Three Up, Three Down

With a 22-2 record, LSU is off to its best start since 1997, and it's hard to find negatives with this year's team. Alex Bregman has been phenomenal all season, as has the starting rotation. But there is room to improve, and TSD's Hunter Paniagua provides all the latest in this week's edition of "Three Up, Three Down."


The Tigers have started hot

After the weekend sweep of Auburn, LSU is off to its best start in sixteen years. The Tigers' 22-2 record has only been achieved three times before this season, and all of those teams reached the College World Series. It happened in 1986 and the Tigers made their first appearance in Omaha, then again in 1989, when the team finished third. And the last time it happened was in 1997, when LSU won its fourth national championship.

While past history does little for the present, it is a promising sign about what this year's squad is capable of accomplishing. LSU has shown it's capable of winning games with an impressive rotation and productive heart of the order. The meat of the SEC schedule is still impending, but a hot start does bode well for the remainder of the season. Omaha has always been the expectations for this season, and LSU looks well on their way already.

Alex Bregman playing beyond his year

Alex Bregman wasn't just the SEC freshman of the week, he was the SEC PLAYER of the week. What Bregman has accomplished in only 24 games of his collegiate career has been nothing short of incredible, and this past week was evidence of that. He's had four straight games with three hits, and went 12-for-19 (.632) at the plate with a pair of doubles, three RBI and six runs scored. He delivered the game-winning hit in the midweek contest against Northwestern State and had a .714 on-base percentage in the three games against Auburn.

Bregman came in with a world of expectations, replacing Austin Nola at shortstop and hitting in the three-hole. Mainieri had praised him since the second he set foot on campus, and he certainly hasn't disappointed. For someone so young, he's about as clutch as they come, and it will be fun to watch him get better over the next couple years.

Back to the Cody Glenn we used to know

After a rough start to his SEC career, Cody Glenn appears to be back in the form that solidified him as the Sunday starter earlier this season. Glenn led LSU to the sweep on Sunday behind 7.2 innings of work, the longest outing from a LSU starter this year. He allowed only a pair of runs on six hits with two strikeouts. As a guy that won't rack up that many Ks, his control is vital, and he showed much better command than he did against Mississippi State.

Glenn did record two walks and also hit a pair of batters, which shows that he can still get a bit wild at times. But the results were much improved against Auburn. If Glenn can be counted on to deliver outings like this every week, LSU will find itself with plenty more opportunities to bring out the brooms.


Lacking that finishing touch

Though LSU was certainly happy with the sweep this past weekend, the players and fans probably could have done without the late-inning tension. Mainieri said it after both games Friday and Saturday that he wished LSU would have blown out Auburn by a much bigger deficit than they did. Though LSU did win comfortably in the end, Auburn brought the tying run to the plate at some point toward the end of each of those games, and if not for a clutch double play in the eighth inning, Saturday's game might have had a much different result.

With LSU's starting pitching, it's likely LSU won't need a ton of runs each game to secure victory. But with inconsistences still present in the bullpen, more cushion will never be a bad thing. Championship teams put away opponents when the chance presents itself. LSU had several of those opportunities this weekend, but mostly failed to deliver the finishing blow. That will be something LSU looks to improve on as SEC play continues.

Who's going to leadoff

The leadoff spot continues to be the biggest question mark of the LSU lineup. Mainieri most recently experimented by moving JaCoby Jones to the top of the order, though his bat as been inconsistent at best this season. It looked promising at first, as he had a successful weekend against Mississippi State, but Jones appeared to regress against Auburn. He went 0-for-7 (with three walks) at the plate on Friday and Saturday before Mainieri dropped him back to No. 7 on Sunday.

In the finale, Mainieri went back to Chris Sciambra, who went 1-for-2, but he's done little to prove he can handle that spot full-time this season. And that's been the issue for LSU, it doesn't seem like anyone has done enough to earn the leadoff role. Spots 2-through-6 in the lineup have been great thus far, but LSU would be even better off if there was a consistent option atop the order that can set the table. Look for Mainieri to continue experimenting with different options at that all-important spot in the lineup.

Not much competition to look forward to

It was hard to find too much to criticize from LSU's impressive run last week, so the final "Down" has more to do with LSU's upcoming competition. Starting with Tulane tonight, the Tigers begin a four-game road trip with a weekend set at SEC newcomer Missouri.

Tulane was a team with high expectations heading into this season. With some impressive youngsters and plenty of veterans, the Green Wave had their sights set on at least the NCAA Tournament. Though Tulane has racked up a handful of impressive wins, including two-of-three against Alabama, some disappointing losses have had their toll. Surprising defeats against High Point, Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and New Orleans are early dents on their potential resume.

Missouri has had a rude welcoming to SEC baseball thus far. The Tigers from up north started the season 0-6 and didn't get their first win until March 6 against Eastern Michigan. Missouri has avoided the sweep in each of its first two SEC series though, taking the finales against both South Carolina and Tennessee, but still find themselves amongst the bottom feeders of the SEC pecking order.

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