Tiger baseball takes first series against Aggies

To many people, baseball is one of the most insipid pastimes on the planet.

Even some of the most ardent sports fans believe that baseball’s pace of play is too slow, that scoring occurs too leisurely, and that the length of an average game is too prolonged.

No matter what gimmick the front-office suits and rule makers in charge of “growing the sport” implement, some people will always believe that baseball is boring.

Ironically, there are some people that love the game of baseball who agree that the sport can be dull from time to time.

This was especially the case during the LSU baseball team’s nonconference schedule the past four weeks. Fans of the purple and gold watched with awe, and sometimes boredom, as their No. 1 ranked Tigers drubbed one out of conference opponent after another.

It was a stretch of season that saw LSU post a 16-1 record and outscore its opposition 195 to 38 runs. As an avid baseball fan, let me be the first to admit that month one of the season was far from exciting.

Fortunately for us, the Tigers entered Southeastern Conference play this past weekend, which not only signaled the first time LSU took the field against a ranked opponent, but also represented the first of many spring weekends filled with better baseball games.

LSU traveled to College Station to take on the No. 11 Texas A&M Aggies to open the SEC play, and after Friday night’s game, fans might have thought they were in for more of the same.

The Tigers unsurprisingly went with Paul Skenes on the mound, and the Air Force transfer showed that he can dazzle regardless of the opponent’s talent level.

Skenes struck out an impressive 11 Aggie batters while allowing only four hits through 6.1 innings. Offensively, LSU struck early for two runs in the 1st inning and two more runs in the 3rd inning thanks to RBIs from Gavin Dugas, Josh Pearson, and Tommy White.

The Tiger offense would not score again until a five-run 9th inning to take game one of the series 9-0.

More patience was required by the LSU offense for game two.

Ty Floyd started on the hill for the Tigers but didn’t have his best stuff through 3.1 innings of work. The 6’2” junior allowed three runs, and Texas A&M jumped out to a 4-0 lead heading into the top of the 4th.

However, the Tigers had been taking good at-bats all game even though they only had one hit to show for it, so it was no surprise when LSU scored six runs in the top of the 4th to take a lead that they never relinquished.

LSU would go on to take game two and the series with a score of 12-7.

The Tigers took the field for game three on Sunday with Thatcher Hurd leading the charge on the mound, and signs were promising early.

In the top of the 1st, LSU took advantage of an early hit parade to take a 4-0 lead. Unfortunately, Hurd couldn’t last beyond 3.1 innings, and the Tiger relievers struggled to find the strike zone.

Despite these struggles, LSU led 6-4 heading into the bottom of the 8th, but the free bases finally caught up with Tiger coach Jay Johnson’s pitching staff. The Aggies scored four runs in the 8th and shut the Tiger bats down in the 9th inning to avoid the sweep.

Though a disappointing finish, a 2-1 start in SEC play, especially on the road against a ranked opponent, is a solid foundation to build upon, and I think the team came away with some positive takeaways with the first being the play of Pearson.

Pearson had been missing from the lineup ever since White’s shoulder injury forced Johnson to change the lineup to keep White’s bat in the game. With White back at third and Pearson’s 4-12, 5 RBI performance at the plate through the weekend, I would venture to say that fans will continue to see Pearson’s name appear on the lineup card.

Jared Jones also found his stride after a pedestrian Friday night and even had a home run to extend the LSU lead in game two. As the true freshman designated hitter gets more conference games under his belt, Jones’s performance should reach a more consistent level.

The Tigers also played solidly in the field with the only two errors of the series coming from pitchers Floyd and Blake Money.

As far as improvement goes, the LSU bullpen must do a better job of pitching ahead in counts. Far too often in games two and three of the A&M series did Tiger pitchers give up walks and hits to batters that had the luxury of being in advantage counts.

This is a matter that will hopefully be resolved with more game experience for the pitchers and more familiarity between the coaching staff and the pitching staff as the coaches will begin to learn which pitchers are best to use in certain situations.

Finally, I hate to pick on one player, but freshman outfielder Paxton Kling cannot continue to be the leadoff hitter for this lineup. He finished the weekend series with an anemic 1-15 plate performance that included eight strikeouts.

Kling is a young player with a bright future, but he is not ready to start at the top of the order yet, and I felt there were times when his at-bats would steal momentum from an offense that was on the verge of breaking a game open.

While the Tigers didn’t earn their first sweep of the year, the team took care of business against a solid opponent. Hopefully, the team will continue to improve this weekend when No.6 Arkansas visits Baton Rouge for a three-game series.

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