• LSUBEAT.com • Schedules • Depth Chart • Recruits • LSU in NFL • LSU Gear

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It ain't football

I am a little surprised by the panic button being pushed by some regarding the team's offensive production of late.

First of all, it's ONLY TWO GAMES. That's not even a series, much less a slump.

Now, if after three games in the regional and three games in a Super Regional and a couple of games in Omaha, the team is still scratching for runs, then there is a problem.

As it is, it's TWO GAMES. LSU hit fine in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers will likely hit fine again -- although, let's not forget, the degree of difficulty should improve as you go along in the NCAA Tournament.

No, a bigger problem would be if the pitching were struggling. As it is, LSU has gotten phenomenal starting pitching this weekend with both Austin Ross and Anthony Ranaudo putting up double-digit strikeouts. And you could say that LSU has its best pitcher this season -- Louis Coleman -- on the mound tonight.

Skip Bertman used to lecture about how baseball was different than football. Maybe the Skipper needs to come back for another lesson.

Friday, May 29, 2009

So far, so good

OK, LSU's 10-2 win over Southern on Friday was nowhere near as lopsided as the score.

And it's a shame that Austin Ross wasn't able to get enough run support or last long enough to get the win. After struggling early, Ross settled down and made LSU coach Paul Mainieri looking like a genius for starting him.

As it was, the Tigers eventually got around to scoring some runs and they advanced easily into a winner's bracket game.

The beauty of the way Mainieri set up his rotation is that LSU will present a tougher pitcher in each of the Tigers' next two games.

And while Baylor looked sharp in dispatching Minnesota 5-0 tonight, you have to like the Tigers' pitching depth.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another view of LSU baseball

I covered Todd Oakes for several years when he was a pitching coach in the San Francisco Giants organization.

Oakes left the Giants to serve as pitching coach at the University of Minnesota 11 years ago. He's been to BatonRouge for a regional once before with the Gophers and he'll be at LSU this weekend.

So here are the thoughts of someone on the other side of the field in Baton Rouge:

"My goodness, what other place in the country are you going to go to that exemplifies a better college baseball environment,'' Oakes said. "Our director of operations got a call (Monday) a couple of hours before the (NCAA selection) show and it was an LSU fan looking for tickets. He said they were sold out and he was trying to get into the Minnesota allotment of tickets.

"That's all you need to know. There are probably RVs and campers pulling into Baton Rouge as we speak. It's going to be probably as good an environment as you can expose your kids to as far as college baseball.

"I still remember going down there and two days before the first game, there were campers and tailgating it was like a big party -- two days before the first game. It will be an eye opener for a lot of our guys. But it will be a good college baseball environment to expose our kids to.''

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pitching backwards

When you throw unexpected pitches in the count, it's called pitching backwards. You know, a breaking ball in a fastball count, that sort of thing.

When Paul Mainieri announced his pitching plans for this weekend's regionals, you could say he's pitching backwards as well.

He plans to use his usual Sunday starter, Austin Ross, in Friday's opener. Then he plans to follow with his usual Friday starter, Anthony Ranaudo on Saturday. And then his usual Saturday starter, Louis Coleman, in Sunday's game. The hope from Mainieri and Tigers fans is that a Monday game will not be necessary.

On paper, the strategy looks pretty solid. You figure Ross can beat Southern and then you have your top two pitchers available for Saturday and Sunday.

The only risk is that if Ross and Ranaudo were to lose -- OK, I understand it's a long shot -- then you could have not even used your ace in the tournament.

But that risk is so small who can criticize Mainieri for these pitching plans.

Monday, May 25, 2009

About the seedings

Someone please tell me how the Texas Longhorns are ranked fifth in the polls and the top overall seed in the NCAA baseball tournament?

If you think LSU got screwed on this deal, how about UC-Irvine. The Anteaters are ranked No. 1 in both polls and are seeded sixth nationally. LSU, at least, is ranked No. 2 and seeded third nationally.

I know, I know, it doesn't really matter as long as you're one of the top eight seeds and get to host come Super Regionals time.

