By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports
Those frequent May showers have come with a little extra lagniappe for LSU baseball fans. That is, clouds of discontent.
After getting routed twice at Oregon State in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago, baseball fortunes were supposed to take a turn for the better. The Tigers, with a great nucleus returning, would surely be hosting an NCAA regional and maybe have a chance to be a national seed for the seventh time in eight years.
But, key injuries to the Tiger pitching staff have made LSU a very average team, and average is not something that is commonly associated with LSU baseball.
LSU’s win-loss record coincides with its inability to get the other team out. In 2017, the Tigers set an NCAA record by being a national seed for the sixth consecutive season. LSU’s earned run average was 3.59. One year later, the earned run average was 4.87. And, this season, the ERA has ballooned to 5.29.
In four consecutive games in early May, the Tigers allowed 19 runs in a 10-inning loss to Ole Miss, 12 in a midweek loss at home to Louisiana Tech, and 14 and 11 in losses at Arkansas.
Former LSU infielder Ryan Theriot recently appeared on a Baton Rouge radio show to rant about the current Tigers. Theriot obviously feels the Tigers are too placid.
“I want to know when will somebody say they have had enough, and just lose it,” Theriot said.
My response? Emotion is great; great pitching is better. The 2009 team, the last to win a national championship, got a 2.93 ERA from Louis Coleman and 3.04 from Anthony Renaudo.
The 2013 team that reached Omaha had excellent pitching, too. Aaron Nola’s ERA was a sterling 1.57. Ryan Eades checked in at 2.79.
In 2015, LSU reached the CWS with Alex Lange fashioning a 1.97 earned run average. Jared Poché was at 3.05.
In 2017, another trip to Omaha featured Lange, Poché and Eric Walker at the top of the LSU rotation.
So, when the dust clears at the end of this season, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri has the following questions to answer:
Are we recruiting the right pitchers? Are we coaching our pitchers the correct way? Why do so many of our pitchers seem to suffer injuries?
All of those are fair questions. If you can’t pitch well, your team is usually wildly inconsistent. And, so the Tigers have been again this season.
LSU has lost midweek games to McNeese, Southern, Louisiana Tech and ULL. In the SEC, the Tigers appeared to turn the corner in April with series wins at Mississippi State and at home to Texas A&M. But the pitching has melted down.
Omaha – LSU’s desired destination every summer – appears to be in another hemisphere.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.