Baseball Preview: LSU

Cal State Fullerton started off a bit sluggishly by going 2-2 opening weekend and losing the opening game at TCU. Since that 4-1 loss in the Friday game against the Horned Frogs, the Titans have won six straight game behind some timely hitting and some outstanding pitching. Fullerton won all four games last week with a midweek win against LMU and a sweep last weekend of USC.

Jake Floethe went seven innings and allowed one run to lead Fullerton to a 5-1 win last Tuesday.  The Titans offense was led by Richie Pedroza, who had two hits, scored a run and drove in a run, and Anthony Trajano, who also scored a run and drove in a run.

Noe Ramirez set the tone for last weekend's series with USC by allowing one run on only one hit in eight innings as Fullerton won in a 10-1 rout.  The combined one-hitter was first one for the Titans since 2007.  Trajano had two hits and four RBI, Carlos Lopez had three hits and two RBI and Austin Kingsolver scored three runs and drove in two.

USC gave Fullerton more of a challenge on Saturday and had a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the 5th before the Titans put together a four run rally on their way to a 7-3 win.  Tyler Pill had another solid start by allowing three runs (one ER) on three hits in seven innings before Dylan Floro finished off the night with two scoreless innings.  Pedroza had three hits and two runs, Trajano had two runs, two hits and two RBI, Nick Ramirez had two hits and two RBI and Walker Moore had two hits and two RBI.

Sunday's game was a pitcher's duel as Colin O'Connell and Logan Odom were both outstanding and the teams combined for only seven hits in the game.  Odom allowed only two runs (one ER) in 7 2/3 innings but O'Connell was even better and allowed only one unearned run in eight innings before Nick Ramirez came in to finish off the game for his third save with three strikeouts in the 9th inning.  Trajano hit a triple and scored the eventual game winning run to wrap up a 6-11 week and win Big West Player of the Week and National Player of the Week honors.

Next up for Fullerton is another trip to the southern part of the country, this one to the bayou for a series with the LSU Tigers.  LSU didn't have a season that lived up to their expectations last year after winning the national title in 2009 and they are looking to get back to the level of contending for a spot in the College World Series and a trip to Omaha.

LSU Tigers

  • Overall Record – 41-22 in 2010; 12-1 in 2011
  • Conference Record – 14-16 (8th)
  • Post-Season – SEC Tournament Champions; 1-2 at UCLA Regional (W – UC Irvine, L – UCLA, L – UC Irvine)
  • 2010 RPI/ISR – 22/27.  2011 – 32 RPI
  • Current ranking – 7th by Collegiate Baseball, 8th by USA Today/Coaches Poll, 10th by NCBWA, 16th by Baseball America
  • Predicted conf finish – 1st in the SEC West by the SEC coaches and Baseball America

 

2010 Summary and 2011 Preview

When you mention college baseball to somebody, one of the first schools that will come to mind is USC, last week's opponent for Fullerton.  One of the other schools on that short list of teams that people think of is the LSU Tigers.  USC leads the country with twelve national titles and LSU (along with Texas) is next on that list with six.  Unlike USC, who has only won one of those titles in the last thirty years, LSU has won six national titles in the last twenty years and the Tigers were the national champions once again in 2009.

LSU started out the defense of their national title by winning 32 of their first 38 games before going into a terrible slump in which they lost 13 of their next 15 games.  The main reason for the Tigers slump was a pitching staff that had lots of injuries and ineffective performances and had a 6.72 ERA in SEC games.  LSU rebounded to win their last series of the season against SEC West cellar dweller Mississippi State and they entered the SEC Tournament as the #8 seed, where they proceeded to get red hot and win all four games to win the championship and the SEC's automatic bid.  The Tigers were sent on the road for a regional for the first time since 1989 and were the #2 seed at UCLA, where they won their first game 11-10 in extra innings against UC Irvine before dropping their next two games to UCLA (3-6) and Irvine (3-4) to be eliminated.

LSU brings a relatively young and inexperienced team into the 2011 season after losing most of their pitching staff and several key contributors from last season and their 2009 championship team.  The Tigers brought in lots of talent with one the highest rated recruiting classes in the country that was ranked 1st by Collegiate Baseball and 2nd by Baseball America.  With so many newcomers, LSU wanted to ease their team into their schedule by playing their first sixteen games at home.  The Tigers swept Wake Forest and Holy Cross in their first two weekends and picked up three midweek wins the first two weeks before playing Princeton last weekend, whom LSU won the first two games against before losing 8-7 last Sunday.

