The names and numbers you should know about LSU’s competition
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
No. 4 Utah Valley
The Record: 31-21, 18-9 Western Athletic Conference (automatic bid)
The Skinny: The WAC champs finished the season on almost as prolific of a tear as LSU, coming into the Baton Rouge Regional winners of nine of their last ten after an undefeated run through the conference tournament. The Wolverines hit .288 as a team with eight starters hitting at a .296 clip or better. A staff ERA of 4.82 won’t do, but the late-inning tandem of Logan Hold (1.87 ERA in 33.2 IP) and closer Kyle Valgardson (9 SVs, 1.63 ERA) have proven effective at protecting leads.
The Common Ground: Took two of three games from Sacrament State, as LSU did earlier this season. Split two games with Ball State, which LSU took two of three from in March.
The Dude: Left fielder Craig Brinkerhoff hit .328 this season while leading the team in home runs (11), total bases (115) and runs scored (44). For reference, he’d lead LSU in the first two categories.
The Question: Beyond ace Danny Beddes (9-3, 4.33 ERA), do the Wolverines have enough starting pitching for its offense and bullpen to matter?
No. 3 Southeastern
The Record: 39-19, 22-8 Southland Conference (at-large bid)
The Skinny: The Lions were one of the final four teams to land an at-large bid into the field of 64, but LSU’s lone in-state foe for the Baton Rouge Regional presents some interesting challenges. The regular-season Southland Conference champs one of the nation’s best hitters (more on that below), a one-two punch atop the rotation in Mac Sceroler (10-3, 2.18 ERA) and Domenick Carlini (7-2, 2.07 ERA) and a lights-out closer in Kade Granier (7 SVs, 0.76 ERA).
The Common Ground: No need to search for connections here. LSU defeated Matt Riser and Co. 11-4 at the Box back on April 20.
The Dude: Jameson Fisher led the nation in batting average at .437 this season. The one-man wrecking crew also paced the Lions in home runs (11), RBI (66), total bases (136) and slugging (.716) in an All-American caliber season.
The Question: Southeastern committed 83 errors this season, and the Lions are tied for No. 213 nationally in fielding percentage. Will defensive lapses be their undoing?
No. 2 Rice
The Record: 35-22, 19-10 Conference USA (at-large big)
The Skinny: The Owls appeared to be in position to host an NCAA Regional before stumbling down the stretch, losing six of their final seven regular season game and falling to Southern Miss in the C-USA tournament finals. However, what Rice does have in abundance is power arms, and that’s a fine way for a team to make its own momentum.
The Common Ground: The Owls lost single games against Arkansas and UL-Lafayette back in February, two teams LSU swept four games from. They did take a midweek game from Texas A&M in April, which took two of three from LSU in College Station. Rice beat Lamar in a midweek game. However, the Owls did lose four of six meetings — all in the span of two weeks — to red-hot Louisiana Tech, which LSU beat in a midweek game back in March.
The Dude: Right-hander Jon Duplantier struck out a whopping 143 batters in 106 innings of work this season. It’d be fascinating to see him work against an LSU lineup that’s notoriously difficult to punch out.
The Question: Rice hit .271 as a team and averaged just 4.7 runs per game this season, placing outside the top-200 nationally in both. Simply put, does this team have enough fire power to get through a heavy-hitting regional?