Jacques Talk: Sweep of the Titans

© LSUSports.net
© LSUSports.net
By Jacques Doucet - bio | email
It's only mid-March in south Louisiana, hardly a time to judge or define LSU's baseball season. But Paul Mainieri's Tigers passed their first big test of the season with flying colors this past weekend, pulling off a three game sweep of #6 Cal State Fullerton at Alex Box Stadium. The first two contests were epic battles - see-saw affairs that each ended in 7-6 LSU victories. Sunday, however, it appeared the Titans didn't receive the memo to spring their clocks forward, showing up at least an hour late. Or it just seemed that way. LSU led 8-0 after just three innings and roared to a 10-2 triumph. The sun-drenched crowd of 8,167 enjoyed themselves to the fullest and contributed to the largest three-game series actual crowd in Alex Box Stadium history: 27,194.

"I think we played fantastic all weekend," said a satisfied Mainieri following Sunday's rout. "I believe we played well in every facet of the game."

Indeed, this LSU team is showing signs they can be much better than the one that went on a late-season swoon a year ago and was bounced early from the NCAA regionals. For one, the pitching appears far more formidable. Freshman Kurt Mccune has been nothing short of fantastic, owning a perfect 3-0 record and a tremendous 1.11 ERA in just over 24 innings of work. Batters are hitting an anemic .125 off Mccune, who allowed only one run, on three puny hits over six innings against the Titans Friday. Not a bad addition to a staff that simply couldn't perform consistently in 2010.

News flash…LSU can bunt! Mainieri said he was almost ashamed by the Tigers efforts in that area last year. But so far this year it's perhaps been a strength of the team. There may be no better bunter than Tyler Hanover, who, when called upon, has been able to guide the baseball off his wand perfectly. It may be quickly forgotten because of the big number LSU put up Sunday, but a bunt by Hanover and another by junior catcher Jordy Snickeris gave the Tigers some early offensive momentum. The new, less powerful, bats in college baseball are certainly dictating a change in offensive approach, and the Tigers are adjusting quite nicely.

LSU has a nice blend of veteran and youthful leadership. Junior Mikie Mahtook is obviously the star of the team; Mahtook leads the team in home runs with six and made two catches in the outfield Saturday worthy of a Sportscenter Top 10. He is complimented by junior short stop and former Catholic High star, Austin Nola, who, despite an early error Sunday and a team-high 5 in that category, is ultra smooth at the position. Nola has also hit in the clutch and owns a robust .365 average so far. Junior closer Matty Ott will also be called upon to provide seasoned leadership. Ott became LSU's all-time leader in saves Friday and will be a tremendous bulldog to have if he completely returns to his 2009 National Championship form. Newcomers Jacoby Jones and Raph Rhymes are batting .415 and .385 respectively, obviously not struggling to adjust to the college game. Rhymes was actually on the 2009 LSU fall roster, before being cut from the team. He's certainly making the most of his second chance.

So obviously things are off to a strong start. #7 LSU owns a 13-1 overall record and should surge higher in the polls when they are released Monday. Their sweep of a traditional power like Cal State Fullerton could certainly strengthen the Tigers NCAA position and seed when the playoff brackets are released on Memorial Day. It never hurts to schedule tough; and it definitely doesn't hurt to win those games.

So now LSU moves into SEC play. Buckle up for an ultra-challenging 30 game ride, which begins with #2 Florida at "The Box" next weekend. Just don't believe this team is afraid of anyone.