LSU did the seemingly impossible on Saturday, slaying the Goliath baseball Beavers for a second-straight game and moving into the College World Series Championship Series.
Next up is a date with the Florida Gators and in at least one of the three games, LSU will have virtually no pitching at its disposal.
The Tigers have been super busy in Omaha over the past few days – a byproduct of having to come out of the loser’s bracket to make it through the field. LSU has played three games since Wednesday and four games since last Monday, which means that available arms are at a big-time premium on Monday night as LSU gets set to take on the Gators in game one.
Coach Paul Mainieri announced on Sunday night that senior Russell Reynolds will get the ball on the mound in the series opener – a bit of a surprise to the LSU faithful because, quite frankly, Reynolds has been terrible this season.
The senior righty has worked just 14.2 innings, posting a 1-1 record with a very, very shaky 8.59 ERA.
He has 12 strikeouts and 11 walks, which shows that an inability to consistently through strikes has sometimes been Reynolds’ biggest problem.
Barring a miracle, Reynolds won’t be in the game long.
Mainieri said he expects about five or six relievers to try to get the ball into the late innings for LSU where Hunter Newman and Zack Hess will attempt to close the door and steal a win for the Tigers.
Stealing would be exactly what to call an LSU victory on Monday night because, unlike LSU, the Gators are throwing an established starting pitcher who has been able to get outs all season.
That would be sophomore Brady Singer, who has an 8-5 record with a 3.18 ERA on the season.
The Tigers faced Singer on March 25 in Gainesville and had no luck. He pitched a complete game and helped the Gators get an 8-1 victory.
The good news for LSU is that after Singer’s appearance, things will level out significantly in the Tigers’ favor.
Mainieri said Jared Poche’ will likely start Game 2 of the Championship Series, while the Gators aren’t expected to have a weekend-quality pitcher available for that game.
If the series goes to Game 3, Alex Lange is expected to be available for the Tigers. He’d be far better than anyone else Florida has to offer throughout the series.
But to get to the fun stuff, LSU will likely have to endure a tough, ugly ballgame on Monday night.
I’m not saying LSU won’t win on Monday night, but there’s no doubt that in an all-staff game with a lot of B-list pitchers throwing, there will be a lot of tense and uneasy moments.
But then again, this is LSU baseball, right?
Tense and uneasy is par for the course.
There is no other way.
Outside of the pitching matchups, I think LSU has to be at its best to beat a Florida team that’s played very good baseball throughout the College World Series.
Here are three keys I believe the Tigers must attain to find a way to get the two victories needed to earn the title.
1. All about Kramer – When Kramer Robertson is rolling, the LSU baseball team almost always plays well. He was outstanding in Saturday’s game against Oregon State and the Tigers romped the Beavers. With a few base hits to get off the slump he was in, Robertson needs to have a huge series against the Gators.
2. Who else besides Hess? – Zack Hess is unbelievably good, but he is also human and against Oregon State, he showed a little bit of fatigue. The Tigers will need someone else besides Hess to get late-game outs against the Gators. Whether Hunter Newman or someone else, there’s no doubt that they’ll need another guy to step up. Hess can’t go for two or three innings on three-straight days. That just won’t happen.
3. Start early – Especially on Monday night, a good start is necessary. The Tigers are a humongous underdog in Monday’s game. But baseball is a weird game where momentum can swing pretty easily – especially early in a game. If the Tigers can get an early run or two, it may empower Reynolds, much like it empowered Caleb Gilbert on Saturday afternoon.
Photo: Super Regional by Sean Gasser.