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5/21/19 5:30 am CST

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

Before getting to today’s big game in baseball, let’s kick things off with a bang, or should I say, a boom! Five-star power-forward Trendon Watford (6-9, 230) announced his commitment to LSU basketball yesterday, choosing LSU over his home-state Crimson Tide. Watford, the top-rated player in Alabama and the No. 4 power forward in the nation, will be an ideal replacement for Naz Reid, who is headed to the NBA. To see for yourself what all the fuss is about, check out Watford’s video highlights

In this article by 247Sports, Watford said the main reason he chose LSU was the trust he has in the coaching and his close relationship with coach Will Wade and coach Bill Armstrong. He also said something else that caught the attention of Tiger Fans: “I feel like me with my leadership, they have a lot of guys coming back Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams and Javonte Smart, I feel like it’s a very seasoned team and I can come in and just be the player and person that I am.” What’s significant about that statement is that Mays and Williams have not yet publicly announced that they are coming back, but it sure sounds like Watford knows something. If Will Wade gets those guys back, and with the addition of Watford, the Tigers could be right back in the hunt next season. #BootUp

One more word about Watford: I’ve heard from lots of folks with connections to the Mountain Brook program where he comes from, and they all have nothing but great things to say about his character. Sounds like Coach Will Wade is getting a special player.

Turning to baseball, it’s do or die time for Coach Mainieri’s Tigers as they’re set to take on South Carolina tonight at 8 p.m. in an SEC Tournament elimination match. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and I’ll be tweeting score updates and occasional commentary for those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter.

Coach Paul Mainieri announced yesterday that freshman Cole Henry will get the start on the mound tonight, which is music to the ears of this Tiger Fan. Henry looked like a bona-fide SEC ace in his last start four weeks ago when he limited Florida to one run on four hits in 5.1 innings with no walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts. His strikeouts total was the most by an LSU pitcher in an SEC game since March 30, 2017, when Alex Lange recorded 12 Ks against Texas A&M. Henry hasn’t pitched since that time because of lingering arm soreness and will probably not be asked to go more than three innings tonight so that LSU can protect his arm and have him available early in the NCAA tournament.

While I know it’s not wise to think too far ahead, a win today would go a long way toward LSU being one of 16 schools selected to host a Regional host site. One look at the weekly polls demonstrates just how much of a “bubble” team LSU is at this point. After winning three-of-four games last week, LSU climbed three spots to No. 16 in D1 Baseball.com’s rankings and a whopping six spots to No. 16 in Baseball America’s top-25.

But back to the current task at hand, here’s a quick look at tonight’s opponent and LSU’s history in the SEC tournament. The Gamecocks are coming off a win over fourth-ranked Mississippi State, 10-8, in Starkville on the final day of the regular season to earn the final bid to the SEC Tournament. They lost that series two games to one, by a combined score of 43-19, but that Game 3 win tells you that they can’t be taken lightly.

South Carolina is 14th in the SEC in team batting average (.236) and its pitching staff ranks 14th in the SEC in team ERA (5.45). While that’s not all that impressive, here’s something that is: Their freshman right-handed reliever, Brett Kerry, is No. 10 in the league in individual ERA (2.62) and has 65 strikeouts and seven saves in 58.1 innings. LSU can’t afford to fall behind in this game and expect to come back strong against this guy. 

SERIES RECORD VS. SOUTH CAROLINA:

LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 38-29-1. The Tigers and Gamecocks first met on the diamond in 1992, and since then LSU has won 16 of 25 games. Last  year, the Gamecocks swept the Tigers in a three-game regular-season series in Columbia, before the Tigers posted a 6-4, 12-inning victory over South Carolina in the third round of the SEC Tournament. LSU is 7-2 all-time against South Carolina in SEC Tournament games. The Tigers have won five of their last seven SEC regular-season series versus the Gamecocks.

LSU IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT:

LSU has a league-best 85-42 (.669) all-time record in the SEC Tournament, and the Tigers own a conference-high 12 tournament titles. Alabama and Mississippi State are second behind LSU with seven tournament titles, and Ole Miss is third with six championships. LSU has won six of the past 11 SEC Tournament crowns, claiming the title in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017 and is 35-8 under 13th-year coach Paul Mainieri in SEC Tournament games. Last year, LSU was 4-2 in the tournament and was defeated by Ole Miss in the championship game.

QUOTING PAUL MAINIERI:

“The SEC Tournament is a great event and something we always look forward to. There’s a lot of excitement attached to the opening game, since it is single elimination, and you have to win it if you want to stick around. Certainly, we will need to have success in the tournament in order to be considered as an NCAA Regional host site. We have a lot if impressive elements in our resume, including 19 wins against Top 50 RPI teams, the fifth-highest total in the country. We’re going to do our best to bring postseason baseball back home to our fans next week.”