LSU's offense has been humming along and averaging ten runs per game against the often overmatched pitching staffs that they have seen.  The Tigers have hit 14 HR's despite using the new BBCOR bats and have a .520 SLG % but they aren't just swinging for the fences and they have 22 SB's and 16 SAC's, which nearly matches their total of 20 SAC bunts in 2010.  Nine of the thirteen pitchers that have seen action for LSU are newcomers and the difference has been night and day on the mound with the Tigers bringing a 2.83 ERA into the series and are only allowing teams to hit .195 against them.



Offense

  • Park Factor according to Boyd's World – 127 (increases offense by 27%).  The power alleys at Alex Box Stadium are 365 feet from home plate, where most HR's are hit, are 20 feet shorter than at Goodwin Field.
  • Batting Average – .321 (2nd in the SEC, 64th in the NCAA).  .326 in 2011 (1st in the SEC).
  • Runs Per Game – 8.0 (2/55).  10.1 in 2011 (1st).
  • Home Runs – 77 (7/40).  14 in 2011 (1st).
  • Stolen Bases – 75 (4/94).  22 in 2011 (3rd).
  • Slugging Percentage – .502 (2/51).  .520 in 2011 (2nd).
  • Walks – 294 (3/16), 4.8 per game.  55 in 2011, 4.6 per game (5th).
  • HBP's – 59 (8/129).  13 in 2011, 1.1 per game (7th).
  • Sac Bunts – 20 (11/234).  16 in 2011, 1.25 per game (2nd).

 

Lineup
 
LSU lost much of the power from their lineup from 2010, losing three of their top four HR hitters who also were also their three leaders in RBI.  The Tigers lost a three year starter at C along with their 1B, RF and DH.  LSU returns their starting middle infield and the rest of their outfield.
 
C – FR #26 Ty Ross (RH – .167/.300/.167, 0-5-0 in 24 AB's) and JC Transfer Jordy Snikeris (RH – .267/.353/.267, 0-1-0 in 15 AB's) have been splitting time behind the plate, with Ross making eight starts and Snikeris making four starts.  They have the unenviable task of replacing Micah Gibbs, who started for three years behind the plate and led the team in AVG (.392), was 2nd in RBI and was 1st team All SEC.  Ross was highly thought of coming out of HS but has struggled at the plate and Snikeris has been getting more playing time lately.  Either one of them will be hitting 8th.
 
1B – Soph #13 Alex Edward (RH – .364/.463/.424, 0-11-0.  '10 – .316/.389/.442, 2-14-0 in 95 AB's) was a part-time player at 3B and LF last year and is taking over for Blake Dean, who was a four year starter and led the team in RBI and was 2nd in HR.  Edward has been doing a good job of making contact with only one strikeout in 33 AB's after striking out almost 1/4 of the time in 2010.  Edward will hit 7th.
 
2B – FR #23 Jacoby Jones (RH – .447/.475/.711, 3-13-4) is a very good athlete who was rated the third best prospect in MS for the 2010 draft and would have been picked in the first 5-6 rounds if he didn't have a strong commitment to going to LSU.  He was projected to be the starter at 3B after fall ball but was switched to the middle infield in Jan.  Jones has been a sparkplug for the lineup and leads the team in AVG and is second in OBP, SLG and OPS.  He will be hit 9th.
 
SS – JR #36 Austin Nola (RH – .333/.426/.611, 1-13-0.  '10 – .325/.390/.460, 5-51-1) is a three year starter, the glue who holds things together for the infield and was 2nd team All SEC in 2010.  Nola doesn't run much with only one SB in the last two seasons but he already has five doubles and a triple early in the season and has been showing more pop in his bat than he did last year.  He will be hit 5th.
 
3B – JR #11 Tyler Hanover (RH – .297/.447/.378, 0-5-2.  '10 – .333/.407/.433, 2-34-5) was the starting 2B the past two years but shifted over to 3B in Jan when Jones was moved over to 2B.  He doesn't have much power for a #3 hitter, where he has hit in every game, but makes good contact (striking out about 10% of the time the last two years) and does a good job of drawing walks.  Hanover is one of the few players who will bunt and led the team with four SAC's last year and already have five SAC's this season.
 
LF – JR #3 Trey Watkins (RH .250/.388/.475, 2-11-5.  '10 – .277/.434/.437, 2-15-14) only made 31 starts last season due to an elbow injury and didn't hit nearly as well after returning (.204 in SEC games) and has gotten off to a slow start.  He has very good speed and was one of three Tigers in double digits in SB's in 2010.  Watkins is a good bunter and has four SAC's.  He will hit in the leadoff spot.
 
