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BREAKING: 2:56 pm CT

BOOM! LSU basketball lands elite power forward Trendon Watford (6-9, 230)! Huge get! The 5-star prospect chose LSU over his home-state Alabama. (Man, I love the sound of that!)

5/20/19 5:30 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

At 2:30 this afternoon, the fifth-seed LSU baseball team (34-22, 17-13 SEC) departs for Hoover, Alabama for the SEC tournament. LSU’s first order of business will be surviving an elimination game Tuesday at 8 p.m. against South Carolina (28-27, 8-22). We’ll have much more on that contest and how the two teams stack up in tomorrow morning’s report. But for now, let’s take a look at a few of the many things LSU needs to do to have the kind of postseason that will make Tiger fans forget about an up-and-down regular season that ended with the Tigers winning five of their last six games but leaving a lot to be desired.

Keys to LSU Baseball Postseason Success

1. Pitch like vs. Auburn (with one notable exception)

Eric Walker and Landon Marceaux had outstanding starts versus Auburn, and the relievers who followed did their jobs, too. As a result, LSU limited Auburn to just two hits per game, something a Tiger pitching staff hadn’t done against any opponent in 30 years. Then in Game 3, LSU’s “Johnny Wholestaff” approach held Auburn to zero runs and two hits through the first four innings, which added up to just two runs on six hits in 22 innings of work. That kind of extraordinary pitching can win a lot of ballgames. But it can also go for naught if there’s not a dependable closer in the final innings, which leads to No. 2 on this list…

2. Close Strong (the exception noted above)

Paul Mainieri’s Tigers had a golden opportunity to sweep Auburn as they entered the ninth inning of Game 3 with a two-run lead. Then with one out and a 2-0 count on Matt Scheffler, Hess gave up a two-run homer. It was the fourth home run Hess has allowed since moving to the bullpen. Look, I get that a pitcher like Hess, who throws with such heat, is going to give up some long balls. And I don’t think the ninth-inning 0-2 pitch he made against Auburn was a bad one. The truth is, the home run doesn’t bother me as much as the four-pitch walk that proceeded it. Without that base on balls, LSU likely emerges with a sweep and we’re relishing an outstanding weekend of LSU baseball. It should also be noted that Hess was outstanding in his closing role the night before, retiring all six batters he faced to preserve the lead. Tiger fans know that he and Todd Peterson can be strong closers. What LSU needs is for them to demonstrate that with consistency down the stretch.

3. Help from Henry and Hilliard (No, I didn’t mean Hill)

Cole Henry looked like a bona fide Friday night SEC ace in his last two starts but has been sidelined for four weeks due to arm soreness. The good news is he’s expected to return to action this week. As of this morning, just what kind of role he will play is unclear. What is clear, however, is that if he picks up where he left off, and if Landon Marceaux and Eric Walker continue to pitch like they have recently, LSU will have an outstanding trio of starting pitchers. But it often takes more than three solid starters to have pitching success in postseason play. LSU will likely need a solid fourth starter and a dependable long-relief guy. Sophomore Ma’Khail Hilliard is an ideal candidate for either role, but he has struggled of late. Getting him back to mid-season freshman form would be big for this team. You may have noticed I mentioned freshman Jaden Hill above in the sub-headline. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t feel right and has been ruled out for SEC tournament play. Getting him back anytime during the postseason would be huge, but at this point, I wouldn’t count on it.

4. Get hot like Garza (others need to catch his fire)

Back in February, when I conducted this preseason Q&A with Paul Mainieri, he described Garza’s hitting at the time as “all or nothing.” Well, lately, it’s been “all.” This past weekend against Auburn, Garza went 7-for-11 with two RBIs. It’s probably unrealistic to expect him to stay that hot, which makes it all the more important for others to catch fire offensively. Josh Smith swung the bat well in the series but didn’t have a lot to show for it, going 4-for-14 with one RBI. Daniel Cabrera had a rougher time, going 2-for-11 with two RBI. This would be an excellent time for those two veterans to get hot and stay hot. 

Turning to softball…

With a 5-1 victory in Game 7 of the Baton Rouge regional, the LSU softball team advanced to its fifth consecutive Super Regional. Folks, that’s a remarkable accomplishment, and it’s not something we should take for granted. Living up to their #FightAllTheWay slogan, the Tigers rallied back after losing 5-4 in the first of Sunday’s doubleheader, and they did so brilliantly with another excellent outing from Maribeth Gorsuch inside the circle. Here’s Jake’s quick rundown of both exhilarating contests in Baton Rouge yesterday.

