How LSU baseball's series sweep over Vanderbilt can lead to NCAA tournament success

 LSU baseball earned a significant series sweep at Vanderbilt to close out the regular season this weekend.

The No. 24 Tigers won 13-2 and 8-3 on Thursday and Friday to clinch their first road series win over the No. 19 Commodores (35-19, 14-16) since 2005. Then they came back from a six-run second-inning deficit by scoring 11 runs in the eighth inning Saturday to complete the sweep, winning 21-10.

LSU (37-18, 17-13) will head into the SEC Tournament with the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye following Auburn's 6-3 loss to Kentucky on Saturday.

REYZELMAN FEATURE: How LSU baseball reliever Eric Reyzelman unlocked his potential in Cape Cod Baseball League

KRAMER ROBERTSON TO MLB: LSU women's basketball coach Kim Mulkey's son called up to the St. Louis Cardinals

Here's how LSU revitalized itself heading into the postseason and created a blueprint for success in June.

Getting out to early leads

LSU jumping out to early leads was the driving force behind its victories Thursday and Friday.

On Thursday, home runs from sophomores Dylan Crews and Jordan Thompson drove in four of the six runs LSU scored in the first two innings. Before the Commodores answered back in the fourth inning, it had already built up a 9-0 lead.

On Friday, two more home runs from Crews helped giveLSU a 5-0 lead after the second inning. Crews finished the series with four home runs, helping the Tigers chase Commodores starters Devin Futrell (1⅓ innings) and Christian Little (3⅓ innings) early on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

LSU BASEBALL OLE MISS SERIES: How LSU baseball's postseason chances were affected by series sweep vs. Ole Miss

Both leads gave LSU the cushion to not have to rely on its shaky starting pitching and instead place pressure on Vanderbilt's bullpen and batting lineup. And neither Commodores unit faired well with the added stress, as their bullpen allowed nine earned runs in 13⅓ innings pitched and their lineup only mustered five runs in those losses.

Saturday's comeback win was exciting but coming back from six-run deficits is not a sustainable model for success. If LSU can consistently score early in games, it will place pressure on its opponents, organize its pitching staff to greater effect, and that can translate into postseason wins.

Strong starting pitching

LSU celebrates a first inning homerun by Dylan Crews during their game at Vanderbilt Friday, May 20, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, United States;  at Hawkins Field. Mandatory Credit: Alan Poizner-The Tennessean
LSU celebrates a first inning homerun by Dylan Crews during their game at Vanderbilt Friday, May 20, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, United States; at Hawkins Field. Mandatory Credit: Alan Poizner-The Tennessean

LSU's starting pitching was not good last weekend, recording just four outs combined in the final two games of the series against Ole Miss.

But the unit bounced back in Nashville. Thursday starter Ma'Khail Hilliard surrendered just one earned run in 5⅓ innings pitched and Friday starter Ty Floyd was even better, allowing one run and only four hits, also in 5⅓ innings.

Floyd's performance should be even more encouraging for Tiger fans, given that it was just his second start against an SEC team this season and first since March 18 against Texas A&M, when he only went two innings and allowed two earned runs.

He displayed moments of dominance against Vanderbilt, striking out more than a third of the batters he faced. The only extra-base hit he allowed was a home run that got a lot of help from the wind in left field.

If Floyd can continue to pitch at this level, LSU has found the second starter it has craved for weeks.

Leaning into the long ball

Home runs have been a staple of LSU's success at the plate this season. Entering Sunday, LSU was tied for second in the SEC with Florida in home runs with 102. It added four more to that total Saturday, including two from Brayden Jobert — who finished the game with nine RBIs.

None of it should be a surprise, given that LSU's lineup has two future first-round picks and generally shies away from bunting — unless it's Josh Stevenson on Saturday — or stealing bases.

If LSU can continue to blast balls out of the ballpark at anywhere near the rate it hit them this week, its offense won't have any trouble scoring runs in the SEC or NCAA tournaments.

Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: LSU baseball Vanderbilt sweep gives NCAA regional momentum