Grading LSU baseball from series win over Texas A&M

Kristian Garic
April 07, 2019 - 8:42 pm
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How about 'dat?  The LSU Tigers won the series against Texas A&M to improve to 23-10 overall and 8-4 in the SEC.  Not bad for a team that many had written off in early March after an ugly series loss against Texas. 

LSU is now tied for the SEC West lead with Arkansas and Ole Miss.  The Tigers have won back to back series against top-15 ranked teams.  Georgia leads the SEC overall with 9-3 conference record. No. 12 LSU figures to move up again in the college baseball rankings.  Their RPI (Ratings Power Index) is in the top 10 in the country.  Here are the grades, LSU passes another big test:

LSU offense:  The Aggies actually out-hit the Tigers in the game despite LSU winning 2-1.  Short stop Josh Smith was a monster in this series hitting .500 and crushing two homes runs and nearly a third.  Zach Watson also had a stellar performance at the plate especially in game three of the series.  Watson went 4 for 5 in game three’s 9-3 win over Texas A&M and was a triple away from the cycle.  For baseball newbies that means he hit a single, double and a homerun in the same game.  If Watson logged a triple in game three he would have hit for the cycle.  It’s just one of those very rare accomplishments in baseball.  Let’s not get bogged down in the weeds, however.  The only thing that worries me about this LSU lineup is they are kind of all-or-nothing.  While they scored 15 runs in the series and hit the ball well for the most part, the Tigers still struck out 27 times.  I just wonder if that can be corrected over the course of the season.  LSU is starting to figure out their lineup with contributions from Brandt Broussard at the bottom of the order starting to make a push to get more playing time at second base. 

Offensive grade:  B

LSU pitching:  Zack Hess pitched 6 innings of pretty good baseball in the first game of the series.  Hess yielded one run and struck out five.  He wasn’t dominant, but was above average for sure.  Devin Fontenot finished game one with 1.2 innings pitched, giving up 1 hit, striking out three and not giving up a run to earn the win (4-0).  In game 2, LSU coach Paul Mainieiri decided to pitch Erik Walker, who is usually the game three starter.  Walker didn’t look sharp lasting just 4 innings giving up 6 hits 3 runs and issuing 4 walks.  Mathew Beck gave up two runs in relief, and Todd Peterson finished the game, giving up a run in the loss to Texas A&M.  Freshman Cole Henry was special in game three.  Henry gave up two runs in the first inning and cruised after that going 8 full innings striking out 9 Aggie hitters, even retiring 10 straight, before exiting the game. If you haven’t watched this dude pitch you are missing out.  Henry is a budding star for the Tigers.  He’s going to be the guy on Friday nights for the next two seasons, after this year.  As a youngster his dad would yell at him during games in an effort to teach him that nothing else matters but what he’s doing on the mound.  Henry learned to tune out his dad, and focus on getting the hitter out.  If LSU goes deep into the post-season, it will be in large part due to Cole Henry!  The Tigers have an ultra-rich baseball tradition, and before it’s all said and done Henry will make a bid to be one of the many legends to come through Baton Rouge.

LSU pitching grade:  A-

LSU defense:  Wow!  LSU had a really rough day in game two of the series, committing five errors.  If you take away those errors, we might be talking about a sweep of the Aggies.  However, you can’t ignore them.  I think it was just one of those games; it happens.  LSU was error free in games 1 and 3 of the series.

LSU defensive grade: C

Lagniappe:  Some fans on Twitter are still not sold on this team.  That’s fine.  There's plenty of room on the bandwagon, and there will be plenty of seats come May.  Here is why you should refrain from living in negative town with LSU baseball.  First, this is the S-E-C!  The toughest conference in college baseball.  The SEC has nine, count them nine, teams ranked in the top 25; more than any other conference.  Second, the Tigers are starting to really click in all phases of the game.  The pitching woes, that plagued this team in early March, are gone.  The hitting woes that LSU went through at a point this season seem to be gone.  Third, this is typical LSU baseball; look average or slightly above average for the first six weeks of the season and turn it on in the second half of the season. 

LSU has six remaining SEC series.  This weekend on the road against Missouri who’s 4-6-1 in the conference.  Followed by a series at home against Florida.  The Gators are not the Gators we’re accustomed to seeing.  It’s a down year in Gainesville.  LSU is right on track to win 20 games in the SEC this season, perhaps more.  20 to 21 wins in the conference will fetch a top 8 national seed, meaning the road to Omaha will go through Alex Box Stadium in June.  In the meantime, spare me of the “Tigers are good, but not great argument.”  I get that a lot on Twitter.  Spare me, "Paul Mainieri isn’t a good coach" argument.  Take some time and watch these young men play.  They’re really, really good! 

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