HOOVER, Ala. — There has never been a perfect baseball team, and there never will.
There are too many factors to have all the, ahem, bases covered. Starting pitching. Relief pitching. Hitting one through nine. Defense. Speed. And coaching.
Perfect doesn’t begin to describe this LSU baseball team. Their offense has lacked punch at times. Their bullpen can be creaky, up to and including its closer Hunter Newman, who lugged his own gas can with him when he jogged onto the field in the ninth inning of Sunday’s Southeastern Conference tournament final.
HOOVER, Ala. — After LSU clinched a spot in the Southeastern Conference tournament champions…
Newman got the job done, though LSU first had to go to the cardinal rule-breaking lengths of intentionally walking volcano hot Arkansas slugger Chad Spanberger to load the bases with him as the winning run as the Tigers clung to a 4-2 lead.
LSU won by that 4-2 margin, adding the SEC tournament title to the regular-season co-championship it shared with Florida. Given those trophies and the current run the Tigers find themselves on — 10 straight wins and a 15-2 record in their past 17 games — it’s hard to reasonably expect that LSU could be in any better position entering the NCAA tournament.
“I think we’re just clicking at the right time,” senior second baseman Cole Freeman said. “The last three weeks we’ve been playing really good baseball. Baseball is a game that when you’re hot you’re really hot.”
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In a no-brainer decision, LSU was awarded an NCAA regional Sunday night. The Tigers will find out Monday who’s coming to Baton Rouge and if they’re a top-eight national seed.
HOOVER, Ala. — LSU got the Southeastern Conference tournament title it wanted Sunday afterno…
If they aren’t, there’s no such thing as a national seed. The website WarrenNolan.com, which accurately mimics the NCAA formula, had LSU’s RPI all the way up to No. 4 immediately after the game.
This win helped put LSU in the best position to do that, and that it came with a title attached, all the better for the Tigers. But all it gets them starting next week is to be like the 63 other teams now in win-or-go-home mode.
The Tigers can feel better about their NCAA chances with the likes of freshman Eric Walker pitching for them. LSU nearly broke the tournament team ERA record it set here in 2014, giving up just four earned runs in 32 innings for 1.13 average.
After Alex Lange and Jared Poché threw nothing but zeroes the previous two games, Walker came on to try to shut down an Arkansas team that had just hammered Florida 16-0.
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Walker is LSU’s fuzzy-cheeked version of Greg Maddux: not overpowering but confident and possessing superb control. His first time up against Spanberger, he jammed him with a pitch that could easily have leaked into the hitter’s wheelhouse but instead was grounded weekly to Nick Coomes at first base. Walker gave up just one run, a third-inning homer to Eric Cole.
“Eric’s done a huge job this year,” left fielder Antoine Duplantis said. “We know we’re not scuffling after those two guys (Lange and Poche). That’s what makes a great team.”
There was chippiness in this one throughout, even the day before. After clouting Florida on Saturday, Arkansas players talked about getting revenge on LSU and particularly Walker, who beat the Razorbacks 2-0 in Fayetteville. According to the ESPN announcers, there were curse words hurled between both teams after the national anthem.
Then came the fourth inning. Dominic Fletcher led off with a bunt single and headed for second on a chopper to third by Carson Shaddy. Josh Smith’s throw put second baseman Freeman right in the base path with Fletcher coming down and Fletcher sent him tumbling with a hard slide.
No one was thrown out, but both benches emptied and both coaches got warnings. All, including Freeman, agreed it was a hard but legal play. Fortunately for LSU, Freeman didn’t blow out a knee that would have cost the Tigers one of their best offensive weapons in the NCAA tournament.
After capturing a 12th SEC tournament championship with a 4-2 win over Arkansas, five LSU pl…
As for this tournament atmosphere, almost exactly a year after a vote as to whether to move this event from Hoover to someplace(es) else, like Metairie or Memphis or Florida, it seems more like home than ever for LSU fans.
Despite the 6- to 8-hour drive for a lot of folks from Louisiana, LSU purple and gold were again by far the dominant colors here in this Alabama burg. LSU’s team and its fans overwhelm this SEC tournament the way Kentucky and its fans do the SEC basketball tournament.
“I stepped into the batters box and their catcher (Grant Koch) said, ‘I didn’t know it would be a home game for you guys,’ ” Freeman recalled. “I said, ‘It pretty much is most places we go.’ ”
What a Sunday! LSU baseball SEC tournament champs; softball going to back to Women's CWS
LSU won its 12th Southeastern Conference tournament championship, 4-2, over Arkansas on Sunday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. And the softball team is returning to the Women's College World Series after defeating Florida State in a winner-take-all Game 3 in Tallahassee.
Everybody loves a winner. And based on the way it played here and in the last month leading up to the SEC tournament, LSU’s chances of continuing to win in the NCAA tournament look as good as could be expected.