Deichmann hit .600 with three home runs to earn Baton Rouge Regional MVP honors
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Greg Deichmann’s postseason home run barrage didn’t actually begin with the towering two-run shot he launched completely out of the Hoover Met to save LSU from first-round elimination at the SEC Tournament.
Sailing through the air, that dramatic game-tying blast carried more like a golf ball lashed at by a well-struck driver, flying with backspin over the ballpark’s old outer fence before disappearing into the words bordering the spacious confines.
An awesome display of eye-popping power, no doubt.
But the white-hot streak that earned him MVP honors for the Baton Rouge Regional began on a different kind of tee.
Hitting coach Andy Cannizaro put a baseball on a tee deliberately set one inch off the outside corner of the plate — right on the black — and told Deichmann to hit it toward left field. They did this in the batting cage every day until he graduated to soft toss.
“Young hitters are so visual and so physical that you have to spend time doing that,” Cannizaro explains. “You have to learn to walk before you crawl, and walk before you run.”
Eventfully they moved on to live batting practice. Cannizaro instructed whoever was throwing DP that day to pepper just off the outside corner whenever Deichmann stepped in.
And about two weeks ago, it all started to click.
“It was a slow process, him committing himself to putting a good swing on a ball that’s technically a ball off the plate,” Cannizaro said. “And the reason we did that was I wanted to prove to him that he had plate coverage. He’s got the most plate coverage on our team because of his length. He swings a big bat. He can drive that ball away the other way.”
And anyone who waited through the torrential downpours to fill Alex Box Stadium through the five-day regional can bear witness.
Deichmann popped a two-run home run into the left-field bleachers against Utah Valley with a mere flick of the wrist. Then, with LSU trailing Rice 2-1 in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s winner-take-all affair, he belted a go-ahead two-run bomb that traveled an estimated 426 feet just to the left of dead center.
Polling the coaching staff reached a consensus; nobody had hit a baseball there since Mason Katz, one of Deichmann’s most-decorated predecessors at first base. However Katz, of course, swung right-handed.
Not one person asked could recall a lefty hitting a baseball off the camera tower just left of the hitter’s backdrop.
“He’s probably one of a handful of guys in all of college baseball that can hit a ball like that,” Kramer Robertson said.
As Cannizaro explains it, that high-end pop is precisely why the biggest key has been adjusting Deichmann’s pitch selection.
Both he and Paul Mainieri felt their talented slugger had a tendency to be too choosy at the plate for much of this season, at times always just waiting for the pitcher to hum a fastball middle of the plate in.
“I’ve always taken outside pitches because I like the long ball to right field,” Deichmann smiled. “It feels good. It feels better than driving the ball the other way.”
For a player that came out of Brother Martin as Louisiana’s all-time home run leader, it takes time to figure out they can be just as lethal going the other way as they can turning on a fastball middle-in.
“So many young power hitters want to pull the baseball out of the park, and it’s a learning process,” Cannizaro said. “They have to learn how to hit the ball the other way. They have to learn how to drive the ball the other way.”
Being aggressive also means swinging earlier in the count as opposed to taking strike one. That leads to cutting down on strikeouts, a relevant factor for power hitters such as Deichmann, who led LSU with 41 strikeouts, nine more than any other Tiger.
Mainieri added: “He’s got to realize he’s a big strong guy with that lime-colored bat. He’s an intimidating presence. They’re not just going to lay balls right down the middle for him. So if you’re looking for that pitch, you may never get it.”
Deichmann took that prescribed aggression to the plate throughout LSU’s four-game regional, at times carrying a suddenly-slumping lineup through to host Coastal Carolina in a super regional set to begin Saturday at 8 p.m.
He finished the tournament 9-for-16 with three home runs — the two mentioned above and a ground-rule-aided, inside-the-park grand slam pulled down the right-field line that got stuck under a bench in the bullpen — and nine RBI.
“This is what we had always hoped for,” Mainieri said, remarking he’d seen glimpses during Deichmann’s first fall on campus, before a stress fracture derailed his rookie season. He finished the campaign hitless and watched last year’s run to Omaha on his phone while playing summer ball.
“Greg is a player you have to have a lot of patience with,” Mainieri said. “But once it comes to fruition, it’s going to be awesome. And he’s on the verge of being awesome.”
That new-found plate coverage was on full display. Both of the home runs that cleared the yard were hit to the left of dead-center.
Of his nine hits, two went to left field, and three were back up the middle. Three more went to right field and there was an infield single thrown in for good measure.
“If you can cover those middle, outside and inside pitches,” Deichmann said, “then you become a dangerous hitter.”
Anyone who’d ever seen the effortless displays of power Deichmann puts on during batting practice before a game knew he was a dangerous hitter. Make a mistake in, one he can drop that neon barrel on, he could hit it a long way.
“He’s got probably the most raw power in the SEC,” said Cannizaro, who scouted for the New York Yankees before joining Mainieri’s staff. “And the older he gets and the more at-bats he gets in this league, the more he’s able to take that raw power and apply it to game swings.”
It’s scary to think the only man in LSU’s lineup with double-digit home runs might be only just now scratching the surface of his talents.