Time and time again runners try to test their luck against Hunter Feduccia.
That's usually a mistake.
Maybe they see LSU baseball’s stat sheet and think it should be easy to steal a base off the team with the most allowed in the Southeastern Conference. Maybe they think a junior college transfer without much experience in Division I baseball isn’t a serious threat behind the plate.
Then again, maybe they just feel lucky.
Don’t let LSU’s poor caught-stealing rate as a team fool you into thinking the blame falls on Feduccia’s shoulders. From the day he assumed the starting catcher role this season, he’s been deadly once a runner takes off down the base paths.
When LSU plays South Alabama on Wednesday night, it does so as Feduccia leads the SEC with 10 runners caught stealing. He’s second in the league in allowing only a 47.4 percent success rate on the 19 attempts against him.
He’s quick to his feet and his throws are almost always on point.
In a way, Feduccia’s arm is every bit a threat to opposing teams as the pitchers he catches for.
“That’s something I’ve always felt comfortable with,” Feduccia said. “I’ve always been accurate. I don’t know. It’s something natural. I’ve worked on a lot of footwork over the years and it’s all just coming together.”
Feduccia had a big face mask to fill as the successor to Michael Papierski, who was a defensive force in his own right.
The difference is that Papierski’s speciality was blocking the plate. By the time LSU reached the College World Series last season, he only allowed four passed balls.
Unfortunately, receiving hasn’t been Feduccia’s strong suit.
In just 14 appearances, the junior allowed three balls to slip past him. LSU coach Paul Mainieri compared Feduccia right now to where Papierski was as a junior.
It’s a problem, he admits and his coaches reinforce, but fortunately one he makes up for with his ability to stop potential base stealers before they can even get started.
“I don’t know if Hunter Feduccia realizes just how good of a ball player he’s capable of being,” Mainieri said. “He can really be an outstanding player if we can shift him into another gear. If we can get a little more focus and intensity, I think the kid can be a really tremendous, all-around ballplayer that can do a lot in his post LSU days, as well.”
The reason LSU is second in the SEC with 21 stolen bases against has little to do with Feduccia.
Ten of the Tigers’ 21 allowed steals came in the opening series against Notre Dame while Feduccia was rehabbing a broken hand to start the year. In his stead, Bryce Jordan and Nick Coomes filled in behind the plate.
When Feduccia made his LSU debut a few days later, though, he was determined to make a statement.
He got his opportunity in the second inning as UNO’s Darren Willis tried to take second.
Willis never had a chance.
“It felt good to get back,” he said.
LSU assistant coach Sean Ochinko, who works with the catchers, called Feduccia one of the best throwers he’s seen in college, both in speed and accuracy.
“The fact other teams know we have a good throwing catcher that throws out a lot of base runners and is a very accurate thrower, it changes the way teams play,” Ochinko said. “It takes away the steal, it takes away the double steal, it takes away teams trying to test our pitchers, knowing they don’t want to run into outs.”