Game 1

The Tigers engaged in another back-and-forth classic with Texas Tech before ultimately falling 5-4, thus forcing a Game 7. LSU landed the first blow in the competitive contest. Seconds before making history as the single-season stolen base leader for the Tigers (46), Aliyah Andrew laid down a bunt for a perfectly executed squeeze play to give LSU a 1-0 lead. Tied 1-1 in the fourth inning, pinch hitter Michaela Schlattman swung the game back in favor of the Tigers when she drove in Amanda Doyle on a sacrifice fly. But if there’s anything we’ve learned about Texas Tech this weekend, it’s that the Red Raiders won’t go away easy. Texas Tech came right back in the bottom of the fourth and took a 3-2 lead on a Zoe Jones home run. Shelbi Sunseri replaced Shelby Wickersham in the fourth inning with the bases juiced with one out. After walking in another run, Sunseri got out of the inning with a pop fly. Down by two in the sixth, Doyle hit a solo homer before Schlattmann came through in the clutch again with a double off the right field wall to score Savannah Stewart and tie the game, 4-4. But ultimately in the bottom frame, Jessica Hartwell came through with her third single of the game to give Texas Tech the go-ahead run and eventual victory.

Game 2

Trailing by one in the second inning, Amanda Sanchez finally got ahold of one and belted a solo blast. Sanchez, who had struggled for most of the Regional, lit the fuse in the dugout as everyone kissed the bat for good measure. And LSU would carve out long innings after. The Tigers put at least two runners on in back-to-back innings and finally took a 2-1 lead when Amber Serrett hit an RBI single in the third. Head coach Beth Torina waved a second runner home on Serrett’s single but Texas Tech gunned down Amanda Doyle at home. Meanwhile, Maribeth Gorsuch kept battling. In fact, the very next inning saw Gorsuch battle out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the one-run lead for the Tigers. And then Gorsuch would get the insurance she needed. In the bottom half of the inning, Sunseri blasted a 3-run homer with two outs to give LSU a 5-1 advantage. Sunseri, by the way, relieved Gorsuch in the sixth inning with two on and two outs. Sunseri forced a fielder’s choice and closed the game out in the seventh for the Tiger victory.

Next up, Coach Beth Torina’s Tigers begin Super Regional play this weekend against the winner of the Minnesota regional, which was postponed yesterday. Details on location, date, and time of the series are yet to be determined.

Closing Tidbits:

• In football recruiting news, a top-10 Louisiana prospect for 2019 appears to be heading out of state, as athlete Joel Williams of Madison Prep committed to Florida this weekend. Williams checks in at No. 9 on our list of Top LA Prospects and you never like to see a guy like that get away, but I’m not overly concerned. Most project Williams as a safety and LSU is recruiting several others who are just as high or higher on their board. These include Jordan Toles of Maryland, Lathon Ransom of Arizona, Xavion Alford of Texas, and a trio of in-state safeties in Bud Clark of Alexandria Senior High, Eric Reed of Calvary Baptist, and Major Burns of Madison Prep.

• LSU basketball fans who follow recruiting will be anxiously awaiting an announcement that should come a little after 2:30 p.m. today. That’s when five-star power forward Trendon Watford will announce his school of choice. His leaders are believed to be LSU, Alabama, Indiana, and Memphis. As soon as I learn of his decision, I’ll tweet the news to those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter.

• Lastly, a reminder that our 100-day countdown to the start of LSU football begins Thursday. If you have topic suggestions for the countdown, please send them my way.





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BREAKING: 2:56 pm CT

BOOM! LSU basketball lands elite power forward Trendon Watford (6-9, 230)! Huge get! The 5-star prospect chose LSU over his home-state Alabama. (Man, I love the sound of that!)

5/20/19 5:30 am CT

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

At 2:30 this afternoon, the fifth-seed LSU baseball team (34-22, 17-13 SEC) departs for Hoover, Alabama for the SEC tournament. LSU’s first order of business will be surviving an elimination game Tuesday at 8 p.m. against South Carolina (28-27, 8-22). We’ll have much more on that contest and how the two teams stack up in tomorrow morning’s report. But for now, let’s take a look at a few of the many things LSU needs to do to have the kind of postseason that will make Tiger fans forget about an up-and-down regular season that ended with the Tigers winning five of their last six games but leaving a lot to be desired.

