LSU baseball season is here, so welcome to “Out of The Box,” SEC Country’s weekly column covering all things Tigers baseball. Check out SEC Country every Monday at noon ET for your dose of news, notes, updates and analysis on Tigers baseball!
So, uh, that wasn’t good.
All the optimism and promise that comes with opening weekend has been drained out of the LSU baseball program. What’s left is a husk of questions and insecurities. Problems we already knew existed have been intensified tenfold. Three games into the season, LSU has lost two and doesn’t look like a good team. But it’s not the time to make sweeping declarations. Not yet, at least.
Sure, LSU’s starting pitching looked awful this weekend. Starting pitchers Caleb Gilbert, Zack Hess and Todd Peterson combined to allow 16 earned runs in 10.2 innings with none of the three completing 5 innings of work. On top of that, LSU went an entire weekend without a hit from a third baseman and freshman Daniel Cabrera – who LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri has compared to MLB stars Alex Bregman and D.J.LeMahieu – opened his career 0-for-9.
In total, LSU held a lead for four outs all weekend. That’s not what you want. But let’s not pretend the season is already over. Baseball isn’t football. Two losses don’t doom a team to obscurity. Nor does one bad outing exile a pitcher to the land of the unwanted.
Chances are Gilbert and Hess will be able to bounce back. Their track records speak for themselves; they’ve thrown better and longer relief outings than they did in their starts this weekend. Peterson? He’s a question mark. Always has been. And the offense, for all it’s spottiness, still averaged 5 runs per game. That’ll win you plenty of ballgames.
I understand the impulse to panic. It’s the nature of being a fan. But give it a week. If this happens again next weekend, we’ll talk. For now, we’ll look at this as a learning experience. Like LSU likely did in 1999 when the Tigers lost two out of three games to Texas to open the season and parlayed that into a Super Regional bid at the end of the season.
On the plus side
If you’re looking for a positive from the weekend, you have two identical ones staring you in the face. Twin brothers Beau and Bryce Jordan lit up Alex Box Stadium this weekend, combining to hit 6-for-15 (.400) with 3 home runs, 6 RBI and 6 runs scored.
For Bryce Jordan, this is what a clean bill of health can do. His power stroke emerged with his grand slam Friday night, but surprisingly his patented walk-and-get-hit-by-pitches plate approach never came into effect, as the catcher and first baseman didn’t earn a free pass all weekend.
"High into the air. A monster shot, no doubter."@beaujordan24 with the homer to decrease the Tiger's deficit to three runs.
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) February 18, 2018
His brother, on the other hand? Beau Jordan raked. Beau hit .500 (4-for-8) with 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 4 runs, 2 RBI, 3 walks and a slugging percentage of 1.500 for the weekend. By comparison, he hit 4 home runs with a slugging percentage of .381 for the entirety of 2017.
This hot weekend was huge for Beau, who might’ve been the odd man out of the lineup when catcher Hunter Feduccia returns from his hand injury. Now Mainieri might have to leave him in, either at designated hitter or in left field. LSU can’t afford to keep this sort of production on the bench.
LSU’s next game is on Wednesday versus a familiar opponent, the University of New Orleans. Coached by former LSU All-America first baseman Blake Dean, UNO defeated LSU twice last season, winning 11-8 and 7-4.
These losses set the tone for what ended up being an underwhelming season of performances in midweek games, with LSU losing to the likes of Tulane and South Alabama as well. But let’s face it, midweek games don’t matter. It’s the time for coaches to test their players. And Mainieri is going to test his young pitchers in this game.
Are the veteran players going to be motivated to beat UNO on Wednesday? Yeah. Almost certainly. No one likes to lost to in-state rivals three times in a row. But if LSU loses this game by throwing out six or seven pitchers and starting a couple of project players in the infield, at least LSU goes down learning about itself. Which is what early-season midweek games should be about.
Your weekly LSU baseball power rankings
Every week in Out of The Box we rank the five best players on the LSU baseball team based purely on on-the-field performance. Here’s the big board through three games:
No. 5: Centerfielder Zach Watson
Zach Watson didn’t have the weekend you’d want from a preseason All-America outfielder, but he hit .250 with 2 walks and threw out a runner at home on a beautiful laser from centerfield.
No. 4: Catcher Bryce Jordan
Jordan had a memorable Friday night with his grand slam, but his performance behind the plate was mediocre at best and he only hit safely twice all weekend.
No. 3: Right fielder Antoine Duplantis
Antoine Duplantis went cold on Sunday, but through two games he hit .429. He finished the weekend with 3 hits and 4 walks, pumping his on-base percentage to .467.
No. 2: Second baseman Brandt Broussard
Junior college transfer Brandt Broussard played a smooth weekend of error-free second base with 7 putouts and 6 assists while hitting .286 with 3 RBI, a stolen base and a walk.
No. 1: Left fielder/designated hitter Beau Jordan
No one hit like Beau did this weekend. The senior came away with 2 doubles and 2 home runs while hitting .500 and posting an OPS of 2.136. He currently leads the team in hits, runs scored, doubles, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
The LSU baseball team hosts New Orleans on Wednesday at Alex Box Stadium. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be available for streaming through WatchESPN.
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