Dig Baton Rouge

The Sports Troll: LSU baseball, LSU softball, LSU football, then more LSU baseball again

The past weekend was awesome for LSU athletics.

The coming one might be even better.

The LSU softball team advanced to the Women’s College World Series last weekend with two thrilling victories over Florida State in Tallahassee.

While that was happening, the Tigers baseball team was busy mashing the SEC Tournament – crushing everyone in its path.

So, naturally, you guys have questions about that and also the future, so let us fire away!

Q: Will LSU baseball have any problems this weekend? (Asked by Doug, Baton Rouge)
A: In a vacuum, I’d say no. I think LSU is clearly the best team in the Baton Rouge Regional. Texas Southern isn’t any good, Rice wouldn’t have made the NCAA Tournament if not for a Cinderella run in its conference tournament and Southeastern Louisiana is a team that many forecasters had as a three-seed. But I am a little bit concerned for one reason – the weather. It’s supposed to rain every, single day of the Regional, which means that some games may be rained out and/or delayed significantly. What happens if Alex Lange starts a game, pitches three innings, then it rains? He’s likely washed out for the weekend at that point, which would be a huge bummer. In perfect conditions, I think LSU would cruise, but when weather is a factor, that usually helps the underdog, so we’ll see.

Q: How would you handle the pitching rotation this weekend? (Asked by Reid, Slidell)
A: I don’t know if there’s any way imaginable that the pitching can align better. Against a really, really good four-seed, I’d use Jared Poche’ in that first game, then Alex Lange, which means that an Eric Walker/unproven starter combo would be left for those third and possibly fourth games. But with Texas Southern being a team that shouldn’t pose much of a problem to LSU, the Tigers can save Poche’, which will allow for a loaded rotation later in the championship rounds of the Regional – assuming, of course, that the Tigers beat Texas Southern.

Q: Who should close this weekend for LSU? (Asked by Thomas, Baton Rouge)
A: I don’t change the order. I go Zach Hess in the late-seventh and early eighth, then Hunter Newman after that. But I certainly would change my philosophy for how to handle both pitchers. If Hess is dynamite in the eighth, I’m giving him a chance to finish the game in the ninth. In the SEC Tournament, Hess threw three pitches – all strikes – and he struck out an Arkansas batter easily. He absolutely should have been given the chance to close the game in the ninth. If it doesn’t work out, give him a quick hook and go to Newman. Heck, he’s better with runners on base, anyway, so it’s a natural fit.

Q: How far can LSU softball go in the Women’s College World Series? (Asked by Maria, New Orleans)
A: I don’t know that LSU will win the whole thing, but I think they certainly have a shot to be incredibly competitive. I know this wasn’t your question, Maria, but how about Beth Torina? In a Joe Alleva era that’s been filled with mostly underwhelming coaching hires, Torina has been an absolute gem. She has been a grand slam home run hire for the LSU softball program.

Q: Which opponent in the Regional can give LSU the most problems? (Asked by Billy, Thibodaux)
A: Most people would say Rice, but I will go with Southeastern. I just don’t think Rice is all that good. They don’t pitch nearly as well as they usually do and they have some pretty bad losses. Heck, they played a three-game series with Southeastern and lost two of the three games, so I think that should count for something, right?

Q: What early-season game should scare LSU football the most? (Asked by William, Bunkie)
A: I don’t see any challenges in the first month of the season, honestly. BYU is good, but not good enough, I don’t believe. Chattanooga, Syracuse and Troy are all games that shouldn’t be an issue – especially in Tiger Stadium. A road game at Mississippi State is of a little concern, I guess, but the Bulldogs will be almost universally predicted to be among the worst teams in the SEC Western Division, so I think LSU will get past them there. I will go with the date at Florida on October 7 – now a huge rivalry game because of all the drama which happened last season.

Q: Coach O said he ‘expects’ Arden Key in summer school next week. That’s not definitive enough for me. Are you worried? (Asked by TigerBait14)
A: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being ‘not concerned’ and 10 being ‘OMG, let’s panic’, I’d say I’m at about a 2. Key is 255 pounds now. Photos of him on social media show that he’s shredded. He definitely looks like a man who’s planning to play football in the fall. Key still tweets and retweets pro-LSU things online and has talked about wanting to be on the field in the fall with his brothers. I don’t see much of an issue here. He needed some personal time, got it and now it’s time to get back to work.

OK, now, for some non-LSU questions:
Q: Will we ever see Tiger Woods play professionally again? (Asked by Peter, Donaldsonville)
A: If physically able, yes. I don’t read much into his DUI. I know that we are in a society today that loves to build people up, then crash them down, but the guy took pain medicine, had a reaction and it smacked him in the jaw a little harder than he thought it would. I can’t say something as generic as “that happens to every”, but I can say that I know people who have had this happen – including someone I consider a close friend. Of bigger concern is Tiger’s back at this point. Why’s he still on pain medicine? If still in pain, obviously, it’s a sign that playing may be in question.

Q: What can the NBA do to make the playoffs better? (Asked by Steve, Kenner)
A: Let me preface by saying that this will never happen, but I think the NBA has two, big problems right now. I think the first problem is that the regular season doesn’t matter anymore. The second problem is that the playoffs are too long and fans know who will win most series before they begin. So let’s do this: Let’s cut the playoffs to six teams and allow onto the teams with the six best records into the playoffs. I think that would give some intensity to the regular season games and would make the playoffs feel more important. In my model, the six playoff teams this year would have been the Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, Celtics, Cavs and Jazz. The Warriors and Spurs would have received byes and in the first round, the Rockets would have played Utah and the Celtics would have played the Cavs. I think that’d be more fun to watch than what we have now.

Q: What do you think about Lavar Ball? (Asked by John, Monroe)
A: I think he’s a clown. It was a fun act at first, but in the past two or three weeks, he’s insulted women, called journalists fat and has made fun of a pro basketball player for not knowing his mother when his mother died as a child. It’s all getting a bit old.

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