COLUMBIA, S.C. — These two LSU players have combined for 15 hits in 31 at-bats with three doubles, two triples, three home runs and eight RBIs in the four games leading into the Tigers' weekend series at South Carolina.
A keen LSU observer might have a good idea of who they are, but first, another couple of hints: These two players were hitting .203 and .120, respectively, with four extra-base hits between them before they suddenly started slaughtering pitches.
Slaughtering — get it?
Jake Slaughter and Nick Coomes were having tough offensive seasons in 2018 until Tennessee came along, but they have been knocking the cover off the ball since.
With that added pop to the bottom of its lineup, LSU went into its series against South Carolina having scored at least nine runs in four consecutive games.
WHO: LSU at South Carolina
The pair cited different reasons for their recent surge in production.
In Slaughter’s case, it is a little bit of everything — he is seeing the ball well, he feels comfortable at the plate and he is having some better luck.
It seemed every ball Slaughter hit early this season was both hit on the screws and laser-guided to an opposing player’s glove. He got off to a slow start and eventually was relegated to the bench.
With the lineup struggling to produce runs, LSU coach Paul Mainieri put Slaughter’s bat back in. Lately, he has shown just how good he can be when right.
He socked two home runs in Friday’s win against Tennessee, added another Saturday and also stroked a pair of triples since that series began.
“Every at-bat matters,” Slaughter said. “I’m trying to hit the ball hard every at-bat and do something good.”
But the battle Slaughter constantly faces is with himself. He has been trying to find a place where he can stay in a positive frame of mind.
“It’s not worrying about results, playing the game and trying to win,” Slaughter said. “If you’re a good teammate and you work hard and you stay confident, things are going to happen eventually.”
For Coomes, it was just a matter of getting some consistent looks at pitches.
He had just 25 at-bats to his name in 2018 before the Tennessee series. It was difficult to get in a groove when every at-bat, in a way, had to be perfect.
Coomes explained by presenting a scenario in which he would start and get four or five at-bats to work with.
“You go up there your first at-bat, and you might’ve done something wrong,” Coomes said. “… You’re able to know what you did wrong, exactly what it is you did wrong, so you can take it into your next at-bat and work on it.”
He appeared in nine games where he got just one at-bat this year, and he went hitless in eight of them.
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Though Coomes was not in the lineup Friday against the Gamecocks, he entered the weekend with seven hits in his past two starts, including a four-hit night Wednesday against Tulane.
“Now that I’ve played … I’ve had consistent at-bats and I’m seeing the ball,” Coomes said. “I’m able to adjust to things that I’m doing wrong.”