In other baseball news, several congratulations are on order.

First, congratulations to three Tigers who earned All-SEC honors. Senior rightfielder Antoine Duplantis was named second-team All-SEC, junior outfielder Zach Watson was named to the SEC All-Defensive team for the second straight year, and right-handed pitcher Cole Henry was voted to the Freshman All-SEC squad.

Also, congratulations to freshman pitcher Landon Marceaux who was named SEC Baseball Co-Freshman of the Week. Marceaux, a product of Destrehan, La., delivered a brilliant outing on Friday to clinch LSU’s series win over Auburn. He pitched a career-high seven innings, limiting Auburn to one run on only two hits with no walks and a career-best seven strikeouts. Should LSU advance in the SEC tourney, look for Marceaux to get his next start this Thursday. 

Swinging over to softball, Coach Beth Torina and her crew ran out of luck when Minnesota beat Georgia to win its regional. Had Georgia beaten the Gophers twice, Torina and Co. would have hosted a super regional against the Bulldogs. Now, LSU will play at Minnesota at 4 p.m. Friday (ESPNU), 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2), and 3 p.m. Sunday (ESPN), if necessary. As it is, LSU fought hard to win its regional and seemed to come out of their doldrums somewhat. The best news was Amanda Sanchez' home run that snapped her 0 for 12 streak. She's a vital part of that offense. That homer might get the offense percolating like it was earlier this season.

In football news, LSU cornerback Kelvin Joseph, one of the prized members of LSU’s 2018 recruiting class, entered the NCAA transfer portal yesterday. This came as a surprise as Joseph seemed in line for playing time this year, even if Derek Stingley and Kristian Fulton earn the starting cornerback roles. A tweet by Joseph – “lol I was born to compete” –  indicates that this is not at all about fearing the competition, and I have reason to believe that’s true. Shea Dixon of 247Sports tweeted yesterday that Joseph was in class at LSU yesterday with intersession going on, which suggests this could be about academics. What makes the story all the more interesting is that Joseph’s father told NOLA.com later in the day that Joseph is staying at LSU. Just because a player enters his name in the portal doesn't mean he has to leave the program. It just allows other schools to have contact with the player.

Closing Tidbits: 

• LSU Track & Field teams are headed to Jacksonville for the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds beginning Thursday. The men go into it as the reigning SEC Champion ranked No. 2 in the nation, while the women are ranked No. 6.

• Here’s Athlon Sports College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2019. Spoiler alert: They have LSU ranked at No. 7. 

• Lastly, thanks to those of you who have sent suggestions for our 100-day countdown to the start of LSU football. Please keep ’em coming. The 100-day mark begins Thursday.





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5/21/19 5:30 am CST

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

Before getting to today’s big game in baseball, let’s kick things off with a bang, or should I say, a boom! Five-star power-forward Trendon Watford (6-9, 230) announced his commitment to LSU basketball yesterday, choosing LSU over his home-state Crimson Tide. Watford, the top-rated player in Alabama and the No. 4 power forward in the nation, will be an ideal replacement for Naz Reid, who is headed to the NBA. To see for yourself what all the fuss is about, check out Watford’s video highlights

In this article by 247Sports, Watford said the main reason he chose LSU was the trust he has in the coaching and his close relationship with coach Will Wade and coach Bill Armstrong. He also said something else that caught the attention of Tiger Fans: “I feel like me with my leadership, they have a lot of guys coming back Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams and Javonte Smart, I feel like it’s a very seasoned team and I can come in and just be the player and person that I am.” What’s significant about that statement is that Mays and Williams have not yet publicly announced that they are coming back, but it sure sounds like Watford knows something. If Will Wade gets those guys back, and with the addition of Watford, the Tigers could be right back in the hunt next season. #BootUp

One more word about Watford: I’ve heard from lots of folks with connections to the Mountain Brook program where he comes from, and they all have nothing but great things to say about his character. Sounds like Coach Will Wade is getting a special player.

Turning to baseball, it’s do or die time for Coach Mainieri’s Tigers as they’re set to take on South Carolina tonight at 8 p.m. in an SEC Tournament elimination match. The game will be televised on the SEC Network and I’ll be tweeting score updates and occasional commentary for those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter.

