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The Sports Troll: On Sundays, the Tigers wear GOLD

Man, this weekend was one hell of a time to be a fan of the LSU Tigers!

Within a span of about 48 hours, the LSU softball team beat Florida State not once, but twice, which enabled the team to advance to the Women’s College World Series for the third-straight year.

That was in Tallahassee, Florida.

About 300 miles to the north in Hoover, Alabama, the LSU baseball team was taking care of business in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers run-ruled South Carolina on Saturday, then topped Arkansas in a thriller – the school’s 12th SEC Tournament crown in school history.

So now, let’s talk about what happens next.

For the softball team, the next stop is the College World Series and a date with UCLA on Thursday afternoon.

The Lady Tigers beat the Lady Seminoles with clutch offense on Sunday, scoring six runs against a dominant pitching staff which had held LSU to just two combined runs in the first two games of the series.

Against UCLA, the Lady Tigers will need to score some more, because the Lady Bruins are sound offensively – one of the best in the country.

The Lady Tigers know this first-hand.

They played UCLA early in the season in a tournament out in California.

The Lady Bruins won the game, but it wasn’t lopsided. It was 6-5 and it went to extra innings.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that LSU probably gave that game away defensively – something that these Lady Tigers don’t often do and likely won’t do again.

Against UCLA on that day, LSU committed three errors, which accounted for five unearned runs. Carley Hoover started the game and allowed five hits and five runs, but only one was earned.

In extra innings, Allie Walljasper came in and also allowed an unearned run because of an error.

LSU trailed that game 4-0 after the first inning, then 5-2 going into the seventh. The Lady Tigers tied it with three runs in the seventh, then lost in the eighth with a lone run allowed.

Make no mistake about it – there are no “easy games” in the Women’s College World Series.

But I’m actually thrilled about LSU’s matchup with UCLA.

I think that’s a good matchup for the Lady Tigers.

The Lady Bruins are awfully good, but I don’t think they’re any better than Florida State or some of the other SEC teams that LSU has faced in the last few weeks of the season.

Now, let’s talk about the guys.

The LSU baseball team is sizzling hot right now, and they’re playing some of the best baseball in the country, rolling through the SEC Tournament in four-straight wins.

I don’t mean to be the devil’s advocate, but haven’t we seen this story before?
LSU always wins the SEC Tournament, but their big obstacle has been in the NCAA Tournament where they’ve gotten some tough-luck draws and have been knocked out a little earlier than expected.

What’s promising right now for the Tigers, though, is their pitching, which is starting to come around at just the right time.

Alex Lange has been filthy on the mound for LSU in the last month – fully regaining the form that had eluded him earlier in the year.

Add a little Jared Poche’ and a little Eric Walker into the mix, and I think this is the deepest starting staff that the Tigers have had in quite a while.
But the bullpen still scares the heck out of me.

I’m not crazy about the idea of Hunter Newman getting the final outs in a big NCAA Tournament game and/or College World Series game.

Newman has been absolutely fantastic this season, but he’s not an overpowering pitcher and his command has been an issue.

He tends to walk a very, very fine line and make things interesting.

It’s worked so far, but if the pressure is upped a little bit more, I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out.

I’m far more confident right now in the work of freshman Zach Hess, who has been very Matty Ott-like, showcasing absolutely filthy stuff with his fastball and off-speed stuff.

If it were me, I’d keep Hess as the eighth inning guy, but if he’s rolling, I’d let him finish it out.

If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

Anyway, the LSU Regional opponents will be announced today, and I will write a Troll on Thursday breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of every, single one of the teams.

Until then, enjoy it, Tiger fans – it’s been a hell of a weekend.
Those performances, my friends, are why the Tigers wear gold on Sunday.

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