LSU hit the road for its first weekend away from home and lost two out of three in a tightly-player series against Vanderbilt.
The Tigers came up short in a seven-inning — we’ll get to more on that a little later — rubber match Sunday, falling 1-0 in an utterly brilliant pitching duel between a pair of true freshmen.
Overall LSU (16-9, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) has to be fairly content with its place in the standings coming home from a daunting first road trip to a place it hadn’t won a series since 2005. LSU sits one game behind the leaders in the SEC West with last-place Mississippi State next up on the schedule.
Let’s dive into some of what went right and what went wrong for LSU this weekend. As always, strikes are good.
- Pitching Held Up
LSU put together one of its best performances of the season from a pitching perspective despite a very meh performance from ace Zack Hess, who didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in a 4-2 loss on Friday night. Starters Caleb Gilbert and Ma’Khail Hilliard allowed three earned runs between them in 13 strong innings of work.
- Twanie Be Good
LSU coach Paul Mainieri joked earlier this week that LSU would be in good shape if it could just get right fielder Antoine Duplantis on one of his hot streaks at the plate. Apparently the junior heard him loud and clear. Duplantis went 6-for-11 during the three-game series at Hawkins Field with a home run and two runs scored.
- Todd Peterson
The sophomore right-hander had his best performance of the season — maybe of his collegiate career — to keep LSU within striking distance on Friday night. Peterson scattered three hits and a walk over four shutout innings and struck out seven in a dominant display of long relief.
- Running Wild
Vanderbilt is the most athletic team LSU has faced up to this point, and the Commodores exposed some shortcomings in LSU’s defense. Vanderbilt went 7-for-7 stealing bases this weekend, the most swiped bags LSU has allowed since opening weekend, when Notre Dame stole 10. Of course LSU was without starting catcher Hunter Feduccia that weekend while he started all three games in Nashville. Feduccia has a strong arm, but he sometimes struggles with transferring the ball from his glove, which negates that arm strength. Feduccia and Hilliard also appeared to get crossed up on a sign Sunday, leading to a pass ball that brought the only run of the game home.
- Coming Up Empty
LSU is among the hardest teams in the country to strike out, but Vanderbilt pitching racked up 22 strikeouts in the series. Nine of those came in seven innings against rookie Mason Hickman, who fired a two-hitter in Sunday’s rubber match. The uptick in strikeouts could simply be a testament to how nasty the Vanderbilt arms are, but it certainly didn’t help LSU’s cause offensively.
- SEC Rules
SEC rules stipulated the rubber match had to be played as a seven-inning game because the two sides had to complete the final seven outs of Saturday’s game earlier in the day. There’s obviously certain situations when the rule should come into play, but it looked awfully silly as LSU and Vanderbilt finished the game in a tidy 91 minutes. A great pitching duel was cut short for no reason considering LSU had a private plane chartered and could fly back to Baton Rouge at any time on Sunday.