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LSU baseball grades against Missouri  

Kristian Garic
April 15, 2019 - 11:59 am
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Oh boy!  The highs and lows of college baseball.  The Tigers dropped their 2nd SEC series this weekend on the road against Missouri.  Yea, this one stings for a number of reasons.  LSU was starting to round into form, and this loss to an unranked Missouri team is a setback.  Here are the grades from the weekend. 

LSU pitching:  LSU wasn’t awful on the mound, but battled some adversity when Zack Hess left game one after 8 pitches.  Hess injured his groin, delivering a pitch in the bottom of the first inning.  Ma’Khail Hilliard was pressed into action much sooner than expected.  

When a pitcher is injured, the reliever has an unlimited amount of warm up pitches.  Hilliard didn’t take advantage of that luxury, and started pitching in live action before he was totally warmed up.  Not good.  Hilliard was touched up for six runs over 4.1 innings.  The first inning was Hilliard’s roughest, before settling in over the final 3 innings. 

Game one of the series was a wild 10 inning 12-11 win for LSU.  The back end of the bullpen of Todd Peterson, and Devin Fontenot combined to pitch four innings of shutout baseball.  In game 2, Cole Henry was strong once again on the mound, but unfortunately Missouri’s ace T.J Sikkema was outstanding out pitching Henry.

LSU lost game two 4-1, and Sikkema struck out 10 LSU hitters through 7 innings.  Eric Walker got the start on the mound for LSU in game 3 of the series.  Walker isn’t completely back from elbow surgery that sidelined him for the season in 2018.  Walker gave up a three run home run in the Missouri half of the third inning, and never really displayed the command we’re so accustomed to seeing.  I’m not entirely sure Walker is going to be the Sunday starter much longer.  I’ll explain further in the lagniappe portion. 

Missouri ran all over LSU pitchers stealing bases with ease throughout the series.  That is on the pitching staff, not the catcher.  I can’t tell you how many times Missouri stole a base without even a look back at the runner from LSU’s pitching staff.  Missouri scored 26 runs in the series, that’s a ton for a team that wasn’t thought of as a strong offensive club. 

Pitching grade—F:  There weren’t a lot of bright spots for LSU pitching this weekend. 

 

LSU offense:  The Tigers pounded out 13 hits and 12 runs in the series opener for the win.  After that, the offense was pretty much wiped out by Missouri pitching.  LSU managed just 4 hits in the game two loss to Missouri.  In game three LSU was mesmerized by left hander Art Joven.  LSU didn’t get their first hit until the sixth inning, and didn’t really get any offensive production until Joven was pulled after 6.1 innings of work.  LSU lost game three 11-5.  

While LSU had a couple of nice innings at the plate in game three, for the series the offense was pretty much dormant.  LSU was without two of their top hitters in the final two games, with Chris Reid and Zach Watson going down with injuries. 

Offensive grade---D:  The only saving grace keeping the Tigers from an F offensively was their 12 run outburst in game 1. 

 

LSU defense: The Tigers committed 2 errors in the series, and going back to the mid-week game, LSU has chalked up 7 errors in their last four games.  Now, with that said, facing really tough weather conditions, I thought LSU played pretty well on defense.  

Defensive grade---B: Nothing to be concerned about, but LSU typically gets A’s every weekend in this category. 

 

Lagniappe:  So where does this leave No. 8 LSU?  It leaves the Tigers 9-6 in SEC play.  It’s a setback for sure, but not an opinion changer for me.  LSU has five conference series remaining, starting this weekend against Florida at home.  Then LSU goes to Alabama.  

Some LSU fans are going to press the panic button, some fans are going to fire off tweets that LSU is an average team.  Time will tell, if those statements are accurate.  I’m not bailing on LSU, I’ve seen this movie before. 

In 2017 LSU lost three SEC series, and completed two series sweeps in the conference.  The Tigers already have one series sweep this season (Kentucky) so that’s the reason I’m not ready to jump ship.  Now, if you are going raise a level of concern it’s over the injuries for the Tigers.  Zack Hess injured his groin in game one against Missouri, with no word from LSU Coach Paul Mainieri  on the severity or timetable for a return.  To make matters worse, LSU’s Zach Watson injured his groin trying to beat out a throw to first base.  Chris Reid injured his hamstring at the plate in game two of the series loss to Missouri. If those three Tigers are out for extended time, that can have a very negative impact on this team.  

The big question becomes how Hess’ injury impacts the pitching rotation on the weekend.  If Hess is out this weekend against Florida, LSU will likely slide freshman Cole Henry to the Friday night starting pitcher. Then what does LSU do with the Saturday starting gig?  My guess would be either Ma’Khail Hilliard or perhaps Todd Peterson.  Freshmen Landon Marceaux would be a candidate, but hasn’t looked sharp coming off an injury.  Freshman Jaden Hill hasn’t pitched in a game since February 24th with continued soreness in his right throwing shoulder. 

To make matters worse LSU sophomore right hander Eric Walker isn’t the Walker of old on Sunday’s.  Walker has struggled to make it past the fifth inning in his last two starts.  Walker is a guy who relies on command.  He’s not a hard thrower, so when he’s not hitting spots, hitters are going to be able generate some good swings and put the ball in play.  I am wondering if it might be better to move Walker to a midweek starting spot, until he returns to form. 

 

I am a little concerned about the amount of strikeouts LSU hitters have recorded.  In the last three series LSU has struck out a combined 97 times.  It’s not even the amount of strikeouts, but the confusion on the faces of Tiger hitters at the plate.  LSU hitters are looking back at the umpire, after getting a called strike or strikeout.  That’s usually a sign of a team that isn’t totally confident of the strike zone at the plate.  I’m not talking about one or two hitters in the lineup, but even from guys like Josh Smith and Antoine Duplantis.  LSU has some issues to work out at the plate. 

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