LSU did not put up gaudy offensive numbers during its sweep of Auburn, but it made its chances count with aggressiveness and unselfishness.
The home Tigers hit just .261 in their three-game series against Auburn, and hit below .235 in two of the contests. They went just 8-for-31 with runners in scoring position (.258) and 5-for-29 with two outs (.172). Still, LSU averaged six runs per contest.
The key number in the series was LSU’s ability to advance runners once they got on base.
LSU went 29-for-54 in advancement opportunities — meaning when its hitters came to the plate with a runner on base in front of them, they moved him up at least one base nearly 54 percent of the time. Meanwhile, Auburn advanced its runners just eight times in 31 chances (.258).
1: They are what we thought they were.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri used every tool at his disposal to put pressure on the Auburn defense and pitching staff.
The LSU skipper called numerous hit and run plays, all of which resulted in at least a runner safely advancing. LSU also successfully executed three sacrifice bunts — one of which was a safety squeeze that resulted in a run — three sacrifice flies, and went 2-3 in stolen base opportunities.
Mainieri said he was only able to be aggressive because of the performance by the LSU pitching staff, which limited Auburn to four runs in the series.
“You can’t do that if you fall behind in the games,” Mainieri said. “It all starts with your starting pitching going out there and keeping them at bay to give you a chance to do some things offensively that are a little more risk taking.”
It made the difference against an Auburn pitching staff that entered the weekend with two of the league’s top four starting pitchers in terms of ERA.
“You’ve got to produce runs,” said catcher Michael Papierski, who handled the bat on the squeeze bunt. “If the pitcher is slow to home or does not have a good pickoff move, you’ve got to run, you’ve got to test the catcher, you’ve got to get someone on second base. We did that this weekend.”
The hit and run play has long been a Mainieri standby, and LSU has used it with increasing regularity and effect in recent weeks as it’s ripped off eight wins in its past nine conference games.
With the way LSU’s roster is constructed, built mainly around strong pitching and defense, Mainieri said he feels aggressiveness at the plate and on the base paths is paramount. It also requires an unselfish lineup.
“We’re not a home run hitting team, so we have to make things happen, especially when you go up against guys that pitch like (Auburn starters Keegan Thompson and Casey Mize),” he said. “If you just stand there and play station-to-station baseball and think you’re going to get three hits every inning to score one run, it doesn’t work that way.
“You’ve got to make something happen, you’ve got to take some chances, and hopefully the players will execute.”
The hit and run doesn’t always result in a hit, but if the batter is able to make contact, the batter can still make something happen, like Kramer Robertson did in the third inning of the second game.
Robertson came to the plate with runners at the corners and one out in a scoreless game. Mainieri called the hit and run, and Robertson somehow managed to get his bat on a ball well off the outside corner from Thompson.
He chopped it over the mound. While Robertson was an easy out at first, Papierski bolted for the plate on contact and scored and Zach Watson reached second base before a play could be made there.
“It’s executing, really,” said freshman Josh Smith, who delivered one of the sacrifice flies. “That’s the name of the game. Executing, getting the job done and passing it on to the next guy.”