CF – JR #8 Mikey Mahtook (RH – .342/.500/.895, 6-14-7.  '10 – .333/.435/.632, 14-50-22) is one of the best outfielders in the country, is a pre-season All-American and is projected to be picked in the first two rounds of the draft.  Mahtook is a three year starter and was one of the catalysts in the national championship run in 2009.  He finished in the top ten in the SEC in R, 2B, 3B, TB, SLG and SB in 2010 and played on Team USA during the summer.  Mahtook takes a big swing at the plate and had 51 K's in 2010.  He has gotten off to a blazing hot start with six HR's and 7 SB's and will hit cleanup.
 
RF – Soph #5 Mason Katz (RH – .395/.447/.651, 1-15-2.  '10 – .325 in 40 AB's) didn't play much last season but has made the most of his opportunity and is 2nd on the team in AVG, RBI and 2B's with six and 3rd in SLG.  He will hit 5th.
 
DH – JC transfer #4 Raph Rhymes (RH – .388/.415/.592, 1-16-2) was the national JC player of the year in 2010.  Matt Gaudet was 2nd team All SEC at DH in 2010 and led the team with 19 HR's but Rhymes has moved right into the lineup and leads the team in RBI and 2B's (seven) and is second in total bases.
 
Reserves – LSU has ten players who have between two and ten AB's on the season, with three LH bats if they want to bring in somebody to pinch-hit with an all RH lineup, including JR #14 Mike Lowery who is 5-6 this season.
 

Defense
 
Fielding % - .974 (4/18) – 60 errors.  2011 – .956 with 19 errors.  LSU had a very good middle infield with Nola and Hanover before shifting Jones to 2B and Hanover to 3B, who has had some struggles and made three errors.  Very good speed in the OF with Watkins, Hanover and Katz.
 
Stolen Base Attempts – 59-75.  2011 – 11-13.  LSU has struggled to stop the running game with new catchers replacing Gibbs so this will be an area that Fullerton looks to exploit.
                                                                  
WP's/PB's Allowed – 38.  2011 – 9.  The new catchers have been decent at blocking pitches.
 

Pitching

  • ERA – 5.57 (8/107).  2.83 in 2011 (5th in SEC).
  • BA – .282 (7/xx).  .195 in 2011 (1st).
  • HR – 75 (6/xx).  7 HR in 2011 (11th).
  • H's/9 IP – 9.9 (xx/65).  6.4 in 2011 (1st).
  • BB's/9 IP – 3.6 (7/91).  3.2 in 2011 (7th).
  • K's/9 IP – 7.5 (7/66).  8.5 in 2011 (3rd).

 

Starters
 
LSU lost most of their pitching staff from last season due to the draft (Anthony Renaudo was a supplemental 1st round draft pick), graduation, injuries and transfers and that has allowed their large recruiting class to step right into prominent roles.
 
FRI/SAT – FR #12 Kevin Gausman (RHP – 2-0, 2.55 ERA, 3 GS, 17.2 IP, 13 H, 4 BB, 22 K, 2 HR, .206 BA, 0 HBP, 0 WP, 2-2 SB) could be nicknamed "Gas Man" because he throws gas with a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90's along with a changeup, curve and slider.  He was projected to be picked in the first two rounds of the draft but had a strong commitment to going to LSU and he was still drafted in the 6th round despite his strong desire to go to college because of his upside.  Gausman allowed 2 R on 6 H in 5 2/3 IP with 6 K's and received a no decision against Wake Forest before winning his next two starts against Sacred Heart (6 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 3 BB, 7 K) and Princeton (6 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 9 K).
 
FRI/SAT – FR #39 Kurt McCune (RHP – 3-0, 1.47 ERA, 3 GS, 18.1 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 13 K, 1 HR, .123 BA, 3 HBP, 0 WP, 3-3 SB) pitches from a 3/4 arm slot with a low 90's fastball and slider as his two best pitches.  He was the second best HS pitching prospect from Louisiana in last year's draft but ended up not being drafted due to his commitment to going to LSU.  McCune has picked up wins in each of his three starts against Wake Forest (6 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 7 K), Sacred Heart (6 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 3 K) and Princeton (6 1/3 IP, 2 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 3 K).
 