I understand that.

But I also understand this is why it's hard for anyone but seamheads to take college baseball seriously.

You've got a chairman of the selection committee, Tim Weiser, who is deputy commissioner of the Big 12 and, well what do you know, the Big 12 champion is the No. 1 seed in the whole country. And to prove just how tough the league is, the committee takes an Oklahoma State team that finished ninth in a 10-team conference when it comes to playing baseball.

And we wonder why college baseball isn't taken as seriously as football and basketball.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Depth everywhere

BATON ROUGE - A player who had batted only 11 times in 34 previous games hit a three-run home run for LSU Thursday before his name could even be announced by the stadium announcer.

Derek Helenihi, a senior from Livermore, Calif., gave the second-ranked Tigers a 9-3 lead over Alabama in the bottom of the seventh inning, and that was a good thing because LSU barely held on for a 9-6 win in the Southeastern Conference Tournament at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.

The Tigers (42-16) will play at approximately 6:30 tonight against No. 20 South Carolina (38-20), which lost 5-4 to Vanderbilt in a late winners' bracket game on Thursday night. LSU will have ace senior right-hander Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.99 ERA) on the mound. The Tigers have been in Hoover since Monday, and they are just now going to their ace. That's depth.

Helenihi would be starting for most other SEC teams, but not at LSU. He started at third base for LSU last season as it reached the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. He batted .295 with 43 RBIs, three home runs and four triples, but he struggled late in the season. He opened the season at third base this season, but his batting average dipped below .300. And seniority apparently gets one nowhere with LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who quickly put freshman sensation Tyler Hanover at third base and sent Helenihi to the bench. And Mainieri was not getting ready for next year. As always, he was and is getting ready for this year.

Hanover is hitting .312 with four homers and 43 RBIs through 47 starts and 56 games and has been a clutch hitter. Helenihi is batting .303 with three homers and 16 RBIs in 18 starts and 32 games. Hanover has been making some errors in the field, but a return to third for Helenihi is not likely. Neither is a spot in the outfield, where he also plays. The Tigers are overflowing with talent in the outfield already. Chad Jones was drafted in the 13th round by the Houston Astros in 2008 as an outfielder, and would have gone higher if football was not so much in his plans, and he cannot find even spot duty in the outfield.

Laron Landry, a web gem master in center field last season during the Tigers' run to Omaha, hit three home runs last Saturday and has his once low average up to .302 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs, but he's not even a regular starter in the outfield anymore. He's ticketed for platoon duty in left field against right-handed pitchers only.

Freshman Mikie Mahtook took Landry's old spot in center field at mid-season when Landry slumped. Jared Mitchell, who started his LSU career in center in 2007 and moved to left last season when Landry took over center, finds himself in right field nowadays with Ryan Schimpf in left field. Schimpf was the regular second baseman until last month when Mainieri moved regular shortstop DJ LeMahieu - another 2008 veteran - to second base so he could put freshman Austin Nola, who has more range, at shortstop next to fellow freshman Tyler Hanover.

Schimpf, meanwhile, plays first base when Landry plays left field, a platoon which moves senior first baseman Sean Ochinko, one of the team's hottest hitters early this season, to the bench.

A guest on a popular Baton Rouge radio show said the other day that it is too late in the season for Mainieri to be juggling his lineup so much. The guest in question knows a lot about football, which he usually discusses. He needs to stick to football.

The fact that Mainieri juggles and inserts new starters and re-inserts old starters is precisely why LSU has been so successful this season. Filling out the lineup card with the same players every day worked great for Sparky Anderson and the Red Machine in the 1970s, but it's not the only way to win. A regular lineup is overrated.