Keys to LSU Baseball Postseason Success

1. Pitch like vs. Auburn (with one notable exception)

Eric Walker and Landon Marceaux had outstanding starts versus Auburn, and the relievers who followed did their jobs, too. As a result, LSU limited Auburn to just two hits per game, something a Tiger pitching staff hadn’t done against any opponent in 30 years. Then in Game 3, LSU’s “Johnny Wholestaff” approach held Auburn to zero runs and two hits through the first four innings, which added up to just two runs on six hits in 22 innings of work. That kind of extraordinary pitching can win a lot of ballgames. But it can also go for naught if there’s not a dependable closer in the final innings, which leads to No. 2 on this list…

2. Close Strong (the exception noted above)

Paul Mainieri’s Tigers had a golden opportunity to sweep Auburn as they entered the ninth inning of Game 3 with a two-run lead. Then with one out and a 2-0 count on Matt Scheffler, Hess gave up a two-run homer. It was the fourth home run Hess has allowed since moving to the bullpen. Look, I get that a pitcher like Hess, who throws with such heat, is going to give up some long balls. And I don’t think the ninth-inning 0-2 pitch he made against Auburn was a bad one. The truth is, the home run doesn’t bother me as much as the four-pitch walk that proceeded it. Without that base on balls, LSU likely emerges with a sweep and we’re relishing an outstanding weekend of LSU baseball. It should also be noted that Hess was outstanding in his closing role the night before, retiring all six batters he faced to preserve the lead. Tiger fans know that he and Todd Peterson can be strong closers. What LSU needs is for them to demonstrate that with consistency down the stretch.

3. Help from Henry and Hilliard (No, I didn’t mean Hill)

Cole Henry looked like a bona fide Friday night SEC ace in his last two starts but has been sidelined for four weeks due to arm soreness. The good news is he’s expected to return to action this week. As of this morning, just what kind of role he will play is unclear. What is clear, however, is that if he picks up where he left off, and if Landon Marceaux and Eric Walker continue to pitch like they have recently, LSU will have an outstanding trio of starting pitchers. But it often takes more than three solid starters to have pitching success in postseason play. LSU will likely need a solid fourth starter and a dependable long-relief guy. Sophomore Ma’Khail Hilliard is an ideal candidate for either role, but he has struggled of late. Getting him back to mid-season freshman form would be big for this team. You may have noticed I mentioned freshman Jaden Hill above in the sub-headline. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t feel right and has been ruled out for SEC tournament play. Getting him back anytime during the postseason would be huge, but at this point, I wouldn’t count on it.

4. Get hot like Garza (others need to catch his fire)

Back in February, when I conducted this preseason Q&A with Paul Mainieri, he described Garza’s hitting at the time as “all or nothing.” Well, lately, it’s been “all.” This past weekend against Auburn, Garza went 7-for-11 with two RBIs. It’s probably unrealistic to expect him to stay that hot, which makes it all the more important for others to catch fire offensively. Josh Smith swung the bat well in the series but didn’t have a lot to show for it, going 4-for-14 with one RBI. Daniel Cabrera had a rougher time, going 2-for-11 with two RBI. This would be an excellent time for those two veterans to get hot and stay hot. 

Turning to softball…

With a 5-1 victory in Game 7 of the Baton Rouge regional, the LSU softball team advanced to its fifth consecutive Super Regional. Folks, that’s a remarkable accomplishment, and it’s not something we should take for granted. Living up to their #FightAllTheWay slogan, the Tigers rallied back after losing 5-4 in the first of Sunday’s doubleheader, and they did so brilliantly with another excellent outing from Maribeth Gorsuch inside the circle. Here’s Jake’s quick rundown of both exhilarating contests in Baton Rouge yesterday.

Game 1

The Tigers engaged in another back-and-forth classic with Texas Tech before ultimately falling 5-4, thus forcing a Game 7. LSU landed the first blow in the competitive contest. Seconds before making history as the single-season stolen base leader for the Tigers (46), Aliyah Andrew laid down a bunt for a perfectly executed squeeze play to give LSU a 1-0 lead. Tied 1-1 in the fourth inning, pinch hitter Michaela Schlattman swung the game back in favor of the Tigers when she drove in Amanda Doyle on a sacrifice fly. But if there’s anything we’ve learned about Texas Tech this weekend, it’s that the Red Raiders won’t go away easy. Texas Tech came right back in the bottom of the fourth and took a 3-2 lead on a Zoe Jones home run. Shelbi Sunseri replaced Shelby Wickersham in the fourth inning with the bases juiced with one out. After walking in another run, Sunseri got out of the inning with a pop fly. Down by two in the sixth, Doyle hit a solo homer before Schlattmann came through in the clutch again with a double off the right field wall to score Savannah Stewart and tie the game, 4-4. But ultimately in the bottom frame, Jessica Hartwell came through with her third single of the game to give Texas Tech the go-ahead run and eventual victory.

