By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
The days of Greg Deichmann sitting against the occasional tough lefty are long gone.
LSU’s junior slugger has been hitting any kind of pitching so far this season, but he’s downright mashed in the kind of lefty-versus-lefty matchups that befuddle so many young power hitters.
Through five games, Deichmann is hitting .500 against southpaws while slugging an eye-popping 1.500. Five of his eight runs batted in and three of his three home runs have come against lefties, including the estimated 486-foot moonshot he belted over the Intimidator in right field on Wednesday night.
LSU (4-1) will look to its cleanup man to keep the early-season power surge going as the Tigers host Maryland (1-2) for a three-game series set to begin Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
“Don’t let the 1-2 record fool you, this is a good team we’re playing,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “This is a team that in 2014 and 2015 played in super regionals. They were one game away from going to Omaha in ’14 … For us, as a team, it feels like an SEC weekend.”
The visiting Terrapins, ranked in most preseason polls, feature rookie left-hander Tyler Blohm in their rotation and carry five more southpaws in their bullpen. For comparison, LSU has three lefties on its pitching staff, including Saturday starter Jared Poche’.
Deichmann’s prowess against left-handed pitching actually began late last season in concurrence with the change in approach that spurred his postseason home run binge. He finished 2016 with a higher slugging percentage against lefties (.549) than righties (.492) while posting a comparable batting average (.288 vs. RHP and .275 vs. LHP).
Former hitting coach Andy Cannizaro put a ball on a tee off the outside corner to get Deichmann to finally realize that he had plenty of power and plate coverage to hammer outside pitches to left and center field.
Micah Gibbs, LSU’s present hitting instructor, has built upon that foundation as Deichmann emerges as one of college baseball’s most feared sluggers.
“We just proved to him that he could cover everything, which gives him a lot more of a chance against lefties, where you really need to stay on the ball,” Gibbs said. “For the most part everything is away, and it just gave him a lot of confidence.”
Deichmann now stands as close to the plate as he ever has, practically daring opposing pitchers to try to sneak a fastball past him inside.
“When I watch the best left-handed hitters I’ve ever seen facing left-handed pitchers, there’s one common quality about them,” Mainieri said. “They’re absolutely fearless up there. They don’t care if they get hit by the pitch. They stay right in there. It’s when guys start pulling their shoulders out because they get nervous that they start to struggle.”
The New Orleans native has the surgically repaired cheek and protective mask to prove he fits that bill. Deichmann was facing lefty Blair Frederick in a scrimmage when couldn’t get out of the way of the fastball that caught him under the ear flap of his helmet.
Six days later Deichmann homered of Nick Bush, LSU’s other left-handed pitcher. Comfortable again, the talent has since taken over.
“For me, he’s got plus power, even in the big leagues,” said Gibbs, a former All-American who himself made it to AAA. “It’s like 25, 30-plus homers if he can be consistent doing it once he gets up there. That’s top of the line power right there. It’s just a different sound when it comes off his bat.”
That’s good news for LSU and a frightening thought for the families of those baseballs his neon bat savagely pulverizes into the night sky.
– Mainieri said the left field battle between Beau Jordan and Brennan Breaux remained “in flux” at this point.
– As far as the DH spot, Mainieri will continue to give Bryce Adams chances, though he says he’s waiting for the slugger “to prove he’s the guy” once the caliber of pitching ratchets up in difficulty.
– LSU will once again be without undergraduate assistant and first base coach Sean Ochinko for Friday’s series opener. Ochinko said his suspension for being ejected at UNO is actually two games since it occurred after the game’s final out. Nick Coomes coached first base in his place Wednesday.