Coach Paul Mainieri announced yesterday that freshman Cole Henry will get the start on the mound tonight, which is music to the ears of this Tiger Fan. Henry looked like a bona-fide SEC ace in his last start four weeks ago when he limited Florida to one run on four hits in 5.1 innings with no walks and a career-high 12 strikeouts. His strikeouts total was the most by an LSU pitcher in an SEC game since March 30, 2017, when Alex Lange recorded 12 Ks against Texas A&M. Henry hasn’t pitched since that time because of lingering arm soreness and will probably not be asked to go more than three innings tonight so that LSU can protect his arm and have him available early in the NCAA tournament.

While I know it’s not wise to think too far ahead, a win today would go a long way toward LSU being one of 16 schools selected to host a Regional host site. One look at the weekly polls demonstrates just how much of a “bubble” team LSU is at this point. After winning three-of-four games last week, LSU climbed three spots to No. 16 in D1 Baseball.com’s rankings and a whopping six spots to No. 16 in Baseball America’s top-25.

But back to the current task at hand, here’s a quick look at tonight’s opponent and LSU’s history in the SEC tournament. The Gamecocks are coming off a win over fourth-ranked Mississippi State, 10-8, in Starkville on the final day of the regular season to earn the final bid to the SEC Tournament. They lost that series two games to one, by a combined score of 43-19, but that Game 3 win tells you that they can’t be taken lightly.

South Carolina is 14th in the SEC in team batting average (.236) and its pitching staff ranks 14th in the SEC in team ERA (5.45). While that’s not all that impressive, here’s something that is: Their freshman right-handed reliever, Brett Kerry, is No. 10 in the league in individual ERA (2.62) and has 65 strikeouts and seven saves in 58.1 innings. LSU can’t afford to fall behind in this game and expect to come back strong against this guy. 

SERIES RECORD VS. SOUTH CAROLINA:

LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 38-29-1. The Tigers and Gamecocks first met on the diamond in 1992, and since then LSU has won 16 of 25 games. Last  year, the Gamecocks swept the Tigers in a three-game regular-season series in Columbia, before the Tigers posted a 6-4, 12-inning victory over South Carolina in the third round of the SEC Tournament. LSU is 7-2 all-time against South Carolina in SEC Tournament games. The Tigers have won five of their last seven SEC regular-season series versus the Gamecocks.

LSU IN THE SEC TOURNAMENT:

LSU has a league-best 85-42 (.669) all-time record in the SEC Tournament, and the Tigers own a conference-high 12 tournament titles. Alabama and Mississippi State are second behind LSU with seven tournament titles, and Ole Miss is third with six championships. LSU has won six of the past 11 SEC Tournament crowns, claiming the title in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2017 and is 35-8 under 13th-year coach Paul Mainieri in SEC Tournament games. Last year, LSU was 4-2 in the tournament and was defeated by Ole Miss in the championship game.

QUOTING PAUL MAINIERI:

“The SEC Tournament is a great event and something we always look forward to. There’s a lot of excitement attached to the opening game, since it is single elimination, and you have to win it if you want to stick around. Certainly, we will need to have success in the tournament in order to be considered as an NCAA Regional host site. We have a lot if impressive elements in our resume, including 19 wins against Top 50 RPI teams, the fifth-highest total in the country. We’re going to do our best to bring postseason baseball back home to our fans next week.”

In other baseball news, several congratulations are on order.

First, congratulations to three Tigers who earned All-SEC honors. Senior rightfielder Antoine Duplantis was named second-team All-SEC, junior outfielder Zach Watson was named to the SEC All-Defensive team for the second straight year, and right-handed pitcher Cole Henry was voted to the Freshman All-SEC squad.

Also, congratulations to freshman pitcher Landon Marceaux who was named SEC Baseball Co-Freshman of the Week. Marceaux, a product of Destrehan, La., delivered a brilliant outing on Friday to clinch LSU’s series win over Auburn. He pitched a career-high seven innings, limiting Auburn to one run on only two hits with no walks and a career-best seven strikeouts. Should LSU advance in the SEC tourney, look for Marceaux to get his next start this Thursday. 

Swinging over to softball, Coach Beth Torina and her crew ran out of luck when Minnesota beat Georgia to win its regional. Had Georgia beaten the Gophers twice, Torina and Co. would have hosted a super regional against the Bulldogs. Now, LSU will play at Minnesota at 4 p.m. Friday (ESPNU), 5 p.m. Saturday (ESPN2), and 3 p.m. Sunday (ESPN), if necessary. As it is, LSU fought hard to win its regional and seemed to come out of their doldrums somewhat. The best news was Amanda Sanchez' home run that snapped her 0 for 12 streak. She's a vital part of that offense. That homer might get the offense percolating like it was earlier this season.

