LSU Baseball. NCAA Tournament. Can pitching carry the Tigers to Omaha?

Andrew Severino
Published on June 5, 2017

LSU Baseball. NCAA Tournament. Can pitching carry the Tigers to Omaha?

Baton Rouge regional is now complete and LSU has accomplished their first major task on their way to Omaha.  Despite playing their worst defense of the season in game 1 of the regional against Texas Southern, the Tigers managed to breeze through the first round with their 14th straight victory.  The Tigers won their regional by playing as a complete team, when one player struggled someone else stepped up, a recurring theme during this winning streak.  

Game 1 vs. Texas Southern

Jared Poche, the senior left-hander from Lutcher, LA, got the start in game 1.  Normally when Poche, who is 2 wins away from becoming the all time winningest pitcher in the Tigers storied history, is on the mound a win is almost guaranteed, so it was quite a surprise when he exited the game in the 5th inning down 5-7.  While the southpaw has a had a few rough outings this season, this was not the case here, rather the 5 errors committed by the defense behind him is to blame.  Team captain and shortstop Kramer Robertson had by far his worst game of the season committing 2 errors, being partly responsible for a 3rd, and going 0-5 at the plate.  As has been the case for most of the current 14 game winning streak, the bullpen and the back end of Tigers lineup saved the day.  Caleb Gilbert, Todd Peterson, and Matthew Beck pitched in relief of Poche and all they did was allow was allow 2 hits, 0 BB, and 8 Ks in 4 2/3 innings.  The 7-9 hitters in the Tigers lineup went a combined 6-10 with 3 HRs and 9RBIs.  This game did not go the way Coach Paul Mainieri drew it up, but it was a great come from behind win and its this type of TEAM baseball that could carry the Tigers all the way to the College World Series in Omaha.

 

Game 2 vs. SE Louisiana

After a nerve wracking game 1, game 2 would surely be very different with Tigers ace Alex Lange getting the start vs SE Louisiana University.  It has been quite a pleasure to watch Lange pitch since he stepped on campus as a freshman and won National Freshman Pitcher of Year honors.  The 6’3″ right hander throws a fastball in the low to mid 90s, a decent changeup, and a knuckle curve that will be fooling major league hitters in the near future.  What happened next was a bit surprising for Tigers fans.

The first batter Lange faced led off the game with a homerun, the next 3 batters all flied out and the Tigers ended the 1st inning with 4 runs of its own.  Most days this would be a recipe for success for Lange.  Early in the season the Tigers struggled to score runs when he pitched, as evident by the 2 complete game losses, one a 0-1 loss at Florida.  It was quite shocking when Lange gave up 4 runs and the lead in the top of the 2nd inning.  After struggling through 2 innings, Lange would give up only 2 more hits scattered over the next 4 innings before he gave way to the bullpen with a 10-5 lead.  Except for a solo homerun, Zack Hess and Hunter Newman were lights out, striking out 5 with 0 walks over the final 3 innings.

Much like game 1 the Tigers offensive catalyst and hero would be true freshman center fielder Zach Watson.  Watson has had a stellar freshman season and his bat has gotten hot during the current winning streak, but no one saw coming what he did this weekend.  After hitting 2 homeruns in game 1, he blasted 2 more in game 2, doubling his previous season total of 4.  That’s tremendous power for a guy that is 6’3″ and 170 lbs soaking wet.  If Watson continues to hit like this, the Tigers will be incredibly difficult to beat.

Game 3 vs. Rice

One of the biggest reasons for the Tigers improvement from last year is the depth in the starting rotation, welcome freshman right hander Erik Walker.  Much like Lange in his freshman year for the Tigers, Walker should be in the running for National Freshman Pitcher of the year.  He came into this game with an 8-1 record, 3.46 ERA, 23 walks and 78 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings.  Walker is by no means overpowering, his fastball is in the mid to upper 80s, but his command is masterful.  He throws 4 pitches and consistently paints the inside and outside corners of the plate, drawing comparisons to Major League Hall of Famer Greg Maddux who made a career doing the same.

This game would be quite different than the first 2 of the weekend, the Tigers’ bats cooled off as they only managed 5 runs against Rice.  Those 5 runs would be more than enough as Walker once again looked like a polished veteran on the mound.  He pitched 8 strong innings, scattering 7 hits while striking out 8 and walking none.  If the Tigers’ 3rd starter continues to throw like an ace, who would dare face these Tigers.  

By:  Aaron Goldberg

 

LSU Baseball. NCAA Tournament. Can pitching carry the Tigers to Omaha?
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