LSU bats slumbering in SEC Tournament

It seems that LSU's struggling offense has become a trend. After two games in the SEC Tournament, it's a noticeable concern moving forward. But have the opposing pitchers been too good? Or are the LSU bats falling into a disturbing slump?

HOOVER, Ala. — Is the offense struggling? Or are the opposing pitchers just too good?

It's a debate that can rage on, but the only certainty is that LSU's offense hasn't produced through two games of the SEC Tournament. Aside from three runs in the first-inning against Alabama, and an unearned run on Thursday, the Tigers have mostly slumbered through 18 innings of baseball.

But how much of that can you credit to the quality pitching LSU has faced? After all, the Tigers did face a potential first-round pick in Ryne Stanek, whose 1.29 ERA ranks near the top of the conference.

"Anytime you go up in this league, you're going to face good arms," said Raph Rhymes, who has one hit in two games. "It's our job to get to those arms when you can. Those are the same arms we've faced all year. I tip my cap to those guys, but we have to get the job done."

As a team, LSU has totaled just 14 hits in 15 offensive innings. Only Alex Bregman has had multiple hits in one game, going 3-for-4 against Alabama.

The Tigers aren't taking advantage of the few scoring opportunities they have had either. In the innings LSU hasn't scored, the Tigers are 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

Again, are the opposing pitchers just clutch? Or is this a disturbing trend?

"We faced two Friday night-starters two nights in a row," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "You look at the arms that these kids have. It's unbelievable…I'm not concerned about the offense at all. When you go up against great arms, you're not going bang out 15 hits and 10 runs. It just doesn't happen anymore."

While the offense had mostly been steady throughout the season, it's clearly an inopportune time for the bats to go into a slump. After the disastrous hitting in last year's Super Regional, the fans are well-accustomed to what can happen if a team can't produce.

Though the hitting pandemic has seemingly spread through the whole lineup, certain players likely will receive the brunt of the criticism. LSU's 7-8-9 hitters are a combined 3-for-17 in the tournament.

But Mainieri didn't hint that any lineup changes were looming.

"I can't hit for them," Mainieri said. "All I can do is keep encouraging them and coach them up. They got to go out there and compete. We do the best we can. I have a lot of confidence in our guys, but hitting is the toughest thing you can do in all of sports…We didn't hit the ball great tonight. We know that, but a lot of people don't hit the ball very well against [Stanek]."

That won't be the excuse tomorrow if the LSU bats continue to struggle. LSU will start freshman Mike Oczypok, who will be making only his fourth start of the year.

So if LSU finds itself in the same situation on Friday, with few runs to show for themselves, it may be time for the Tigers to address the problem for what it is — a bad offense.

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