In football news, LSU cornerback Kelvin Joseph, one of the prized members of LSU’s 2018 recruiting class, entered the NCAA transfer portal yesterday. This came as a surprise as Joseph seemed in line for playing time this year, even if Derek Stingley and Kristian Fulton earn the starting cornerback roles. A tweet by Joseph – “lol I was born to compete” –  indicates that this is not at all about fearing the competition, and I have reason to believe that’s true. Shea Dixon of 247Sports tweeted yesterday that Joseph was in class at LSU yesterday with intersession going on, which suggests this could be about academics. What makes the story all the more interesting is that Joseph’s father told NOLA.com later in the day that Joseph is staying at LSU. Just because a player enters his name in the portal doesn't mean he has to leave the program. It just allows other schools to have contact with the player.

Closing Tidbits: 

• LSU Track & Field teams are headed to Jacksonville for the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds beginning Thursday. The men go into it as the reigning SEC Champion ranked No. 2 in the nation, while the women are ranked No. 6.

• Here’s Athlon Sports College Football Top 25 Rankings for 2019. Spoiler alert: They have LSU ranked at No. 7. 

• Lastly, thanks to those of you who have sent suggestions for our 100-day countdown to the start of LSU football. Please keep ’em coming. The 100-day mark begins Thursday.

BREAKING: 2:56 pm CT

BOOM! LSU basketball lands elite power forward Trendon Watford (6-9, 230)! Huge get! The 5-star prospect chose LSU over his home-state Alabama. (Man, I love the sound of that!)

5/20/19 5:30 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

At 2:30 this afternoon, the fifth-seed LSU baseball team (34-22, 17-13 SEC) departs for Hoover, Alabama for the SEC tournament. LSU’s first order of business will be surviving an elimination game Tuesday at 8 p.m. against South Carolina (28-27, 8-22). We’ll have much more on that contest and how the two teams stack up in tomorrow morning’s report. But for now, let’s take a look at a few of the many things LSU needs to do to have the kind of postseason that will make Tiger fans forget about an up-and-down regular season that ended with the Tigers winning five of their last six games but leaving a lot to be desired.

Keys to LSU Baseball Postseason Success

1. Pitch like vs. Auburn (with one notable exception)

Eric Walker and Landon Marceaux had outstanding starts versus Auburn, and the relievers who followed did their jobs, too. As a result, LSU limited Auburn to just two hits per game, something a Tiger pitching staff hadn’t done against any opponent in 30 years. Then in Game 3, LSU’s “Johnny Wholestaff” approach held Auburn to zero runs and two hits through the first four innings, which added up to just two runs on six hits in 22 innings of work. That kind of extraordinary pitching can win a lot of ballgames. But it can also go for naught if there’s not a dependable closer in the final innings, which leads to No. 2 on this list…

2. Close Strong (the exception noted above)

Paul Mainieri’s Tigers had a golden opportunity to sweep Auburn as they entered the ninth inning of Game 3 with a two-run lead. Then with one out and a 2-0 count on Matt Scheffler, Hess gave up a two-run homer. It was the fourth home run Hess has allowed since moving to the bullpen. Look, I get that a pitcher like Hess, who throws with such heat, is going to give up some long balls. And I don’t think the ninth-inning 0-2 pitch he made against Auburn was a bad one. The truth is, the home run doesn’t bother me as much as the four-pitch walk that proceeded it. Without that base on balls, LSU likely emerges with a sweep and we’re relishing an outstanding weekend of LSU baseball. It should also be noted that Hess was outstanding in his closing role the night before, retiring all six batters he faced to preserve the lead. Tiger fans know that he and Todd Peterson can be strong closers. What LSU needs is for them to demonstrate that with consistency down the stretch.

3. Help from Henry and Hilliard (No, I didn’t mean Hill)

Cole Henry looked like a bona fide Friday night SEC ace in his last two starts but has been sidelined for four weeks due to arm soreness. The good news is he’s expected to return to action this week. As of this morning, just what kind of role he will play is unclear. What is clear, however, is that if he picks up where he left off, and if Landon Marceaux and Eric Walker continue to pitch like they have recently, LSU will have an outstanding trio of starting pitchers. But it often takes more than three solid starters to have pitching success in postseason play. LSU will likely need a solid fourth starter and a dependable long-relief guy. Sophomore Ma’Khail Hilliard is an ideal candidate for either role, but he has struggled of late. Getting him back to mid-season freshman form would be big for this team. You may have noticed I mentioned freshman Jaden Hill above in the sub-headline. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t feel right and has been ruled out for SEC tournament play. Getting him back anytime during the postseason would be huge, but at this point, I wouldn’t count on it.

