Tigers riding five-game winning streak
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU enters this weekend’s heavyweight top-10 divisional tilt with Mississippi State have won seven of its last eight Southeastern Conference games and five in a row overall.
During that stretch, the Tigers have tamed some of the league’s most high profile arms, whether it be Vanderbilt’s flame-throwing tandem of Jordan Sheffield and Kyle Write or Missouri’s one-two punch of Reggie McClain and Tanner Houck.
Next up on the docket is Bulldog ace Dakota Hudson, and the hard-throwing right hander has been every bit as good as the names proceeding him.
“We’ve beaten four of the very best pitchers in our conference, if not in the country,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “You know it doesn’t get any easier. This is the SEC. Everyone’s Friday night guy seems like they’re a first-rounder.”
Despite facing such a run of talented hurlers, the LSU offense has been on a tear dating back to the final two games of the Auburn series. LSU has averaged nine runs and 12.5 hits per game during that eight-game conference stretch.
That hot streak will be tested greatly be Hudson (4-3, 2.08 ERA), who ranks fourth in the SEC in ERA and sixth in strikeouts (67). The scouting report is for mid 90s fastballs and a low 90s cutter, both of which he can command to either side of the plate — he’s walked just 27 batters in 60.2 innings of work.
“I think the approach has to be similar to what we’ve seen the past couple weekends,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Just hunt the fastball, try to be aggressive, and, if he makes a mistake, capitalize on it.”
Hudson, who pitched out of the bullpen last season, faced LSU three times in relief as the Tigers took two of three in Starkville last season. He allowed four earned runs in five innings between the three appearances.
One reason for LSU’s success against power pitchers is the fact their lineup as a whole is difficult to strikeout. LSU has struck out just 168 times this season as a team, 61 fewer punch-outs than the next-lowest clubs — a tie between Mississippi State and Florida.
The Bulldogs sit in the middle of the pack in terms of run scored, but do boast a lineup that ranks third in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.
“They’re scrappy in the box,” said Alex Lange, LSU’s Saturday starter. “They’re there to hit. They’re going to use all fields. They’re just a good hitting team overall with good approaches. We had a dogfight there last year all three games, so it’s going to be a good weekend.”
– With LSU set to retire Eddy Furniss’ No. 36 on Friday night and recognize the 1996 national championship team Saturday, Mainieri announced the Tigers will wear championship gold jerseys as a tribute to the ’96 club. He also asked all fans planning on attending any of the three games to wear gold in an attempt to create a ‘gold out.’ “I’ve always believed in the power of the gold,” Mainieri smiled.
– Beau Jordan was sporting a wrap on his left leg after fouling a pitch off his calf during Wednesday’s 11-4 win against Southeastern. Jordan said the leg felt tight Thursday morning, but he felt better after treatment and a workout and was a full participant in practice.
– Bryce Jordan missed practice Thursday while dealing with a stomach ailment, Mainieri said. He’s expected to be ready to play this weekend.
– As previously reported, Mainieri is staying with the starting rotation he’s used seemingly all season:
Fri: Jared Poche’
Sat: Alex Lange
Sun: John Valek III