Mainieri changes his lineup as often as he does his socks and there is always a good reason for it. He will continue to do so. And LSU will continue to win.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


BATON ROUGE - While the naysayers, alarmists and those with a football mentality went into a panic after LSU's loss to Vanderbilt Wednesday in the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament, those who know simply knew better.
The second-ranked Tigers eliminated No. 12 Alabama with power and strong starting pitching Thursday afternoon, 9-6, at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala., and advanced to a 6:30 p.m. game Friday against the loser of Thursday's late game between South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Whatever team loses that game will not have its ace available for Friday night. LSU will have its ace in well-rested senior right-hander Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.99 ERA). LSU's other ace, sophomore right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, pitched well again Thursday in defeating Alabama to go to 8-3 on the season. Ranaudo struggled a little early, but as usual, he recovered with a vengeance and pitched into the seventh inning. Buzzy Haydel relieved him but had to be relieved by Matty Ott to get out of the eighth inning. Ott was not his usual perfect self but did enough to earn his SEC-high 13th save.
Derek Helenihi, benched early this season at third base for freshman Tyler Hanover, was the hero Thursday as he delivered a pinch-hit, three-run home run to give the Tigers a 9-3 lead, and LSU (42-16) held on for the win. Helenihi caught the last out in right field as Alabama had the tying run at the plate.
LSU likely had a top eight national seed and the home field advantage sewed up before it arrived in Hoover, but the win Thursday puts it beyond doubt, though some on Baton Rouge radio Thursday thought LSU may be in trouble at 0-2 here.
We'll never know now.
LSU's next meaningful game will be Friday in Alex Box Stadium in the NCAA Regional.


BATON ROUGE - LSU lost its Southeastern Conference Tournament opener 4-1 on Wednesday night, but it was a good loss as far as its future in the NCAA playoffs.

The second-ranked Tigers (41-16) got a decent start out of No. 3 starter Austin Ross, who allowed eight hits and four runs through six innings with five strikeouts and three walks. Ross will likely be needed to pitch in similar fashion in the NCAA Regional next weekend in Baton Rouge and possibly in the Super Regional the next weekend. His effort was good enough to win, but LSU managed just six hits. Remember, though, that LSU was going against Vanderbilt's No. 1 starter Mike Minor, who is expected to be a first round choice in the Major League Baseball Draft next month.

Minor is also a left-hander, and like most teams, LSU struggles with lefties. It was also the first time LSU played Vanderbilt this season and was its first crack at Minor.

LSU also got another sterling relief performance from reliever Chad Jones, who threw 1.1 innings of hitless, scoreless ball and struck out one with no walks. Paul Bertuccini was also sharp out of the bullpen, allowing no runs or hits with one walk in one inning. We know LSU can hit, though it has an off game every now and then. The most important thing about this tournament for LSU, which is already assured of a top eight national seed, is how its pitching develops for the postseason that matters. Ross, Bertuccini and Jones pitching well is as important at this point as a victory.

The top-seeded Tigers will fare better this afternoon in a 1:30 elimination game against fourth-seeded Alabama (37-18), which lost 9-5 in 11 innings to South Carolina in Wednesday's late game that ended at about 1 a.m. Thursday. Alabama will throw a right-hander, Austin Hyatt (8-1, 2.96 ERA). LSU will counter with right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (7-3, 3.26 ERA). LSU took two of three at Alabama during the regular season.

Even if the Tigers lose today and are eliminated, they will still get that top seed and host the NCAA Regional and, if it advances, the Super Regional. Georgia won the SEC last season like LSU and went 0-2 in the this tournament and still hosted the two regionals and reached Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


