Thomas: "Our most important games are ahead"

LSU assistant baseball coach Turtle Thomas met with the media Tuesday afternoon at a weekly press luncheon.

Thomas covered a variety of issues including the recent surge by the Tiger baseball team. LSU (35-17, 16-11 SEC) is a half-game behind Florida for the outright lead in the Southeastern Conference. The Tigers are in first place in the SEC Western Division, a full game ahead of Alabama (35-18, 15-12) and Ole Miss.


Five teams enter the final weekend of SEC play in contention for the conference title including division leaders Florida (34-18, 17-10) and LSU, as well as Tennessee, Ole Miss (37-16, 15-12) and Alabama. The Volunteers (36-16, 16-10) are a half-game behind the Gators in the SEC Eastern Division race.


All five teams in the running will play within their division this weekend. Four of the final five teams will be on the road. LSU travels to Mississippi State while Alabama heads to Auburn. Ole Miss is on the road at Arkansas and Florida goes to Vanderbilt. Tennessee is the only contender playing at home. The Volunteers host Georgia in a three-game weekend set.


Heading to Mississippi State, the Tigers face a rarity in the Bulldogs this weekend. Thomas said for the first time this season LSU will go up against three right-handed pitchers in the same weekend. Mississippi State (33-18, 12-14) is in fifth place in the SEC Western Division, a half-game in front of cellar dweller Auburn.


LSU, who has won 11 of its last 14 SEC games, looks for the advantage playing on the road. The Tigers own the best road record in the league with a 12-5 mark, including an SEC-best 9-3 record in conference away games. Thomas pointed out that LSU's only two SEC weekend series sweeps have come on the road at Georgia and Arkansas. However, he did add that while Mississippi State is near the bottom in the divisional standings and battling for a spot in the SEC Tournament, the Bulldogs own the league's best home record having gone 24-5 at Dudy Noble Field.


"It will be two teams matching strengths," Thomas said.


One major topic of conversation this season surrounding the LSU baseball team is the lack of offensive production. Thomas admitted LSU's .295 batting average is well below par.


"It is actually the lowest it has been since I have been here," he said. "I wouldn't trade the top five players in our lineup for anything. And I guess you could toss Jordan Mayer into that bunch as well and make it six. But our 6-7-8-9 hole hitters is what has really been holding us back."


Speaking of those top five hitters, Chris Jackson, Ryan Patterson, Clay Harris, Blake Gill and Nick Stavinoha have carried the Tigers offensively. Patterson leads the team with a .397 batting average and 19 home runs. He was named the SEC Player of the Week after going 7 for 11 against Tennessee, including a pair of home runs.


The bottom half of the lineup – consisting of Bruce Sprowl, Matt Liuzza, Quinn Stewart, Michael Hollander and Will Harris – has had its share of problems but seem to be getting into the swing of things down the stretch.


"There is an old saying that when the weather heats up that our bats do the same," Thomas said. "That seems to be the case. I have seen teams that start off hot and fade down the stretch. We started slow kind of lounging around the first part of the season, but we are getting some better swings now. That's good for us because our most important games are ahead of us."


Speaking of those games, the outright SEC regular season title is up for grabs this weekend. The Tigers then depart Starkville for the SEC Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala. the following week. LSU coach Smoke Laval has taken some heat in recent years for a lack of determination at the SEC Tournament. Thomas said that is a different story this year.


"Smoke said way back in August that our goals was to not only win the SEC regular season title, but to win the tournament as well," Thomas said. "Not a lot of emphasis was put on the tournament last year when we went 0-2, but we have every intention of going over there and winning it."



Notes from


Six teams are playing for divisional titles, while five teams are competing for the overall 2005 SEC Championship and No. 1 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament.


Five spots still remain open in the 2005 SEC Tournament, as eight teams remain alive for those final slots in Hoover.


All 12 teams will enter the final weekend of the 2005 season with overall winning records.


Eleven SEC teams are currently in the top 33 of the Boyd's World Unofficial RPI Ratings.


Eleven SEC teams have been ranked in the top 25 of one of the four college baseball polls at one point during the 2005 season.


Six teams are ranked in the top 25 of one of the four major college baseball polls this week.


Alabama and Ole Miss can officially clinch a spot in the SEC Tournament with one more conference win.


Six games are scheduled for television broadcast this weekend, including Saturday's matchup between No. 17 Ole Miss (ESPN) and No. 18 Arkansas (ESPN), the only series between two teams currently ranked in the Top 25 of the polls.




Ryan Patterson (LSU)



More on Patterson:


Senior outfielder Ryan Patterson led the Tigers to the series victory over Tennessee, as he hit .636 (7-for-11) in three games with one double, two homers, five RBI and six runs scored . . . he also walked twice, posting a .692 on-base percentage and a 1.273 slugging percentage . . . in Saturday's 9-3 win over the Volunteers, Patterson tied an LSU single-game record with five hits -- including one homer and one double – while collecting three RBI and scoring four runs . . . he moved into a fifth-place tie with Albert Belle (1985-87) on the all-time LSU home runs list with 49 . . . Patterson raised his batting average in SEC games to .376 (41-for-109) with eight doubles, one triple, 11 homers and 24 RBI . . . for the entire season, he is hitting .397 (81-for-204) with 20 doubles, two triples, 19 homers and 49 RBI.




Greg Smith (LSU)


Weekend Warriors:


Junior left-hander Greg Smith posted a victory for the fifth straight weekend, as he defeated Tennessee on Sunday . . . Smith, who has a 1.79 ERA in SEC games, worked six shutout innings against the Volunteers, scattering six hits with one walk and four strikeouts . . . on the year, Smith is 9-2 with a 2.16 ERA; in 91.2 innings, he has allowed 84 hits and 22 earned runs while recording 22 walks and 73 strikeouts.



Clay Dirks (LSU)


Sophomore left-hander Clay Dirks earned his third complete-game victory this season with a strong outing against Tennessee on Saturday . . . Dirks scattered 10 hits and limited the Vols to three runs with no walks and five strikeouts . . . Dirks improved to 10-2 on the year, and he lowered his ERA to 3.12.

Tiger Blitz Top Stories