LSU has gotten off to an undefeated start to the season for a number of reasons, but the ability to start fast on almost a daily basis surely hasn’t hurt.
An eight-run first inning against Southern on Wednesday night was just the latest occasion that LSU put up a crooked number in its first at-bat. LSU is outscored opponents by a total of 26-4 in the first inning this season.
The top-ranked Tigers will take their show on the road for the first time this weekend as they begin a three-game series at Texas on Friday night.
Will LSU be able to continue this early-season offensive tear against a higher caliber of pitching staff in a cavernous ballpark with a notoriously slow, artificial field? That will come down to the first four hitters in the order who’ve been supercharging these fast starts.
“It’s a pretty good one-through-four. I kind of like it a lot actually,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri smiled. “All four of them are swinging the bats exceptionally well.”
Josh Smith is the straw that stirs the drink out of the leadoff spot. He’s reached base safely and scored a first-inning run in seven of LSU’s eight games this season. Smith has hit in all eight games and leads LSU in terms of batting average (.517) and runs scored.
“I just try to work the count and get on base,” Smith said. “I’ve got good hitters behind me, so if I do get on base, there’s a good chance those guys will drive me in. It’s nice to have those guys behind you.”
The insertion of a suddenly hot Zach Watson into the two hole has taken quartet to new heights. Watson, who was hitting .150 through five games, is 7-for-10 since the move with three walks and eight runs scored.
It’s not just the spot in the order that got Watson going. He made a slight adjustment to his batting stance by keeping his hands farther back in order to be quicker to the baseball.
“I feel great up there in the second hole,” Watson said. “And changing my swing just that little bit has made that much of a difference.”
With Smith and Watson perpetually on base, Antoine Duplantis has been on a run-production binge that rival any in recent memory.
The senior already has set a new career-high with three home runs, and he’s driven in 23 runs in eight games. Duplantis has posted five-or-more RBI in three different games this season.
“What’re you going to say about Antoine Duplantis?” Mainieri said. “It’s really amazing to even witness what he’s doing right now.”
That all sets the table for cleanup man Daniel Cabrera, who Mainieri said probably has the most overall offensive ability of the group. Cabrera is hitting .385 with three home runs and 12 RBI.
Now LSU needs its first four to continue clicking on all cylinders deep in the heart of Texas.