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
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
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
"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
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
"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 secsports.com:
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
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.
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)
Greg Smith (LSU)
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