4. Get hot like Garza (others need to catch his fire)

Back in February, when I conducted this preseason Q&A with Paul Mainieri, he described Garza’s hitting at the time as “all or nothing.” Well, lately, it’s been “all.” This past weekend against Auburn, Garza went 7-for-11 with two RBIs. It’s probably unrealistic to expect him to stay that hot, which makes it all the more important for others to catch fire offensively. Josh Smith swung the bat well in the series but didn’t have a lot to show for it, going 4-for-14 with one RBI. Daniel Cabrera had a rougher time, going 2-for-11 with two RBI. This would be an excellent time for those two veterans to get hot and stay hot. 

Turning to softball…

With a 5-1 victory in Game 7 of the Baton Rouge regional, the LSU softball team advanced to its fifth consecutive Super Regional. Folks, that’s a remarkable accomplishment, and it’s not something we should take for granted. Living up to their #FightAllTheWay slogan, the Tigers rallied back after losing 5-4 in the first of Sunday’s doubleheader, and they did so brilliantly with another excellent outing from Maribeth Gorsuch inside the circle. Here’s Jake’s quick rundown of both exhilarating contests in Baton Rouge yesterday.

Game 1

The Tigers engaged in another back-and-forth classic with Texas Tech before ultimately falling 5-4, thus forcing a Game 7. LSU landed the first blow in the competitive contest. Seconds before making history as the single-season stolen base leader for the Tigers (46), Aliyah Andrew laid down a bunt for a perfectly executed squeeze play to give LSU a 1-0 lead. Tied 1-1 in the fourth inning, pinch hitter Michaela Schlattman swung the game back in favor of the Tigers when she drove in Amanda Doyle on a sacrifice fly. But if there’s anything we’ve learned about Texas Tech this weekend, it’s that the Red Raiders won’t go away easy. Texas Tech came right back in the bottom of the fourth and took a 3-2 lead on a Zoe Jones home run. Shelbi Sunseri replaced Shelby Wickersham in the fourth inning with the bases juiced with one out. After walking in another run, Sunseri got out of the inning with a pop fly. Down by two in the sixth, Doyle hit a solo homer before Schlattmann came through in the clutch again with a double off the right field wall to score Savannah Stewart and tie the game, 4-4. But ultimately in the bottom frame, Jessica Hartwell came through with her third single of the game to give Texas Tech the go-ahead run and eventual victory.

Game 2

Trailing by one in the second inning, Amanda Sanchez finally got ahold of one and belted a solo blast. Sanchez, who had struggled for most of the Regional, lit the fuse in the dugout as everyone kissed the bat for good measure. And LSU would carve out long innings after. The Tigers put at least two runners on in back-to-back innings and finally took a 2-1 lead when Amber Serrett hit an RBI single in the third. Head coach Beth Torina waved a second runner home on Serrett’s single but Texas Tech gunned down Amanda Doyle at home. Meanwhile, Maribeth Gorsuch kept battling. In fact, the very next inning saw Gorsuch battle out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the one-run lead for the Tigers. And then Gorsuch would get the insurance she needed. In the bottom half of the inning, Sunseri blasted a 3-run homer with two outs to give LSU a 5-1 advantage. Sunseri, by the way, relieved Gorsuch in the sixth inning with two on and two outs. Sunseri forced a fielder’s choice and closed the game out in the seventh for the Tiger victory.

Next up, Coach Beth Torina’s Tigers begin Super Regional play this weekend against the winner of the Minnesota regional, which was postponed yesterday. Details on location, date, and time of the series are yet to be determined.

Closing Tidbits:

• In football recruiting news, a top-10 Louisiana prospect for 2019 appears to be heading out of state, as athlete Joel Williams of Madison Prep committed to Florida this weekend. Williams checks in at No. 9 on our list of Top LA Prospects and you never like to see a guy like that get away, but I’m not overly concerned. Most project Williams as a safety and LSU is recruiting several others who are just as high or higher on their board. These include Jordan Toles of Maryland, Lathon Ransom of Arizona, Xavion Alford of Texas, and a trio of in-state safeties in Bud Clark of Alexandria Senior High, Eric Reed of Calvary Baptist, and Major Burns of Madison Prep.

• LSU basketball fans who follow recruiting will be anxiously awaiting an announcement that should come a little after 2:30 p.m. today. That’s when five-star power forward Trendon Watford will announce his school of choice. His leaders are believed to be LSU, Alabama, Indiana, and Memphis. As soon as I learn of his decision, I’ll tweet the news to those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter.

• Lastly, a reminder that our 100-day countdown to the start of LSU football begins Thursday. If you have topic suggestions for the countdown, please send them my way.



 

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