BATON ROUGE - Is it late May already? Well, then it's time for the college baseball season to start - the real college baseball season in these parts.
At LSU, it's not baseball season until you're in the postseason.
The No. 2-ranked Tigers (41-15 SEC champions) are scheduled to open their postseason today in the Southeastern Conference Tournament against No. 8 seed Vanderbilt (31-24) at 6 p.m. at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala.
"This is when the fun starts," LSU outfielder/first baseman Ryan Schimpf said before departing LSU for the tournament on Monday. "This is why you go to LSU."
The Tigers worked out on the field Tuesday and will be trying to repeat as SEC Tournament champions.
No. 7 seed Arkansas opened the tournament Wednesday morning with a 8-5 victory over No. 2 seed Florida. No. 6 seed Georgia was leading No. 3 seed Ole Miss 6-3 in the ninth inning of the second game after 5 p.m., which was the scheduled starting time of the LSU game. No. 4 seed Alabama and No. 5 seed South Carolina play the late game tonight after LSU.
The LSU game will be televised by Cox Sports Television (CST) at various outlets around the state. LSU had said that all other SEC games today would be televised but that has not been the case in all areas.
Sophomore right-hander Austin Ross (5-6, 5.07 ERA) will start on the mound for the Tigers against junior left-hander Mike Minor (5-4, 3.90 ERA), who is expected to be drafted in the first or second round of the Major League Baseball Draft next month.
Hoover, an upscale suburb of Birmingham and home of the Double-A Birmingham Barons, is hosting the tournament for the 12th straight year.
"It's a great tournament. We love going to it," Schimpf said. "They just do a great job taking care of the players. Everybody loves going to it. It's probably the best tournament in the country other than the College World Series."
LSU will be attempting to reach Omaha, Neb., and the CWS for the 15th time in 24 years. The Tigers are expected to receive a top eight national seed and home field advantage in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional rounds regardless of what they do in the SEC Tournament.
"There's just something about Hoover. It's awesome," Schimpf said. "Everybody's there. There's a lot of talent. We get police escorts for everywhere we go. It's first class. We can't wait. We want to win it whether we have to or not."
An LSU victory over Vanderbilt will match it with the Alabama-South Carolina winner at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. That game will also be televised by CST. The championship game will be at 3 p.m. Sunday on Fox sports affiliates.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking the high road

Kudos to LSU coach Paul Mainieri for taking the high road on the shared SEC baseball championship with Ole Miss.

Here's what Mainieri said after LSU's 15-4 win over Miss. State on Saturday and Ole Miss' 16-3 win over Arkansas on the same day to leave the teams tied atop the standings.

"Anytime you win 20 games in this league, you're doing something,” Mainieri said. “I tip my hat to Ole Miss. They did what they had to do. Hey, we'll share the title. They deserve it as much as we do. We won the series against them so it gives us a little bit of bragging rights. Maybe we'll meet again in the tournament.”

Obviously, Mainieri had to acknowlede the shared title. He didn't have to go through the whole "tip my hat'' thing. That he did showed some class.

Friday, May 15, 2009

LSU in prime position

BATON ROUGE - Anything less than a Southeastern Conference championship for the LSU baseball team at this point would be nothing short of a choke.

The No. 2-ranked Tigers (40-14) came back from a 4-1 deficit after six innings to defeat Mississippi State, 5-4, Thursday night in Starkville, Miss., to keep a one-game lead over Ole Miss and Florida and a 1.5-game lead over Alabama with two games to play. Ole Miss (18-10) beat Arkansas 7-5 Thursday, while Florida (18-10) beat Kentucky 10-3 and Auburn beat Alabama (17-10), 3-2, in 10 innings.

If the Tigers (19-9 in the SEC) win Friday night's 6:30 game at State, they will clinch their first SEC regular season championship since 2003. Even if Ole Miss and/or Florida finish tied with the Tigers, LSU will get the No. 1 seed at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., beginning on Wednesday as it has the tiebreaker over both of those teams. The Tigers took two of three from Ole Miss and Florida during the regular season.

An LSU win tonight would also mean that Alabama could not finish with a better record than LSU even if it wins its two remaining games. The best Alabama could do would be 19-10, and if LSU wins tonight the worst it could do would be 20-10.
And the Tigers have their ace going tonight in senior right-hander Louis Coleman (10-2), who leads the SEC with a 2.45 ERA and is fifth in the nation in wins. He will be opposed by Mississippi State freshman left-hander Nick Routt (5-3, 3.89 ERA).

LSU got through the tough one Thursday night after struggling at the plate early and after starter Anthony Ranaudo struggled on the mound early. In the end, the better team won a tough, close game. That's usually how it is in baseball.

