The No. 1-ranked Tigers have a chance to finish off NCAA Regional play Sunday night with a victory, and Eades will be front and center.
What seemed a luxury at the start of this season – having the unquestionably talented Eades in a third game – is a bit of a mystery at this point.
Will LSU get the Eades who for his first seven starts this season was as dominant as any pitcher on a loaded pitching staff with a 4-1 record (loss was in a 1-0 game), a 1.91 ERA and 47 strikeouts?
Or will it be the Eades that ever since that dazzling beginning has up and down, with only two games when he has struck out more than one hitter and six of eight when he has surrendered seven hits or more?
Whatever Eades provides for LSU, his catcher is adamant about what the sophomore righty will do for sure.
“Ryan Eades is going to go out there and compete like he does every single time,” Tigers’ catcher Ty Ross said. “The kid’s a workhorse. I definitely think he’s going to go out there and pitch great. It’s a great feeling to know you have Ryan Eades going out there to try to win the regional for us.”
It’s easy to see why Ross, LSU coach Paul Mainieri and the rest of the team are confident that Eades will go out and battle.
In his last two starts, the Slidell native who was regarded as a can’t-miss Major League Baseball draft pick before a labrum injury derailed him, has certainly proven his tenacity.
Despite still not having lock-down stuff, Eades has grinded for 11.1 innings in those two starts – 5.1 at South Carolina and 6 innings last week against Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament – to give the Tigers a chance to win.
Eades has surrendered just one run in his last 12 innings of work despite having to work hard in almost every one of those innings, with only two 1-2-3 frames under his belt.
As importantly as anything, Eades has exited both games with the score tied or LSU leading.
How does he duplicate that with so much at stake?
The keys for Eades are no different than most pitchers. Work ahead in the count, don’t issue free passes and limit whatever damage he gets nicked for.
What has plagued Eades for the last two months at different points in the eight games is shaky confidence. He has gotten a ton of two-strike counts on batters, but shies away from trusting his stuff to get the third strike. That’s a major reason why his strikeout total has dropped alarmingly to roughly one every 3.5 innings.
If Eades can revert to simply rearing back, trusting a talented skill set in any count and find a way to frustrate hitters, he can be as big a key to LSU’s postseason success as anybody on the roster.
Eades’ chance to establish himself as that component to the Tigers’ bid for national championship No. 7 starts tonight. It doesn’t figure to be his last, but he could made sure it’s memorable for himself, his future and LSU's present.