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To this point, the only thing keeping Romero out of the defensive lineup was Mike Papierski’s mastery of catching’s little intricacies — receiving the ball, his cadence behind the plate and how he managed the pitching staff. Papierski had what Paul Mainieri termed “a rough time” with Alex Lange on Saturday, allowing three wild pitches before being pulled in favor of Romero, who Mainieri said “seized the moment” in his unexpected starts.
Mainieri addressed both Romero’s improved defense and Papierski’s off day on Monday when he met with reporters.
“He’s improved,” Mainieri said of Romero’s defense. “He’s got a chance to keep improving with his receiving skills; that’s the biggest thing with him. Obviously his arm is powerful, that was a big throw-out in the eighth inning (Saturday against Auburn). He throws, he’s not bad on blocking balls and his receiving skills sometimes leave a little bit to be desired, but he’s improving in every facet.”
On Papierski, Mainieri said: “He’s an outstanding ballplayer. I just thought there should have been a little bit more effort to block (Lange’s pitches) instead of just picking balls all the time. He was just having such a tough time that I just felt like we needed to make a change there. Papierski’s still going to be a vital part of our team and no way I’m giving up on him, I just don’t know how we’re going to manage it yet.”
Reynolds had some shoulder soreness in early March but only missed the week of March 8-13 —the Louisiana Tech game and Ball State series. Reynolds threw an inning Saturday in LSU’s 8-5, game one loss to Auburn. You’ll recall Reynolds also missed the latter part of his freshman season and received a medical redshirt for the 2014 season after shoulder surgery. Every indication is that Reynolds is fully healthy and, with the expected loss of Alden Cartwright, the veteran right-hander could pick up valuable innings as LSU gets into conference play.
The top of LSU’s lineup Sunday against Auburn — Kramer Robertson, Jake Fraley, Greg Deichmann and Jordan Romero— gave a peek at what can transpire when the Tigers’ few power threats are clicking and the speed in front of them gets on.
Deichmann entered the Auburn series on an eight-game hitting streak and, though his line in the Plains wasn’t gaudy, he made hard contact and paired with Romero as a legitimate threat to put a ball in the gap or, in some cases, over the fence. Deichmann has ten extra-base hits this season, tying Robertson for the team lead.
Aside from maybe Romero, Deichmann’s seeing the ball better than anyone in the LSU lineup and — even when he gets out — is making hard contact. In a lineup searching for a consistent power threat and early extra-base hits to buoy speedy singles/doubles hitters like Antoine Duplantis, Cole Freeman and Robertson, Deichmann seems to be LSU’s best option right now.
There’s more than just a record when it comes to regionals. Like in college basketball, RPI plays a big factor. LSU is No. 20 in the first official RPI rankings released today, which puts it in a very good position given the shaky start to SEC play.
Ideally, though, LSU would like to finish above .500 in SEC play. If it does that — finishing one game above — the Tigers would end 38-18 given they win all their remaining midweek games. That’s not to say the record is a benchmark, but it’s a look at a possibility if the Tigers are able to finish above .500 in SEC play.