Adam Henderson is the lead baseball writer for And The Valley Shook, the SB Nation site for LSU. He asked me a few questions, and I did the same. Here’s what we came up with. If you like what he writes, go follow him on Twitter @AdamATVS.
1) LSU is playing as well as any team in the country and swept the Bulldogs in the regular season series between the two teams. Is there any concern from the fans that the performance by Mississippi State could be a sign the Tigers will see a different Bulldog squad than the one they saw in the final series of the regular season?
I think LSU fans are concerned more about the Tigers' performance than they are with State's. I wrote about this earlier and LSU fans are very concerned about "peaking too soon". This stems from two things: LSU having a history of going cold in the postseason this decade and the fact that for the majority of the year, they were good but not great. They recognize that LSU basically turned their season on a dime and they can turn the opposite way just as fast.
I think LSU fans and players realize that Mississippi State getting in the Super Regionals is not a fluke and they are definitely not taking the series lightly. At availability, Mainieri made it a point to say that the sweep has no effect on their outlook this weekend and that they don't need to beat Mississippi State five times, just twice. And with this veteran lineup and their postseason disappointment, I really don't think they're taking anything lightly.
2) The Bulldogs did a decent job of hitting the vaunted LSU starting pitchers and getting runners on base. Lange, Poche, and Walker had a 1.875 combined WHIP and a combined 5.06 ERA against the Bulldogs. What the Bulldogs couldn't do was get big hits when the opportunities were there, and they walked 27 Tiger batters. If the Bulldogs are going to pull off the upset, is the key to victory lie in replicating those numbers against the LSU starters and cutting down on the walks surrendered?
Lange has been very confusing lately. He's had innings where he gets teed off on but always seems to get off the hook and make up for it by eating innings and saving the bullpen. Poche'...the meme going around the pressbox is that when Poche' gets out of an incredible jam it's just #vintagepoche. But he's a contact pitcher and with that comes a fair share of runs. Eric Walker has been absolutely incredible in the past few weeks and was even a candidate for a matchup in the Regional Championship against Rice. But he's still a freshman and despite proving that he can be counted on, there is still a little unknown about him.
I asked the players if knowledge of State's bullpen will make them more passive at the plate and make them eat more pitches, but they dismissed that. But I think that LSU will probably be more cautious at the plate and try to force the high amount of walks or eat pitches. With Lange on the bump in game one LSU will be more than happy to play the game of pitch attrition.
So...it is in State's best interest to throw strikes to everybody, Deichmann included provided the scenario. A lot has been made about "you can't let X beat you" and a lot of teams say that about Deichmann, but lately when teams play that game guys like Zach Watson of all people step up and beat you. That's what makes LSU so dangerous, the freshmen have became as much of a threat as the veterans gave.
3) What's your prediction for this series
I...honestly don't know man. If LSU scores 20+ runs against State I won't be shocked at all and if State scores 3 runs in a 2-1 series victory I'll be the same way. Nothing will surprise me this weekend after what I've seen from this team.
But I know that's not an answer, so put me down for a 2-1 LSU victory. State hits Poche' but Lange finally puts it all together again and Walker pushes LSU to a 4th championship in as many weeks.