Preview: Jay Johnson implements cellphone ban ahead of LSU baseball’s series with Vanderbilt

LSU baseball is looking to recover from a four-game losing streak against No. 7 Vanderbilt. PHOTO BY: Michael Bacigalupi

LSU baseball’s season was already off to a rough start before this week. Luckily, the Tigers had a bounce back game scheduled during the midweek to Southern.

Except they didn’t bounce back. They dropped the game to Southern to lose their fourth consecutive game and plummeted 10 spots in the D1 Baseball Rankings. Now, No. 18 LSU (20-10, 2-7 SEC) will face off with No. 7 Vanderbilt with the Tigers still looking for their first SEC series win.

Vanderbilt (23-6, 6-3 SEC) is on a four-game winning streak after sweeping Missouri this weekend and winning its midweek game before that.

LSU head coach Jay Johnson said that the team has a mindset issue after the loss to Southern.

“The baseball problems are a lot in themselves, but we’ve got a lot of, whatever you want to call it, mindset, character [problems] that we’re going to have to work through right now,” Johnson said. “There’s no way around it.”

Johnson also said on his radio show Tuesday night that the team will be implementing a cell phone ban in the locker room to help the team with concentration.

“Until we meet the bar that I have for our program [the team] is changing a little bit,” Johnson said. “There’s not going to be any cellphones running around that locker room or club house for a very long time. Looking into this isn’t going to make anybody a better player and it’s not going to make us a better team.”

The Tigers put in solid performances despite the sweep to No. 1 Arkansas last weekend, but they looked lifeless in the loss to Southern. They recorded just four hits while giving up 11 and had three errors in the game.

On the season, LSU has a .285 batting average and a 4.36 ERA. In SEC play, that batting average drops to .243 and the ERA goes up to 7.50. The Tigers are holding SEC opponents to a .294 batting average.

“We’ve got to change the way we prepare, clearly,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of things that will fall directly on me as the head coach, and I’m OK with that. I believe in how we do and what we do, and we’re going to make some adjustments to those things. Not just from a baseball standpoint, but from an approach standpoint to winning. We’re going to change some rules up and go from there.”

Vanderbilt will be another tough test for the Tigers in a loaded SEC schedule. The Commodores have the third best ERA in the SEC with a 3.61 and the fourth best WHIP in the conference with a 1.19. They are holding opposing batters to a .213 batting average this season. On offense, they have the fifth best batting average in the conference with a .300 and the second most doubles with 66.

Bryce Cunningham leads the Vanderbilt starting pitchers with a 2.87 ERA through 37.2 innings pitched. He went 7.0 innings last Friday and allowed one hit and two walks while striking out 12 batters.

Carter Holton is second on the team with a 3.32 ERA this season through 38.0 innings pitched. Holton has a 1.80 ERA in SEC play this season through 20.0 innings pitched. He started against Missouri last Saturday and went 7.0 innings while allowing five hits, one run and one walk.

Greysen Carter started last Thursday for the Commodores as they tried to rest pitchers coming off a short week. Carter went 8.1 innings and gave up just three hits, no earned runs and one walk while striking out 11 batters.

LSU’s top pitcher is Luke Holman with a 1.38 ERA this season. Gage Jump is the No. 2 pitcher with a 3.42 ERA through 26.1 innings pitched. The third pitcher remains up in the air for LSU. Thatcher Hurd filled in that spot until Javen Coleman was given a start against Arkansas last Thursday.

Coleman went 2.1 innings and allowed two hits and one run. He has a 4.50 ERA on the season through 18.0 innings pitched. Hurd pitched one inning against southern and gave up one hit and three unearned runs.

RJ Austin leads the Commodores in batting average with a .351 and RBI with 29. Alan Espinal, Matthew Polk and Jonathan Vastine are tied for the most homers on the team with four each. Vanderbilt has hit 29 homers this season, tied for the least of any team in the SEC. Its batting average is .279 in SEC play. 

Tommy White leads LSU with a .328 batting average this season and is second on the team with nine homers. He had two hit of LSU’s four hits in the loss to Southern. Hayden Travinski leads the team in RBI with 29 and Jared Jones leads the Tigers with 10 homers.

Game one between LSU and Vanderbilt will start Thursday at 6 p.m. from Alex Box Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN 2.

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Will Nickel

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