Photo by Gus Stark, LSU
LSU Baseball

Tigers showing knack for winning close games

February 26, 2019

LSU remains No. 1 or No. 2 in the country in the baseball rankings.

The Tigers are one of just three unbeatens in the Southeastern Conference along with Georgia and Tennessee.

Still, one could say LSU hasn’t looked like the best team in the nation while winning its first seven games for the first time in five years. Opposing teams have scored at least five runs in six games. Opposing teams are 16-for-16 in stolen bases. The hitting is coming solely from players at the top of the lineup.

But, there is one good quality of the 2019 Tigers which has surfaced in the first ten days of the season.

LSU has been very efficient with the game on the line in the late innings. Tigers coach Paul Mainieri pointed out that fact following his team’s 4-3 victory against Bryant on Sunday.

In the season-opener against Louisiana-Monroe, LSU broke a 7-7 tie with five runs in the eighth inning. The big hit was a grand slam home run by Antoine Duplantis. On day later, freshman Cade Beloso hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to beat Army 6-5.

Last Tuesday, Brock Mathis’ RBI single in the eighth gave the Tigers a 6-5 victory against Southeastern Louisiana. In Sunday’s one-run victory, Duplantis came through with the game-winning single in the eighth inning.

Besides getting clutch hits, LSU has received outstanding relief pitching in the late innings of three of these games from Todd Peterson. First, Peterson picked up victories in the Army and SLU games. Second, he recorded a save against Bryant. Peterson gave up no runs and three hits in 4.1 innings.

Peterson has been the lone consistent performer out of the bullpen – a problem in the making. Devin Fontenot and Matthew Beck, projected to be the top two set-up men, struggled against Bryant.

In the middle game of the series, Fontenot gave up two runs in 2.1 innings. In the series opener, Fontenot struck out the only batter he faced – the potential tying run in the eighth inning. Beck made two appearances against Bryant and allowed five of six batters to reach base.

At least, the starting pitchers were effective against the Bulldogs. Zack Hess improved off his first outing of the year as he gave up one run and four hits in five innings. Landon Marceaux had just one bad inning in which he gave up four runs. Jaden Hill allowed one run and two hits in five innings.

All three of these pitchers will get big challenges next weekend when LSU goes to Texas. Eric Walker will make his first start of the season Tuesday when the Tigers meet South Alabama at The Box (6 p.m. Central/SEC Digital Network). Cole Henry will be the starter against Southern on Wednesday.

Offensively, Mainieri made a change in the lineup in an attempt to get Zach Watson going at the plate. Batting fifth in the lineup for five games, Watson was 3-for-20. Mainieri moved Watson to the No. 2 hole for the Saturday game against Bryant. In two games there, Watson was 4-for-6 with a walk.

The offense in the Bryant series was carried by three players – Duplantis (7-for-13), Josh Smith (4-for-11) and Daniel Cabrera (4-for-11). Duplantis and Cabrera drove in seven runs and five runs, respectively. Hal Hughes collected five hits against Bryant after going 2-for-12 in the first four games of the year.

Two spots in the lineup appear to be up in the air – first base and designated hitter. Cade Beloso started two games at first base and Gavin Dugas made one start there against Bryant. Drew Bianco played in just one game. Beloso and Dugas were a combined 5-for-10 over the weekend.

Giovanni DiGiacomo was the designated hitter for the series opener with Saul Garza back in that spot for the last two games. DiGiacomo was 2-for-3 with a two-run single. Garza had two hits and three RBIs in the middle game of the series.

One area which must be improved very quickly is LSU’s defense of the running game. Bryant stole nine bases in as many tries. Moreover, Mathis was guilty of two passed balls Sunday. Mathis’ throws have not been accurate, but he has needed to rush because the pitchers have been too slow to the plate.

Mainieri acknowledged that the Tigers must make some major improvements before the Southeastern Conference schedule starts against Kentucky two weeks from Friday. One good sign is the fact LSU is winning games while not at its best.

LSU Tigers Nike Baseball Performance Legend Raglan 3/4-Sleeve T-Shirt - Purple
LSU Tigers Nike Baseball Performance Legend Raglan 3/4-Sleeve T-Shirt - Purple

from: Fanatics

Tags: Baseball, LSU, 2019
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