Diamond Defense

They say that defense wins championships. If the first two games of the Baton Rouge regional are any indication of what to expect from LSU this postseason, the Tigers are certainly title contenders. LSU has put together a pair of extremely strong defensive effort that has limited opponents to just one run per game.

"That's one of our M.O's," said first baseman Mason Katz. "We led the SEC in defense and that's a huge feat.

"With the new bats, you're not going to score as many runs, so it's important to play as good as you can behind your pitching staff.

"We've tried to do what we've always done and we've had some great plays from (Austin) Nola, (Tyler) Hanover and Jacoby (Jones) like we always do.

"My job has been pretty easy. I just have to catch it from them."

Veteran third baseman Tyler Hanover has played especially well this weekend. Katz reports that the Tigers have grown accustomed to Hanover's steady glove and strong arm on the hot corner.

"He's one of the best third baseman I have ever seen," said Katz of Hanover. "He says he is an even better second baseman, which is incredible to say.

"He is as good as there is. He sticks his nose in there. He's a little guy, but he's feisty. He'll wear one off the chest too.

"He's got a cannon, so he'll throw a strike over to me at first.

"He's a competitor and he hates making errors."

While Katz is quick to credit his teammates for the strong defensive effort this weekend, without a couple of nice scoops of his own on the receiving end the Tigers might be in a different position in this regional.

"It's something I practice all of the time," said Katz of digging balls out of the dirt. "I have been juggling first base and right field most of the year, so when I get at first in practice, I will get Austin (Nola) to throw me some picks or I will get the machine out and take some in the dirt.

"They rarely make bad throws, but when I get them I have to make those plays. It's my job to help their fielding percentage out there."

Senior shortstop Austin Nola is quick to agree with Katz. Nola reports that defense is the name of the game in Baton Rouge.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," said Nola. "Defense is about playing the game hard and taking nothing for granted.

"I think being a good defensive team is really about hustle and that is what our team is about."

On Friday night Nola squelched a ULM scoring threat with a diving catch of a sinking line drive that appeared destined for left field.

That play proved to be a big one in the final outcome.

"You don't think about it until you look back," said Nola. "They had runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs.

"Who knows what happens if that ball gets in. They might have tied it up. You just never know."

On Saturday, Nola continued to impress with a nifty play up the middle that ended with a nice flip to Jacboy Jones at second base.

"I wish we could have had the double play on that one," said Nola. "I sort of rushed it, but that was just about playing the game hard.

"You want to get the most out of every play and we just couldn't quite get it there."

The Tiger pitchers have been able to induce several ground balls that have led to some routine plays on the infield.

"I feel like we're just playing as a team and that really shows on defense," said Nola. "Our pitchers are throwing the ball well.

"You want guys who can throw the ball with movement down in the zone. When you can do that, you can get the defense loose and relaxed.

"You have to give our pitchers a lot of credit for how we've been playing."

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