There was absolutely nothing pretty in LSU’s crushing 13-1 defeat at the hands of No. 1 national seed Oregon State in the winners’ bracket at the College World Series in Omaha on Monday night.
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Of course, the Tigers found themselves in a tough situation after Eric Walker left the game in the third inning with an arm injury. So, LSU had to defeat the best team in the country with none of its top three starting pitchers available. That was no easy task.
The Tigers had two defensive misplays in the fifth inning when the Beavers took control of the game. First, shortstop Kramer Robertson misplayed a one-out ground ball. That error led to two unearned runs off Caleb Gilbert.
Also, in that inning, centerfielder Zach Watson made a poor decision on a throw to the infield which allowed a second runner to get into scoring position. Therefore, Oregon State was able to score two runs and not just one in the inning.
Then, LSU’s hitters were totally shutdown by Bryce Fehmel. Watson got the Tigers’ only two hits off Fehmel in his eight innings. Recall that Fehmel, the Beavers’ No. 3 starter, shut down Vanderbilt in the super regionals. Fehmel was not dominant. He simply made LSU’s batters uncomfortable.
Teams can lose baseball games in the same manner as the Tigers did Monday and rebound very quickly. Twenty years ago, LSU was routed 28-2 by Alabama in the second-to-last game of the regular season. One day later, the Tigers beat the Tide 6-4 to win the Southeastern Conference championship.
Former LSU coach Skip Bertman would bring a miniature toilet to the dugout. Bertman’s message was ‘flush the last game.’ That’s all the Tigers need to do as they face their first elimination game of the season Wednesday against Florida State (6 p.m. Central/ESPN).
Momentum in baseball only goes as long as the next game’s starting pitcher. If Jared Poche comes out with a top-flight performance against the Seminoles, LSU’s poor outing against Oregon State will be forgotten.
Besides needing Poche’s best postseason start Wednesday, the Tigers must get some production from the top four hitters in their lineup. Robertson (.314), Cole Freeman (.332), Antoine Duplantis (.328) and Greg Deichmann (.330) all had batting averages higher than .300 following the SEC tournament.
In seven NCAA tournament games, none of those four individuals has a batting average higher than .300. Both Robertson and Duplantis are at .276 (8-for-29). All but one of Robertson’s eight hits came in two games.
Freeman and Deichmann are really struggling in the NCAA tournament. Freeman is hitting .231 (6-for-26) and Deichmann is batting .192 (5-for-26). Deichmann has no home runs since the SEC tournament.
These four players have been worse in the first two games in the College World Series. Robertson is still looking for his first hit. Freeman has an infield hit and has scored two runs. Duplantis has two hits with one RBI. Deichmann has one hit and one RBI. The four players are hitting a combined .148 (4-for-27).
In seven NCAA tournament games, only twice have two of these four players had at least two hits. Since Florida State will be getting a second look at Poche on Wednesday, it is highly likely it will have more success. Therefore, LSU’s offense must respond – starting with the four guys at the top of the lineup.
With a victory against the Seminoles, the Tigers can claim a spot in the CWS Final Four. LSU has not been one of the last four teams standing since 2009 when it won the national championship. The Tigers have reached the semifinals just twice in their seven College World Series appearances beginning in 2000.
Past history favors LSU in its matchup with Florida Stater. Playing in a four-team regional or in a four-team bracket in Omaha, there has been just one occasion in which the Tigers followed a first-round victory with two straight defeats.
In the 2010 regional in Los Angeles, LSU defeated Cal Irvine in extra innings in its first game. But, the Tigers were sent home after dropping games to UCLA and Cal Irvine.
So, the stage is set for LSU to remain alive and reach the CWS Final Four. Obviously, Poche must pitch effectively. However, the top four hitters in the batting order must provide the offensive punch.