On the surface, tonight looks easy. The Tigers will even be somewhat used to facing a lefty since they faced one Thursday night.

It would be just like the sport of baseball for LSU to lose tonight, though. Should that happen, LSU could be in danger of losing the title with two straight losses if Ole Miss and/or Florida win two straight. The Saturday game has been moved up from 2 p.m. to noon because of the threat of bad weather in the Starkville area.

Should LSU win the SEC regular season title, it will clinch a top eight seed in the NCAA playoffs, which would mean home field advantage in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional. That means Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series.

The Tigers are already ranked No. 2 and have been ranked in the top five all year. Should they win the SEC title, the Tigers could go 0-for-2 in the SEC Tournament and likely still get a national top eight seed.

It's all right there for the Tigers. They need to take care of it tonight.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A little breathing room

One down, two to go for the Tigers baseball team.

The Tigers' win brings LSU closer to winning the SEC championship. Alabama took a step back with the loss and Florida and Ole Miss stayed on LSU's heels with the win.

Anthony Ranaudo wasn't great on Thursday. But he did what good pitchers do -- he gave his team a chance to win even when he wasn't great.

Louis Coleman pitches Friday's game and he's about as close to a lock as LSU has.

Perhaps the best thing that could happen for LSU is to wrap this thing up on Friday. Austin Ross has been inconsistent as the Sunday starter -- sometimes great, sometimes not so much. It's hard to predict what kind of outcome you will get from him on Saturday this week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Athlon's has LSU No. 17

It's that time -- the preseason football magazines are hitting the stores.

Athlon's has LSU ranked No. 17 -- which seems is a little low until further inspection.

"This is an intriguing LSU team," Athlon Sports managing editor Mitch Light said in a press release. "There is tons of talent, but there are also some concerns. If the Tigers get quality play from the quarterback position, and the defense improves under John Chavis, there is no reason they can't be in the hunt for an SEC title."

He pretty much nailed it there -- if you're looking at the way the team peformed last season.

Going into the 2008 season, no one expected the LSU defense to fail as miserably as it did. The quarterback situation was only slightly worse than this year in term's of actual starting experience -- Andrew Hatch had zero starts while Jordan Jefferson will have two.

I guess my point is this: all we have to judge on is last season. And that makes for a pretty poor judge sometimes.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tiger Tour thoughts

Les Miles, Trent Johnson, Van Chancellor and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva dropped by northwest Louisiana for the annual LSU Tiger Tour stop.

I spoke with Johnson during the event and it's clear the Tigers basketball program is in good hands with the straight-shooting coach.

It's also clear how Miles feels about freshman quarterback/supposed savior Russell Shepard.

"He's tough," Miles said. "We took the green jersey off him and made his live. Let me tell you, he's tough."

Chancellor, as is his custom, was the liveliest of the coaches, but Johnson made sure he got in one of his patented one-liners.

On the subject of helping Tasmin Mitchell with his NBA Draft status, Johnson was asked how much his past experiences with players such as Robin and Brook Lopez helped him with Mitchell: "I think it helps a lot because I have relationships and I have friends at that level. It’s good and bad. The good is I can help Tasmin. The bad about it is I’m old as hell."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Senior Day Blues

I'm sure this has happened before -- losing on Senior Day in three major sports-- but I can't remember it at LSU.

Yet that is exactly what happened this school year. The football team lost at home on Senior Day to Ole Miss, 31-13. The men's basketball team lost on its Senior Day to Vanderbilt, 75-67. And baseball lost to Florida today on its Senior Day, 9-3.

Of those three, the baseball game is the easiest to explain. Anything can happen in a baseball game, Florida's a tough team and it would have been hard to sweep a team like the Gators in three games. That one is understandable.

The one hardest to believe -- at least to me -- is the men's basketball loss. That was an SEC champion team that lost at home to Vanderbilt.