Game 2

Trailing by one in the second inning, Amanda Sanchez finally got ahold of one and belted a solo blast. Sanchez, who had struggled for most of the Regional, lit the fuse in the dugout as everyone kissed the bat for good measure. And LSU would carve out long innings after. The Tigers put at least two runners on in back-to-back innings and finally took a 2-1 lead when Amber Serrett hit an RBI single in the third. Head coach Beth Torina waved a second runner home on Serrett’s single but Texas Tech gunned down Amanda Doyle at home. Meanwhile, Maribeth Gorsuch kept battling. In fact, the very next inning saw Gorsuch battle out of a bases-loaded jam to preserve the one-run lead for the Tigers. And then Gorsuch would get the insurance she needed. In the bottom half of the inning, Sunseri blasted a 3-run homer with two outs to give LSU a 5-1 advantage. Sunseri, by the way, relieved Gorsuch in the sixth inning with two on and two outs. Sunseri forced a fielder’s choice and closed the game out in the seventh for the Tiger victory.

Next up, Coach Beth Torina’s Tigers begin Super Regional play this weekend against the winner of the Minnesota regional, which was postponed yesterday. Details on location, date, and time of the series are yet to be determined.

Closing Tidbits:

• In football recruiting news, a top-10 Louisiana prospect for 2019 appears to be heading out of state, as athlete Joel Williams of Madison Prep committed to Florida this weekend. Williams checks in at No. 9 on our list of Top LA Prospects and you never like to see a guy like that get away, but I’m not overly concerned. Most project Williams as a safety and LSU is recruiting several others who are just as high or higher on their board. These include Jordan Toles of Maryland, Lathon Ransom of Arizona, Xavion Alford of Texas, and a trio of in-state safeties in Bud Clark of Alexandria Senior High, Eric Reed of Calvary Baptist, and Major Burns of Madison Prep.

• LSU basketball fans who follow recruiting will be anxiously awaiting an announcement that should come a little after 2:30 p.m. today. That’s when five-star power forward Trendon Watford will announce his school of choice. His leaders are believed to be LSU, Alabama, Indiana, and Memphis. As soon as I learn of his decision, I’ll tweet the news to those of you who follow DandyDonLSU on Twitter.

• Lastly, a reminder that our 100-day countdown to the start of LSU football begins Thursday. If you have topic suggestions for the countdown, please send them my way.

5/19/19 5:45 am CST

Good morning, Tiger Fans,

On a day where both LSU baseball and LSU softball saw crucial games go to extra innings, Coach Mainieri’s Tigers came up short in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to Auburn. With the loss, LSU ended the regular season 34-22 overall, 17-13 in SEC play, and will likely need to make a run in the SEC Tournament to host an NCAA Regional. It was disappointing to see LSU lose what could end up being the Tigers’ last game at the Box this season, and it was especially disappointing considering the way it ended. But let’s not lose sight of that fact that LSU did win the series – their sixth SEC series win of the season – and provided a few big reasons for optimism in Games 1 and 2, namely the pitching of Eric Walker and Landon Marceaux, and the hitting of Saul Garza. 

But back to yesterday’s loss…

The Tigers took a 4-2 lead into the ninth inning and at at that point it appeared that LSU would ride a series sweep and a ton of momentum into postseason play. But before the second out of the inning was recorded, everything changed.

Coach Paul Mainieri had brought in Zack Hess to get the final out of the eighth, and then sent him back out to the mound for the ninth. After striking out the first batter he faced, Hess gave up a four-pitch walk that proved costly. Auburn’s Matt Scheffler followed it by belting an 0-2 pitch over the left-field wall to make it a tie game and send it to extras. 

If Scheffler had swung and missed, or had the ball been hit five feet shorter, or had the previous batter not walked, I would likely be sitting here writing about a near perfect weekend in LSU baseball in which the Tigers executed their pitching plan to perfection and extended their win streak to five games. Of course, “what if” doesn’t mean a thing in baseball. If it did, we would also be talking about LSU’s offense leaving 11 men on base in yesterday’s game. After the game, Hess tried his best to pick up his team by taking the blame for the loss. “We’re playing really good baseball right now,” he said. “That one is 100 percent on me. I have to be better, and I have to get myself figured out.”

