The Twitter mailbag will run every Tuesday morning during baseball season, but questions are welcomed throughout the week @Chandler_Rome. Follow along for analysis and coverage throughout the season and, if you feel so inclined, ask away.
The short answer — yes. LSU, with an RPI of 13, has played itself squarely onto the bubble to host a regional. Ultimately, only the Tigers themselves control whether or not postseason baseball comes to Baton Rouge, but other SEC teams and the national landscape also play a factor.
If history is any indication, the SEC will likely get a maximum of five host sites, but an intriguing scenario develops when national seeds are discussed. In each of the past three seasons, two SEC teams have received top-8 national seeds (guaranteed home-field advantage through the regional and super regional, should it advance). A total of four SEC teams hosted in each of those three years, including the two national seeds.
LSU celebrated Monday with a victory lap. (HILARY SCHEINUK)
After playing its way onto the hosting bubble, LSU could take a victory lap at home this season. (HILARY SCHEINUK)
So, if this season plays out like the previous three and two SEC teams are awarded national seeds, there are conceivably two other host slots to obtain. Halfway through the season, Florida, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Mississippi State and LSU can all make cases to either be a national seed or host. That’s six teams for four spots.
Paul Mainieri said Monday he believes it’ll be his team’s midweek games that could be the difference between hosting and traveling. LSU’s midweek schedule is unusually strong this season — its three losses have come to teams with RPIs greater than 65 — and it has wins over RPI No. 15 (UL-Lafayette) and 57 (UNO).
Remember, though, LSU and those five other teams still have 15 SEC games (some head-to-head). There’s still a lot to sort out, but LSU has given itself a viable chance to be a host.
Prior to getting on the bus for the Missouri series, Paul Mainieri was asked if he switched the two in order to create an Alex Lange-Tanner Houck matchup in Columbia. He said that was not his reasoning and added later “we’ll probably keep it how it is now.” So, yes, Jared Poche will remain on Friday and Lange on Saturday. Mainieri reiterated the obvious — Poche’s been in a consistent, nice groove in the last three weeks (all series-opening starts) and LSU is 7-2 in SEC games in that span. He did not want to interrupt that.
These are some quality numbers that reinforce what Jordan Romero said after the series finale against Auburn.
“Quite frankly, I think I hit better when I’m catching,” said Romero, who caught every inning of the Auburn series but the first four. “You’re locked into the game; you can’t slip up on anything. I’m just really locked in.”
Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU catcher Jordan Romero (28) looks for the sign as the Tigers take on Ball State, Friday, March 11, 2016, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.
Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK — LSU catcher Jordan Romero (28) looks for the sign as the Tigers take on Ball State, Friday, March 11, 2016, at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.
Romero caught a game against Missouri and had a four-hit day. This came after he made adjustments with his swing following perhaps his poorest offensive stretch of the season — a stretch where Mainieri gave him some starting nods.
We’ve detailed this at length, but Mike Papierski remains a bit more seasoned in catching’s intricacies than Romero. Mainieri likes how Papierski catches both Jared Poche and Alex Lange — both guys he’s has had an extra year to work with and get acclimated to. Papierski’s also seemed to recover from his benching against Auburn for what Mainieri termed a “lack of effort” and has impressed the coaching staff defensively in the last three weeks.
Romero, though, has gotten at least one game behind the plate in two of the last three SEC series and that may continue going forward.
@Chandler_Rome R U surprised by the 3 innings that @hunternewman55 & @The_Buggman threw vs @Mizzou -long outings w/ so much this coming week
— DonBridges (@Don_Bridges) April 18, 2016
Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- Parker Bugg (46) pitches against Louisiana Tech, Tuesday, March 8, 2016,
Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK — Parker Bugg (46) pitches against Louisiana Tech, Tuesday, March 8, 2016,
Let’s remember that these are two juniors whose tendencies, limitations and repertoires Paul Mainieri knows very well. Bugg had an 11-out, 62-pitch save against Auburn two weeks prior to his Missouri outing. He’s a veteran and Mainieri’s trusted him to go long before. That was not a surprise.
Newman, on the other hand, was supposed to be given ‘strong consideration’ for a ninth-inning look after Caleb Gilbert’s rocky Vanderbilt series. It was a tad surprising to see Mainieri go to Newman that early in the game, but it’s abundantly clear he’s emerged as one of the select relievers the coach trusts with a game on the line. Mainieri was blunt — he felt that if LSU scored six runs against Missouri Friday night starter Reggie McClain, it should win the game. He said he went “all in” with the pitcher who gave him the best chance.