SUN – SR #47 Ben Aslup (RHP – 2-1, 2.30 ERA, 3 GS, 15.2 IP, 12 H, 9 BB, 12 K, 0 HR, .211 BA, 2 HBP, 1 WP, 3-4 SB.  2010 – 5-1, 3.88 ERA, 18 apps, 3 GS, 49 IP, 49 H, 16 BB, 33 K, 3 HR, .271 BA, 3 HBP, 4 WP, 0-0 SB) was a middle reliever for his first few seasons (6.14 in 15 apps and 29 IP in 2009) before becoming one of the better pitchers on the staff after injuries and ineffectiveness took most of the other pitchers out of the equation.  Aslup responded once he got his chance to move into the rotation at the end of the year and pitched a one-hitter against Mississippi in the SEC Tournament before suffering his first loss of the season when he allowed 3 R on 4 H in 4 2/3 IP to Irvine in the final game of the season.  Aslup doesn't throw hard and is a ground ball pitcher who has to have good control and keep the ball down to be effective.
 

Relievers
 
LSU returns one of the most decorated closers in the history of their program and a couple of middle relievers but the rest of the bullpen is filled with newcomers looking for innings.  Most of them have good fastballs in the low 90's.
 
JR #22 Matty Ott (RHP – 2-4, 6.38 ERA, 28 apps, 11 saves, 42 IP, 40 H, 21 BB, 40 K, 7 HR, .247 BA, 4 HBP, 1 WP, 2-2 SB.  '09 – 4-2, 2.68 ERA, 37 apps, 16 saves, 50 IP, 46 H, 6 BB, 69 K, 7 HR, .237 BA, 5 HBP, 1 WP, 1-1 SB) is tied for the school record with 29 saves after picking up two saves this season (5 apps, 5 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 0 BB, 7 K).  He was a 2nd team All-American and 1st team All SEC as a FR when he would come in and shut things down at the end of the game for the national champions.  Ott wasn't nearly as sharp last season as he lost command of his pitches and they started to flatten out.  He had a good summer, regained his confidence and he has been throwing well this season.
 
JC transfer #30 Tyler Jones (RHP – 3-0, 2.84 ERA, 4 apps, 3 GS, 19 IP, 13 H, 8 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, .227 BA, 2 HBP, 2 WP, 0-0 SB) is the midweek SP and went 7 innings on Wednesday.
 
FR #37 Ryan Eades (RHP – 1-0, 5.40 ERA, 3 apps, 5 IP, 5 H, 7 BB, 6 K) is the hardest thrower in the bullpen with a fastball that sits in the 93-95 range but he has had major control issues.
 
Soph #58 Chris Cotton (LHP – 0.00 ERA, 5 apps, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 8 K) is the only LHP in the bullpen.
 
Soph transfer #33 Kevin Berry (RHP – 0.00 ERA, 7 apps, 1 save, 6 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 4 K).
 
JC transfer #17 Jimmy Dykstra (RHP – 1-0, 4.50 ERA, 4 apps, 8 IP, 9 H, 1 BB, 8 K).
 
FR #9 Samuel Peterson (RHP – 0.00 ERA, 4 apps, 2 2/3 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K).
 
FR #38 Nick Rumbelow (RHP – 5.79 ERA, 3 apps, 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 5 K).
 
FR #21 Joe Broussard (RHP – 6.75 ERA, 2 apps, 2 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 2 K).
 
SR #24 Daniel Bradshaw (RHP – 10.38 ERA, 3 apps, 1 start, 4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 3 K) is the only other experience pitcher on the staff (5-1, 5.01 ERA, 20 apps, 5 GS, 47 IP, 59 H, 12 BB, 29 K, 9 HR, .310 BA in 2010).
 

Outlook
 
Unlike when Fullerton went on the road to TCU two weeks ago, the Titans are going into the series with LSU playing well in most facets of the game.  The Fullerton pitching has been outstanding, the team has made only one error during the six game winning streak and the hitters have come through with clutch hits in key situations.
 
LSU has been playing solid all-around baseball but the competition level has been below average.  The Tigers are going to have to step their game up several notches.
 
Fullerton is going to have to keep this series from turning into Home Run Derby because that is definitely not to the Titans advantage.  How the Fullerton pitching staff keeps LSU from banging the ball around the yard is one of the key things to watch for this weekend.
 
The other thing to watch this weekend is how LSU handles the pressure that Fullerton puts on teams.  The Tigers have struggled with holding down teams from stealing bases.  If the Titans are able to get runners on and moving around the bases, they are going to have a good chance to put some numbers up on the board.
 
These are two pretty evenly matched teams and LSU has one of the best home field advantages in college baseball.  If Fullerton is able to dictate the tempo of the game like they were able to do at TCU two weeks ago, the Titans have a solid shot of winning the series.  If LSU gets up on the Titans early and the crowd starts rocking and rolling, this will be a series that the Tigers have a good chance to win.