What’s the deal with the LSU baseball team’s offense recently?
Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football, with LSU beat writer Nick Suss. Today, we break down what’s going wrong with LSU’s baseball team, catch up on some casual smack talk, preview a busy weekend ahead and more. Enjoy!
What the heck is going on???
Through the first month of the season, the LSU baseball team was putting together more hits than the Beatles in the ’60s. But over the past week or two, the team has starting making hits like the Beatles in 2017.
In other words, LSU’s once-potent offense has turned to mush. Aside from three innings at the end of its win against Florida on Sunday, LSU has scored one run in its last four SEC games, three of which were losses. That includes a 4-0 loss to Texas A&M on Thursday night. Add on to that a midweek loss to a less-than-stellar Tulane squad and you find a team in crisis.
Dating back to the start of the Florida series five games ago, seven players have started every game for LSU. In those games, this is how they’ve hit:
- Shortstop Kramer Robertson: 1 for 22 (.045)
- Second baseman Cole Freeman: 4 for 19 (.211)
- Outfielder Antoine Duplantis: 3 for 18 (.167)
- Outfielder Greg Deichmann: 3 for 17 (.176)
- Third baseman Josh Smith: 4 for 17 (.235)
- First baseman Jake Slaughter: 4 for 18 (.222)
- Outfielder Zach Watson: 5 for 19 (.263)
That’s a recipe for failure, especially when Robertson, Freeman and Duplantis, the three people at the top of the order, are scuffling the most. On top of that, neither Deichmann nor Slaughter has produced a hit in their last two games and designated hitter Beau Jordan has driven in almost 30 percent of LSU’s offense over that stretch on three swings.
In talking to Freeman on Thursday night, he told me that this is a classic case of everyone trying a little too hard to be the hero. This team doesn’t lack players with superstar potential. And everyone in the lineup from top to bottom is trying to flash that right now.
But the guys need to take a step back. They won’t use the terms “pressing” or “scuffling,” but they’ll admit something needs to be fixed. And some of it might be mental. Because just as hitting can be contagious, slumps can be, too.
A Twitter story in four acts
The most entertaining story from LSU football practice on Thursday came from off the gridiron.
First, you need to know who wasn’t on the field. Senior wide receiver D.J. Chark missed his second straight practice with a sprained ankle and junior cornerback Donte Jackson was over with the track team, leaving a spot open in the secondary.
Sophomore Saivion Smith stepped in directly for Jackson, but fellow junior starter Kevin Toliver took over as the head honcho. Something he bragged about on Twitter after practice let out:
Pitched a no hitter today for my bro @_DJack01 lol
— 2️⃣ (@Kevintoliver2) March 30, 2017
A couple of minutes later, Jackson voiced his approval for Toliver’s antics:
I love it❌ https://t.co/5jEqMDk1Mr
— Donte Jackson (@_DJack01) March 30, 2017
But do you know who wasn’t sold? Chark. Toliver can pitch as many shutouts as he wants, but without the team’s best receiver on the field, does it really count?
Do it when I come back ? https://t.co/dwJj0bc4jp
— DJ Chark (@DJChark82) March 31, 2017
We have an assertion, a backer and a challenger. Now, all we need is acceptance for this to be a full-on wager in the making. And guess what: Toliver’s not the kind of guy to back down. So, it looks like this might be war.
No problem https://t.co/PCmTTlgpyc
— 2️⃣ (@Kevintoliver2) March 31, 2017
I don’t know who’s side you’re on. Maybe you’re Team Chark. Maybe Team Toliver. But either way, this is going to be the first thing I’m wondering about after the spring scrimmage on Saturday. If Chark is able to go, the battle between him and Toliver sounds like must-see TV.
Who do you think has the advantage? Let me know down in the comments section below if you have thoughts.
It’s the end of the month as we know it
Friday marks the last day of March, a busy month across all LSU sports if I’ve ever seen one.
So, to mark the end of the month, let’s take a quick look back at some of the notable headlines from the past four weeks:
- 3/3: The LSU baseball team faced off against and lost to No. 1 TCU in Houston.
- 3/5: LSU gymnastics won the first-ever SEC regular season gymnastics crown.
- 3/7: Ed Orgeron previewed LSU football’s spring practice slate.
- 3/8: The LSU basketball team was eliminated from the SEC Tournament.
- 3/10: Johnny Jones was dismissed as LSU’s head basketball coach.
- 3/10: The Tigers kicked off spring practice and released the rosters for 2017.
- 3/13: The LSU women’s basketball team earned an invite to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
- 3/17: Antoine Duplantis set the LSU record for hits in a single game with six in LSU’s win against Georgia.
- 3/18: LSU gymnastics won its first SEC postseason championship since 1981.
- 3/18: LSU’s women’s basketball team lost to California in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
- 3/20: Will Wade was named the next head basketball coach at LSU.