After Auburn tied it up in the ninth, both teams were scoreless in the 10th. In the 11th, the visiting Tigers scored the go-ahead run on a one-out single, a stolen base, and an RBI double. LSU was unable to answer.

“The loss today was disappointing, but overall I was very pleased that we won the series and pitched very well in all three games,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “For the weekend, I thought our pitching was tremendous, and offensively, it looked like we had done enough today to win, but we were just one swing away from being able to break the game open.

“We won two out of three this weekend, and we won six of our 10 SEC series this year. I think we’ve demonstrated we can play with anybody; we’ve hung tough all year. The regular-season is in the books, and now the fun begins with the postseason.”   

LSU will return to action Tuesday night as the No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament in Hoover. The Tigers will play in the fourth game of the day (at a time to be determined) against 12th-seeded South Carolina. That contest, which will air on the SEC Network, will be an elimination game. Should the Tigers win, they’ll advance into the double-elimination portion of the tournament. Here’s a look at the complete SEC Tournament bracket.

As for who LSU will send to the mound on Tuesday, we probably won’t find out until Monday. But here’s what we do know: It won’t be Jaden Hill. Coach Mainieri announced yesterday that Hill won’t pitch in the SEC tournament and that his status for the NCAA tournament is in doubt. Hill was slated to pitch a simulated game yesterday but that didn’t happen. Hill didn’t feel right when he played catch on Friday, so his return will be postponed. On a more positive note, fellow freshman Cole Henry, who looked like a Friday night ace in his last two starts, did throw a simulated game on Saturday and is on track to return to action next week. Mainieri reportedly said that he’ll see how Henry feels today and tomorrow and then decide how to use him. 

Turning to softball, Coach Beth Torina’s Tigers’ extra-innings experience was a different story as they gutted out a 5-4 13-inning win against No. 2 seed Texas Tech. In a game that spanned 13 innings and  lasted over four hours, Taryn Antoine walked the Tigers off with a sacrifice fly to score Amanda Doyle and put the Tigers in the driver’s seat for the regional. 

With the win, Texas Tech (who eliminated LA Tech late last night) would now have to beat the Tigers twice today to end LSU’s season. And believe me, that’s a fantastic position for LSU to be in, especially considering how yesterday’s contest between LSU and Texas Tech started. With a 2-0 count and runners at second and third, Texas Tech’s Trinity Edwards laid down a squeeze bunt and a rushed throw from Shelbi Sunseri was unsuccessfully corralled at home plate. The ball got past catcher Morgan Cummins and allowed two Texas Tech runs to cross for the early lead. Peyton Blythe and Zoe Jones followed with RBI hits to put the Red Raiders up 4-0. After that, Sunseri settled down and didn’t give up a run the rest of the game. That’s right — Sunseri went all 13 innings, allowing four runs on nine hits and three walks. The Tigers also got back into the fight offensively with a big fourth inning. LSU loaded the bases with no outs before Melody Clark drew a walk to reduce the deficit to three runs. A couple of throwing errors that followed allowed LSU to tack on two more runs. Down 4-3 in the sixth inning, Antoine and Aliyah Andrew hit back-to-back bunt singles to put two runners on with no outs. A Shemiah Sanchez sacrifice fly tied the game, 4-4, but the Tigers could not breakthrough for the big inning. Seven innings later, Antoine drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly. LSU will look to advance to the Super Regionals with a victory at 3 p.m. today.

In basketball news, LSU guard Javonté Smart has announced that he will return to LSU for his sophomore season. He shared the news with a simple Instagram post that read, “I’m back.” Smart was one of six players to declare for the 2019 NBA draft, along with Tremont Waters, Naz Reid, Skyler Mays, Marlon Taylor, and Emmitt Williams. So far, only Reid and Waters have said they are remaining in the draft. There’s been no word on the others. The deadline to withdraw one’s name is May 29. 

LSU could get some more good news on the hoops front tomorrow when five-star power forward Trendon Watford announces his school of choice. His declaration is expected to come Monday at 2:30 p.m. at his Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, Alabama. LSU is believed to be his leader, but you never know how these things will go. Alabama, Indiana, and Memphis are also squarely in the mix. 

As I do most weeks, I’ll leave you with a couple of good reads to go along with your second cup of Sunday morning coffee:

LSUSports: Baseball Marks Opening of Marucci Performance Center

The Advocate: 'It's humbling': New LSU AD Scott Woodward fêted at reception at James Carville's home

Enjoy your Sunday, Tiger Fans.



 

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