Where does LSU baseball stand before the SEC game
The trip home from Houston was not pleasant for many in the LSU baseball program. After a thrilling victory over Oklahoma, the Tigers were disappointed with their performance against Texas and certainly against Baylor.
Mistakes and missed opportunities were big story lines all weekend, but how this group reacted was a big deal for coach Jay Johnson. The Tigers picked up impressive wins over UNO and three in a row over Bethune-Cookman to really build momentum for what is a tough week of games ahead for the purple and gold.
“We were frustrated with that Sunday game against Baylor and I was happy to see it,” Johnson said. “They wanted to play better and there are some things we need to do better this weekend showed us that. You’re dealing with some very proud and competitive guys.”
With Tulane coming to town Tuesday night and Texas A&M to open conference play, Johnson was impressed with how the team responded on the court and on the mound last weekend. There was really only one bad inning on the mound against Bethune-Cookman and that was another big lesson for this team who had to fight for four runs.
It not only showed that this offense can never truly be counted out of a game, but also that the bullpen remains a strength for this team heading into SEC play.
“I think it showed on the defensive side of the ball this week. We only mishandled one play in the infield for four days and that’s been great,” Johnson said. “We’ve made some small adjustments and I anticipate this will be a story that won’t last very long.
On the mound in the last four games, there really hasn’t been much to complain about. Outside of a non-serious wrist injury to starter Blake Money, the LSU pitchers filled the strike zone and put on one of the most complete performances of the season.
What stands out perhaps more than anything else are the pitching performances of Ty Floyd and Ma’Khail Hilliard, two players who started multiple games but had their ups and downs. All Floyd and Hilliard did was combine to pitch 12 innings of a baseball run with 14 strikeouts, with 114 of 165 total pitches going for strikes.
With the schedule now set to accelerate, Hilliard is confident that these staff are ready to take the next step.
“We are more than ready. I think mentally we need to work on a few points, but we fill the strike zone every time out,” Hilliard said. “We have to keep going up, keep the same mindset and not try to do anything too different from what we’ve already done.”
“Really off the mound, I think the pitching was the story of the weekend,” Johnson added. “This attack, this group of positional players, if we throw strikes like we did this weekend, we will be in a good position to win a lot of games.”
Johnson’s player position theory has a number of factors that play into who plays what day. LSU has rolled out a number of different lineup and batting order combinations while continuing to focus on the ones that work best. More recently, Giovanni. DiGiacomo received an extended job in right field, returning Jacob Berry to third base where he started the year.
For Johnson, it’s all about finding that balance between offense and defense as the Tigers have been much cleaner on the field over the past week, which bodes well for the momentum ahead of the conference game. . Because they’ve been improved defensively, it allows Johnson to play with the offensive order a bit more.
The strategy is to put together an order that can score two runs in every inning no matter who needs to be at the plate, and the Tigers responded with 28 runs against Bethune-Cookman. While the schedule will only get more complicated from here, shortstop Jordan Thompson feels this offense is starting to turn the corner to get to that next level.
“It’s always good to see that we’re getting a lot of runs and hits, but we’re taking it day by day,” Thompson said. “Every team we face is like a new playoff game for us. Let’s stay consistent with our approaches.”
Now, the hope is that this recent gelling of all components of the game that was on display over the weekend will continue for the rest of the season.
(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)