Notre Dame coach Mik Aoki seemed to know full well that LSU was opening up the season without starting catcher Hunter Feduccia.
The Irish put the pedal to the metal on the basepaths from the first inning Friday night through the end of Sunday’s 11-3 rout to clinch the series, and there wasn’t much that LSU catchers Bryce Jordan and Nick Coomes could do to stop it.
LSU catchers allowed 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts and were charged with three pass balls this weekend, contributing to an all-around poor showing to open the season.
It wasn’t exactly shocking considering Jordan caught his first two games since high school and Coomes dealt with arm soreness earlier in the week, but the success with which Notre Dame ran was uncharacteristic against a program that’s prided itself on outstanding defense behind the plate.
Consider that LSU allowed only 54 stolen bases in 84 attempts (64.3 percent success rate) last season and Tiger catchers were charged with seven pass balls in 72 games. That speaks to the defensive acumen of Mike Papierski and the size of the void he left behind the plate.
That void was exacerbated by losing Feduccia to a broken bone in his left hand two weeks before opening day. Now all LSU can do is tread water at the position as best it can until Feduccia’s hand feels good enough to start catching again. He did make his LSU debut Sunday as a pinch runner.
“I don’t know what the situation is,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He hasn’t said anything to me yet. He took (batting practice) today, but I don’t want to keep going to him every day and asking ‘How’s your hand? Can you catch yet?’ He’s been told to tell the coaches when he’s ready to play, and he hasn’t said that yet.”
But here’s the thing: While getting Feduccia back will certainly help, but the responsibility of slowing down the opposing running game doesn’t belong to the catcher along. What went on this weekend had plenty to do with LSU’s struggles on the mound, too.
“It’s a function of three things,” Mainieri said. “It’s a function of our pitchers being too slow delivering the ball to the plate. It’s a function of the catchers we had to use this weekend not being outstanding throwers. And it’s a function of not being in counts where you can pitchout if you want to.”
The third one is easily the most correctable, though Notre Dame did steal a base against a pitchout on Sunday.
LSU pitching handed out 16 walks and hit nine batters this weekend, which means more baserunners with a chance to run and a lack of confidence from the staff that whoever is on the mound will be able to throw strikes. It’s hard to call pitchouts when pitchers are struggling to throw consecutive pitches over the plate.
“You can’t throw pitchouts because of the count, and if your pitcher doesn’t show a propensity to throw a lot of strikes, you don’t want to force him to throw a ball on purpose,” Mainieri said. “Your best chance to throw somebody out is with a pitchout, but you’re hesitant to call pitchouts because your pitchers are having trouble throwing strikes to begin with.”
LSU IN THE POLLS
The Tigers took a tumble in all four of the major polls after losing two out of three to Notre Dame on opening weekend, but LSU still remains ranked in the top 25.
By the way, Texas, who comes to Alex Box Stadium next weekend, is also ranked in all four of the major polls and actually sits ahead of LSU in two of them.
Here’s where LSU stands in the polls. The previous week’s ranking are in parenthesis:
D1Baseball 23 (16)
Baseball America 22 (17)
Perfect Game 16 (12)
College Baseball Newspaper 15 (10)