Skilled Veteran Position Players Lead LSU Into Postseason

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Tigers Pitching Needs To Hold Up For Four Weeks

By John Ventola

LSU will host its 23rd baseball regional this weekend and while both old and new Alex Box have proven to be the launching pad for sixteen College World Series appearances and six CWS titles since 1986, the site has also provided some disappointing moments for diehard Tigers faithful. Mention Cal State-Fullerton, Rice, Stony Brook, and Houston to most avid Bengal fans and you can see a disbelieving gaze immediately come across their faces. The Titans ruined 1992, the Owls were dominant in 1995, and the Seawolves, what can one say about their astonishing upset of the Tigers in 2012. Houston’s upset of LSU last year still dwells on this year’s team psyche.

Advancing to next week’s Super Regional is surely the goal, and the possibility of a

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LSU-Houston Rematch Looms Ahead

Tiger-Cougar rematch looms as special incentive. Houston is also hosting a regional this weekend, and should it and LSU both be victorious this weekend, the Cougars would return to Baton Rouge for Super Regional action next weekend.

Today the nation’s No. 2 seed hopes to parlay The Box’s friendly confines and a game against lowly Lehigh for a springboard to its eleventh Super Regional appearance next weekend. While Coach Paul Mainieri has decided to start Alden Cartwright and keep veteran Jared Poche ready to start game three of the regional, a solid nucleus of veteran position players are geared to carry hot bats over the weekend.

Although Tiger pitching has been spotty and inconsistent at times, freshman Alex Lange has shown himself to be not only the team’s most reliable hurler, but the player that controls most of Mainieri’s strategy in approaching any two-game and done format this season. Defending national champion Vanderbilt and UCLA, who topped LSU for the overall No. 1 seed last week, both feature strong, deep pitching staffs. The Tigers will need a return to form from Poche, who has been hit hard in his late season starts, and increased productivity from a group of pitchers if they are to make a run to the school’s second national championship under Mainieri.

Lehigh, sporting a 25-29 record, is not expected to play more than two games in Baton Rouge,. The Patriot League champions lost their doubleheader finale to lowly Columbia last Saturday by 14-3 and 8-3 scores.  However, No. 2 seed North Carolina-Wilmington, and Tulane, returning to a regional for the first time in seven years, could pose

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Second Round Matchup Will Be Pivotal

problems.  Tulane bested NC-Wilmington in an early season matchup, while LSU bested Tulane 13-7 at Turchin Stadium and 6-0 at The Box. Saturday’s second day matchup of first day winners will be key in the four-team regional.

LSU’s regional hosting started in 1986 when Coach Skip Bertman’s third team became the first Tigers team to ever be ranked No. 1 in a baseball season. The eight Regionals at that time had six entrants each, forty eight teams vying for the eight College World Series spots. Bertman’s 1985 team lost two straight games in a Houston regional, but his strong team the following year outslugged Jackson State, topped Oklahoma, beat Louisiana Tech, and was tied with Tulane 6-6 in the bottom of the eighth (Tulane was the home team) when rain suspended the Sunday game. Monday the Tigers got out of an eighth inning jam, scored a run in the top of the ninth, and held on for its first CWS berth.

Even though Rick Jones took two Tulane teams to the College World Series last decade, the ’86 Green Wave team was, no doubt, longtime Coach Joe Brockhoff’s best team. The Tiger contingent of Albert (Joey) Belle, a sophomore slugger and future

LSU

Success Started With Outstanding ’86 Team

major league star, shortstop Jeff Reboulet, who also went on to a long major league career, first baseman Jim Bowie, second baseman Burke Broussard, third baseman Jeff Yurtin, catcher Rob Leary, and outfielders Rob Hartwig and Mike Papajohn were solid. Pitchers Mark Guthrie, Gregg Patterson, Stan Loewer, Dan Kite, Barry Manuel, and Willie Forbes were outstanding.

That LSU team put Tiger baseball on the map. Now one of the school’s most balanced lineups in school history is primed and ready for another national championship run. Pitching efficiency past Lange is the big question mark for the post-season, but the position players of the Tigers can match up with any collegiate team in the country.

All-American shortstop Alex Bregman has been sensational throughout his career, and has sure major-leaguer written all over him. Catcher Kade Schivique, first baseman Chris Chinea, second baseman Jared Foster, third baseman Connor Hale, and the swift outfield of Jake Fraley, Andrew Stevenson, and Mark Laird, gives the team balanced

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Bats Will Have To Stay Hot And Pitching Has To Be Staff-wide Effective

hitting and defense. Danny Zardon and Chris Sciambra provide excellent depth and pinch/ designated hitter reliability. Veteran leadership has been the hallmark of this squad.

Lange will have to maintain his performance level and Poche will have to find his out pitches again, but Cartwright, Austin Bain, Russell Reynolds, Zac Person, Hunter Devall, Jake Godfrey, Doug Norman, Jesse Stallings, and others will have to step up if the Tigers are going to notch their championship belts for the seventh time.

Sixty -four teams start regional play with high hopes, but only one will walk away with the CWS trophy in Omaha.  Vanderbilt got hot at the right time last year and rode its strong pitching staff to the title. It will be fun to watch which team puts it all together over the next three weeks.

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