LSU got off to a rough start, dropping the opener 5-1 behind a sluggish offensive performance. But the Tigers bounced back for consecutive victories, 16-3 and 7-4, to win the series. It was only the second time in five years that LSU’s gone on to win a series after dropping the first game.
LSU moves to 4-2 in the SEC and should hold its spot in the top three of the national polls (depending on which one you look at). After two weeks of conference play, we’re still learning new things about this year’s team.
Here are some of the big takeaways from this weekend:
LSU CAN REBOUND AT THE PLATE
It’s been a rare occurrence when LSU has struggled at the plate. You can look at LSU’s three losses as examples of that — the 3-6 loss to Nicholls State on Feb. 18, 3-5 loss to Ole Miss on March 14 and the 1-5 loss to Arkansas on Thursday.
But after each one of those losses, LSU returned to form in a big way. After dropping that midweek game to Nicholls, the Tigers racked up 31 runs in a three-game sweep of Boston College. After the loss to Ole Miss, LSU won the series with an 18-run rout in the finale. And against the Razorbacks, LSU rebounded with 16 runs to even the series after the loss in the opener.
That’s actually something LSU hasn’t done in 15 years. The last time the Tigers scored at least 16 runs in a game in consecutive SEC series was in 2000 (18 runs against Auburn followed by 17 the next weekend against Arkansas).
The Tigers continued the momentum from Friday’s big outing with a seven-run, 15-hit performance to win the series on Saturday. LSU once again proved that sluggish games offensively are the exception and not the norm.
LSU now has seven players with at least 17 starts hitting above .290 — six of those hitting above .300. LSU also has three key starters hitting above the .380 mark. From top to bottom, this is probably LSU’s most solid club at the plate in quite some time.
LANGE MAKES CASE FOR FRIDAY
Alex Lange has earned the distinction of LSU’s best pitcher. He was dominant once again Friday, throwing seven innings of one-run ball on four hits. He added six more strikeouts, bringing his season total to 45 in 38 innings. And now is the time to move him into the Friday night role.
Jared Poché had his first bad outing of the season, lasting only 3 2/3 innings while surrendering five runs in Thursday’s loss. Poché had remained LSU’s series-opening starter because of his experience and poise on the mound. But now the pitcher with better stuff should take over.
Lange has proven he’s better than his age might suggest. He’s more than ready for the big stage and should handle Friday night duties moving forward. With LSU returning to a Friday-Saturday-Sunday series next weekend against Kentucky, that afford Lange to get a full week’s rest.
There’s no reason to think Poché won’t bounce back from his rough outing against Arkansas. But Lange is something special, and he should take the Friday night reins.
SCIAMBRA LEADING OFF
Paul Mainieri made a change to his batting order after Jake Fraley went 0-for-4 in the leadoff spot Thursday. He brought senior Chris Sciambra in as the designated hitter and had him bat first. The veteran took advantage of the opportunity and went 5-for-10 with four RBI and scored two runs.
Sciambra as a freshman was batting leadoff and starting in center field before a broken neck ended his season. He’s mostly served a reserve role ever since, but he’s proven clutch in the rare opportunities he’s gotten.
Mainieri loves to reward that, and you can expect Sciambra to get more time moving forward. That leadoff spot has been a revolving door of sorts, and maybe Sciambra can be the guy to hold on it down moving forward.
SCIVICQUE CATCHES ALL THREE
Kade Scivicque caught all three games against Arkansas. That’s the first time he’s done that this season.
LSU certainly needs his bat in the lineup as often as possible. He leads the team with a .433 batting average in 19 games. When he isn’t catching, he’ll most likely occupy the DH spot, but Scivicque proved this weekend he can handle all three games in the field.
LSU will still want to get Mike Papierski some time to help his development. But hitting only .167 in 24 at-bats makes him a bit of a liability. If Scivicque can handle catching three straight games, then that allows LSU to get another bat in the lineup, and that can be a big bonus, as Chris Sciambra showed this weekend.
RIGHT SIDE OF THE INFIELD
Jared Foster bounced back from his rough defensive outing against Southern to play error-less ball at second base against Arkansas. Mainieri stuck with him for all three games, and Foster made four assists. He’ll still be the guy moving forward, and Mainieri expects him to only get better as he gets more time in the infield.
Chris Chinea also showed that he can handle regular duties at first base. He started there Friday and Saturday, and made a couple of nice picks to save errors. Mainieri said that was something he worked on during the week, and it’s clear he’d rather go with the junior Chinea at first than the younger Danny Zardon.
If Chinea continues to be solid defensively, that will free Mainieri to use someone else in the DH spot.
LSU’s power surge continued in Fayetteville, with the Tigers launching four homers this weekend. Jared Foster had two of them, none bigger than his two-run blast Friday. But his bat flip nearly went as far as the home run itself.
LSU's Jared Foster pimped this home run so hard!!! That bat flip ?? pic.twitter.com/JOjZknhDBJ— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) March 21, 2015