SEC Coaches: LSU Is 'Dangerous'

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn doesn't want to talk too much about his scouting report on LSU. That's wise heading into this weekend's series against the Tigers, which begins at 6:30 p.m. today in Alex Box Stadium.

By the second half of Southeastern Conference play, coaches know most everything about everybody. Strengths and weaknesses have been exposed.

But most, like Van Horn, try not to reveal everything they know about an opponent. If LSU coach Ray "Smoke" Laval knew what Van Horn expects to see, it could backfire when Laval rips a page off the usual script.

That's why Van Horn is keeping his knowledge guarded even though he and the rest of the No. 11 Razorbacks (30-12, 10-8 in the SEC) had the luxury of studying Tuesday's telecast of the Tigers' 7-2 win against New Orleans.

"I'm not going to tell everybody (what I know)," Van Horn said on the weekly SEC coaches' teleconference. "If you make mistakes, they'll hurt you. I'm not going to get into detail, but they have a very good lineup."

The best approach is to pump coaches who already have played LSU for information. After a series has ended, they're more apt to dissect what got them beat or what made them successful against a particular team.

This year's Tigers (27-16, 6-12) have been tough to gauge. They won two of three games against SEC leader Alabama (13-5), but were handed a rare sweep at home by South Carolina, which is tied with Kentucky for the East lead with an 11-7 record. Arkansas was the first to sweep the Tigers at home in 16 years in 2004, but LSU returned the favor with a sweep in Fayetteville a year ago.

The Tigers started 16-2 this season and even beat then-No. 12 Tulane in the process. They've averaged only one win per SEC weekend, though.

"They're still typical LSU," said Tide coach Jim Wells. "They're still going to run out two or three guys that are 6-4, 230 (pounds) and if you don't make pitches, they'll hit it out of the ballpark. They still have some big strong guys in that lineup and they pitch well with guys that get the ball down in the zone.

"They're like any other SEC team. You can't just go in there and not play well or you'll get beat like we did."

Wells said Arkansas should hope the wind is not blowing out as it was when the Tide lost its series in Baton Rouge, La. He called the middle of the lineup of right fielder Quinn Stewart and first baseman J.T. Wise "dangerous."

South Carolina's Ray Tanner also said LSU's offense is dangerous despite the Gamecocks' sweep at "The Box."

"If Quinn Stewart hits three or four homers this weekend, they're going to be in a position to beat you," Tanner said. "He's like Babe Ruth or Ted Williams when we face him. We can't get him out. We try to make different pitchers locate different ways and even a variety of adjustments and he just seems to hit the ball extremely hard.

"We were happy when he got a single, because he'll hit doubles and home runs."

In 157 at-bats, Stewart is hitting .331 with 19 homers, one shy of national leader Kellen Kulbacki of James Madison. In 41 fewer at-bats last season, he batted .250 with three homers while fighting through a hand injury. As a sophomore, he homered seven times in 145 at-bats.

"The power isn't really surprising," Laval said. "He'll whale away like everybody, but more knowledge of the strike zone and now a little bit of confidence level knowing he doesn't have to look for a certain pitch to drive. If it shows up in a certain area, he knows that he can hit it out."

Laval said it's been tough to piece together sound hitting with effective pitching. LSU has a team ERA of 4.77, but Tanner said it's important to be wary of Clay Dirks (3-4, 5.26), a junior left-hander who starts tonight against Arkansas sophomore left-hander Nick Schmidt (7-2, 2.18).

"He can throw six pitches an inning to get you out," Tanner said. "We tried to be very careful with him and make him pitch to you a little bit and we were able to bloop a few balls and hit a few grounders that went between infielders for our success against him.

"If you don't have good at-bats against him, he'll get some easy outs."

Arkansas is expected to start second baseman James Ewing (fractured foot) for the first time since the SEC opening series at Florida, but will be without center fielder Craig Gentry (knee infection). While Gentry is out indefinitely, Jake Dugger will start in center field for the second consecutive series.

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