A few months ago I posed some questions about the LSU baseball team.
How would the pitching staff fare?
Is there enough hitting in the lineup?
How will the team fare defensively?
How would coach Paul Mainieri handle the pressure from missing the post season in 2011?
Well, many of these questions were greeted with some solid answers in late March and the month of April. The pitching staff has been solid, in particular, thanks to ace Kevin Gausman and closer Nick Goody (both on the Golden Spikes Award Watch List). For the most part, the arms have done the job.
The hitting story starts with Raph Rhymes, also on Golden Spikes Award Watch List), who is having one of the best seasons in LSU baseball history (with all due respect to Russ Johnson, Todd Walker and Eddie Furniss – all of whom hit .400+ in a single season). Mason Katz has also been a reliable RBI man. Other hitters have stepped up and responded at certain times, too.
Defensively, the Tigers have played better than average. Mainieri has handled the pressure well. The addition of pitching coach Alan Dunn has been very successful.
The Tigers will be in Hoover, Alabama for the SEC tournament and will host a regional in the NCAAs. Whether or not they are a top-8 national seed remains to be seen. LSU will either play their way into or out of that much-coveted designation in the next two weeks at South Carolina and at the SEC tournament.
Yet the questions have again surfaced and not at a good time. Certainly, the loss of Ty Ross due to an appendectomy will hurt LSU. Best case scenario has him in a pinch hitting role in Hoover. He is needed more defensively behind the plate and that will probably not happen that soon.
Weekend starters Aaron Nola and Ryan Eads have struggled as of late. The bullpen has not been as effective in recent outings. Again, Gausman and Goody are solid. Gausman threw his best game of the season last Friday against Vanderbilt. But the other starters must be better for a postseason run.
Rhymes has "slumped" a bit at the plate as have the other Tigers. Mainieri is again feeling some pressure; he will make the post season, but now the high-expectations questions of "how far will LSU go? Omaha?" can be heard around Tiger Nation.
The tough task coming up in South Carolina will tell us a lot as the Gamecocks are playing better and better as the season moves forward. This is the time of the year to play better in college baseball – the question remains, are the Tigers on the upswing? It will be an important two weeks for LSU baseball.
PREP NOTE: A tip of the hat goes to all of the state champions in high school baseball. Many of the players from those teams will be in college baseball in the near future.
Tommy Krysan is the host of "Tigers Roar" a live TV show each Wednesday night on Pelican Sports TV in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans. He also hosts Pelican Sports Radio, Monday – Friday, 3:00-4:00 pm in Baton Rouge on KKAY 1590 AM. Online at; kkay1590.com or globalradiokkay.com
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