- 3/20: Christian LaCouture was awarded LSU’s historic No. 18 jersey.
- 3/26: LSU came back from a four-run deficit to defeat Florida baseball in Gainesville.
- 3/28: Tony Benford was hired to be one of LSU’s assistant basketball coaches.
Your weekly LSU non-revenue sports primer
As March gives way to April, plenty of LSU athletics programs are still in the thick of their seasons. So, let’s take a look at what’s going on this weekend and what you’ll be able to watch:
- LSU baseball continues its series against Texas A&M with games Friday and Saturday from Alex Box Stadium. Friday’s game is at 8 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPNU, while Saturday’s game begins at 2:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
- The No. 2 LSU gymnastics team competes in NCAA Regionals on Saturday at 4 p.m. CT from Lincoln, Neb. Counted among LSU’s main competitors are No. 11 Boise State and No. 14 Nebraska. The top two teams from each regional move on to nationals.
- LSU softball is at home this weekend, hosting Mississippi State for a three-game set. On Friday and Saturday, the games will begin at 6 p.m., while Sunday’s game starts at 1 p.m. All three games will be streamed on the SEC Network Plus and WatchESPN.
- Men’s tennis also is home and faces a series of competitors. The squad takes on Arkansas on Friday at 5 p.m., followed by matchups on Sunday against Ole Miss at noon and Jackson State at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
- Fresh off its highest ranking in school history, LSU’s beach volleyball team heads to Atlanta for the GSU Diggin’ Duals. LSU’s opponents include Georgia State, UAB and Austin Peay.
- LSU men’s golf heads to Bryan, Texas, to face off against Texas A&M and other schools in the Aggie Invitational.
- Women’s tennis travels to Mississippi for matches against Ole Miss on Friday and Mississippi State on Sunday.
- Outdoor track and field season is underway and LSU’s teams head to Austin, Texas, this weekend for the Texas Relays, available for viewing on the Longhorn Network.
What if I don’t like sports?
As a public service announcement, in case that giant list of sports you can watch doesn’t float your boat, I’ll also provide a series of things you can do this weekend in Baton Rouge. Here are some things I would do if I wasn’t watching sports this weekend:
- Described by some as the “godfather of modern rockabilly,” The Reverend Horton Heat is playing at Spanish Moon Friday night, if that’s the kind of music you’re into.
- For just $10, you can visit this month’s first Old South Jamboree out in Walker, La., on Saturday.
- Yelp presents Baton Rouge’s fifth annual Block Party on Sunday. If you’re looking to adopt a dog, find good, new food vendors or just spend some time outside, this sounds like the place to be. Plus live music. Head to City-Brooks Community Park if you’re interested. I certainly am.
- Consider yourself an amateur photographer? Saturday and Saturday are submission days for BREC’s “Back to Nature Photo Contest.” Find the details here.
- For a full calendar of events within 50 miles of Baton Rouge proper, click here.
LSU in the NBA
The NBA playoff race is winding down, with just two weeks remaining in the regular season. So, which former LSU basketball players have a chance of making the postseason? Well, it’s mostly down to a couple of guys who don’t really play that much.
Former LSU standout Jordan Mickey is a bench player on the Boston Celtics, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference as of Friday. Forward Brandon Bass, a former LSU star, plays a couple times per week for the Los Angeles Clippers, the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference.
Jarell Martin’s Memphis Grizzlies sit in the seventh spot in the Western Conference for the time being, though Martin hasn’t played since January. And rookie guard Tim Quarterman hasn’t played for the Portland Trail Blazers in more than a month, but that hasn’t kept the squad from competing for the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed.
Justin Hamilton’s Brooklyn Nets and Garrett Temple’s Sacramento Kings have both been eliminated from playoff contention.
Today in made-up holidays
According to NationalDayCalendar.com, Friday is National Prom Day. So, let’s use this occasion to briefly feel bad for the LSU football team’s six early enrollees who won’t get to participate in their senior proms since they graduated early.
JaCoby Stevens, Grant Delpit, Mannie Netherly, Austin Deculus, Justin Thomas and Lowell Narcisse don’t get to enjoy the taste of senioritis. They’re just young college freshmen. So, if you see any of them on campus on Friday or know any of them personally, go out of your way to throw them a makeshift prom. On the spot. They deserve it.
And for all of the LSU football signees for this class who didn’t decide to early enroll, enjoy your proms like normal high school seniors. Just don’t party too hard. You’ve got a football career to take care of.
Side note on made-up holidays: It’s quite a bummer that April Fool’s Day falls on a day that the Briefing doesn’t go up this year. We would’ve celebrated the crap out of that made-up holiday. It’s perfect Briefing fodder. Oh well. Maybe in 2019.
Trick some fools for me, though. And if you have any great LSU-themed pranks to report, you know you have to let me know in the comments or on Twitter @nicksuss. It’s a requirement.
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