 and Zack Hess had faced the minimum number of batters possible through three scoreless, hitless innings. Folks, that’s about as dominating a start as you’ll ever see in an SEC contest, and it set the tone for a very enjoyable win.
It’s hard to say what can lead a team that had been struggling at the plate in the previous three games to explode offensively like the Tigers did last night, but here’s one interesting thing that surely played a role:
Shortly before the game, Coach Mainieri informed Beau Jordan that he had moved him to the leadoff spot in the order – where he had only batted once in his LSU career – in an attempt to spark LSU’s slumping offense. And get this: Mainieri gave Jordan a very specific instruction, which he carried out to a tee: “I’d really like to see you hit the first pitch of the game for a home run,” Mainieri said. Jordan obliged.
“He did say that,” Jordan affirmed to Tiger Rag. “It was a pretty cool moment. He does some random things that’re crazy. He’s been around the game so long that it’s like second nature to him.”
In the crazy game of baseball where hitting can truly be contagious, Mainieri’s wise move and Jordan’s big swing apparently sparked a 15-hit, four-dinger night for the Tigers. Four of those hits came from Austin Bain (4-for-5 with three RBI). Three came from Antoine Duplantis (3-for-5 with one RBI), and two came from Slaughter (2-for-4 with two home runs). Every Tiger in the starting lineup collected a hit on the night.
On the mound, Zack Hess turned in another brilliant performance, striking out eight and allowing only three hits and one walk in seven scoreless innings. Hess seems to have really turned a corner after realizing a few outings ago that he doesn’t have to try to strike out every batter he faces. As it turns out, that mindset has led to him allowing only two earned runs and striking out 23 batters in his last 21.1 innings of work.
Todd Peterson pitched a scoreless eighth before giving way to Cam Sanders and Clay Moffitt. Sanders struggled to find the strike zone and issued a walk and a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth to make it 9-3. Clay Moffitt was called in to get the final out and eventually did, but not before a little drama loaded the bases. Moffitt walked the first batter he faced, hit the next one, and then recorded a swinging strikeout on a pitch that got past Coomes at catcher and allowed the runner to reach base. Moffitt struck out the next batter to end the game.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Game 2 of the series which was originally scheduled for 6:30 CT this evening has been moved to 8:00 p.m. CT due to anticipated storms. Also, if you were one of our early readers yesterday, please note that Sunday’s game is scheduled for 4 p.m. (not 2 p.m. as I had mistakenly published). Tonight’s game will be streamed online via SECN+ and tomorrow’s will be broadcast on SEC Network.
Unfortunately, while the LSU baseball team was taking care of Tennessee at home, the 14th-ranked LSU softball team fell to the Volunteers in Knoxville, 4-2 in game one of their series. Here’s a full report on that game. Beth Torina’s Tigers will look to even the series at one game apiece today at noon CT. The game will air on ESPN2 and will be available on the WatchESPN app.
The LSU football team will hold it’s final scrimmage of the spring session today – not counting next week’s annual spring game, of course – and Coach Orgeron will meet with the media afterward. In tomorrow’s report, we’ll have a full report on what was said. In the meantime, here’s a little news on the football recruiting front…
LSU is looking to sign a quarterback or two in this year’s class and one who is somewhat on the radar will be on campus this weekend for an unofficial visit. Cornelious “Quad” Brown, a 6-foot-5, 180-pounder from Calera, Alabama, is hoping to garner an LSU offer, though one is not likely to come without LSU seeing him workout in summer camps. Still, the three-star pro-style signal caller is one to keep in the back of your mind as a potential second quarterback in a two-quarterback class, especially if he has a strong camp circuit and senior season. As of now, LSU’s priority quarterback target remains four-star Grant Gunnell of Houston, Texas, the second-ranked pro-style QB in the nation. Gunnell was once committed to Texas A&M but reports indicate that LSU, Oregon and Ohio State are now his top-three schools.
One Tidbit in Closing:
• Attention LSU fans in the Shreveport/Bossier City, Houston, and New Orleans areas: Tiger Athletic Foundation (TAF) and LSU Athletics have announced that the LSU Tiger Football Caravan will be making stops in your areas in the coming weeks. At the events, Tiger fans will get a spring football wrap-up and a preview of the 2018 season from Orgeron, while also enjoying dinner, a silent auction, LSU trivia, LSU football highlight videos and a “chalk talk” session with members of the LSU coaching staff.
The 2018 Tiger Football Caravan stops:
Monday, April 23– Shreveport at Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, LA
Presented by the Ark-La-Tex TAF Chapter
Tickets available at lsutaf.events/ShreveportCaravan
Wednesday, May 2 – Houston, Texas at JW Marriott Galleria
Presented by the Houston Touchdown Club
Ticket available at www.touchdownclub.org/
Thursday, June 28 – New Orleans Louisiana
More details coming soon.
Have a great day, Tiger Fans.
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