Football, was hard to believe, just because it was Ole Miss. But considering the way Ole Miss ended the season and the way LSU endedthe regular season, it's not so hard to believe now.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see if anyone at LSU wants to discontinue Senior Day activities after this year.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A good weekend that hasn't ended yet

Boy, it would be hard for LSU to have a better weekend than this one and it's not even Sunday yet.

Consider that LSU has defeated Florida 10-1 and 4-0 already this weekend. That puts the Gators two games behind the Tigers in the SEC standings.

And then, there is the biggest shocker of all. Mississippi State, clearly in a rebuilding season under first-year coach John Cohen, goes into Oxford and wins the first two games of the series with Ole Miss. So that's a two-game lead over the Rebels.

So the two teams that were tied with LSU have already dropped two games in the standings and we're not even to Sunday.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Jarrett Lee returning to LSU?

While the news earlier this week that quarterback Tyler Wolfe would be transferring from Louisville to Northwestern State may not seem like something that affects LSU, it actually may.

Jarrett Lee had been rumored as a possible transfer from LSU to Northwestern State. With Wolfe arriving in Natchitoches next month, that rumor effectively dies.

So unless something unexpected happens, expect Lee back with the Tigers and LSU to be suddenly very deep at quarterback with Jordan Jefferson, Lee, Russell Shepard and Chris Garrett at the position.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Another 'huge' baseball weekend

The Florida Gators are coming to Baton Rouge to play LSU this weekend in an SEC baseball series that is a whole lot bigger than it looked just two or three weeks ago.

After Florida went into Athens and swept Georgia last weekend, the Gators moved into first place in the SEC East. LSU and Florida -- and Ole Miss -- are tied atop the SEC overall standings at 16-8.

"We obviously have a huge weekend this week against Florida,'' LSU coach Paul Mainieri said this morning on the SEC coaches' teleconference. "I've had enough people tell me that so I'm just repeating what everybody is telling me. My response to everybody is it seem like we say that every weekend in this league.

"But that's what makes the SEC so much fun and exciting. Every weekend it seems like has huge implications. A few weeks ago we went to Athens and it was being billed as No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the country. Last weekend we went to Arkansas and it was being billed as No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the SEC West. Now, of course, it's the leaders of the SEC East and West, along with us and Ole Miss, two of the leaders facing each other. Every weekend in the SEC has such implications and is so huge. The competition is so great. It's what makes the SEC so much fun. We should have a pretty electric atmosphere in the Box this weekend, I would think. I would guess we would have some enormous crowds. The weather is supposed to be great. I'm looking forward to having Kevin (O'Sullivan)'s team here. Hopefully we'll have some good baseball.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Late night with LSU football

So LSU's season-opening football game at Washington will be televised by ESPN beginning at 9:30 p.m. Central time.

Thanks a lot ESPN.

Pac-10 teams have long suffered from a lack of exposure east of the Rockies for this very reason -- their games end after midnight on the East Coast and now the Central time zone.

Sure, it's a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Seattle. But even that's 30 minutes later than a standard kickoff time.

As it is, LSU fans will have to stay up late to watch their team play its opener.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Is Louis Coleman LSU's MVP?

After a weekend of battling the elements -- and the Razorbacks -- I'm starting to think Louis Coleman may be the MVP of this LSU baseball team.

I do not come to this conclusion lightly. First of all, Coleman's a guy who is pitching once a week. You'd think of an everyday player when you think MVP.

But then you see what Coleman does on Saturday night -- a two-hit, complete game shutout. He not only stops Arkansas' momentum, but he gives LSU's bullpen a boost.

He's been the Tigers' most consistent weekend starter by far.

I know you can make a case for some everyday players. But for me, right now in early May, I'll take Louis Coleman as the team's MVP.

Friday, May 01, 2009

LSU basketball recruiting

Am I the only person wondering what is going on with LSU basketball recruiting?

Yeah, they have Malcolm White transferring in from Ole Miss. But Mississippi State just landed an elite big man in Renardo Sidney.

I like what I saw out of Trent Johnson as a coach. And I understand there are concerns about the APR and possible a scholarship loss.

But is this a bad sign when State is bringing in better players?