For the 26th time the Road to Omaha must go through Baton Rouge, LA, as LSU will once again be hosting a Regional Round of the NCAA baseball tournament. To be honest, and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say this, I was surprised with just how safely LSU was as a Regional host. I think that had LSU not performed the way they did at in the SEC Tournament, we would be looking at them sitting at a 2 seed. Thank God they were able to beat Mississippi State, because that was absolutely needed. I just don’t feel that this team would be able to be successful had they been a 2 seed and not been lucky enough to play at home and be the best team in the region.
This just isn’t like every other LSU team we’ve had in the past few years. Unfortunately, they aren’t super deep, and don’t have the stellar pitching I think most LSU fans are used to seeing; however, they have proven to be scrappy. For how young they are, they have been able to prove themselves late in games and get some unbelievable wins. I also won’t dog on the pitching too much because it’s not terrible, they just don’t have the talent and depth at the position. This isn’t like we have Ben McDonald, Aaron Nola, or even Alex Lange on the mound as their ace, but when Cole Henry, Matthew Beck, and Eric Walker are on their game then I think LSU’s pitching staff is a force to be reckoned with. I also love it when Zach “Wild Thing” Hess is able to strike batters out to get us out of an inning and then he walks back to the dugout screaming and beating his chest. I think LSU’s bats can keep them in a game and win it if the bullpen is on. LSU is just so young.
With that being said, let’s jump into the teams in the Baton Rouge Regional.
2 Arizona State (37-17, 16-13 Pac-12, 33 RPI, 87 SOS)
ASU made it into this regional as an at-large bid out of the Pac-12. The Sun Devils are a very strong offensive team. They lead the country in home runs (92); led by Hunter Bishop with 22. They also have two players, Hunter Bishop and Spencer Torkelson, who are nominated for the Golden Spikes award. However, after starting the season 21-0, the Sun Devils have taken a turn. It was a bumpy road along the way, and in their last lost 7 games they lost 5. In addition, they finished 5th in the Pac-12, and their record against the teams that finished ahead of them (UCLA, Stanford, Oregon St, and Cal) was an unimpressive 4-7. The biggest thing LSU needs to do is control ASU’s bats and I think they should be able to figure this team out. Arizona State just lacks the momentum needed to succeed going into the regionals.
3 Southern Miss (38-19, 20-10 CUSA, 45 RPI, SOS 96)
Southern Miss was the big winner at the Conference USA tournament by securing their auto-bid. Had they not won, they might be in the same position as Louisiana Tech who did not make the tournament. Southern Miss was a pre-season top-25, but entered into the CUSA tournament as a fringe regional selection. The only other team to make it into a regional out of CUSA is FAU, who was the CUSA regular season champion, and was able to make it in as an at-large bid. The Golden Eagles’ biggest problems come from their play in the field. They have committed 81 errors on the season, and only 287 of the 512 runs they allowed were earned. I’m not so sure about that being something that can easily be fixed for this regional, and these mental mistakes should pose to be a major issue for Southern Miss going forward. I don’t expect a lot from this team as a result.
4 Stony Brook (31-21, 15-9 America East, 138 RPI, 255 SOS)
LSU is very familiar with Stony Brook. Back in 2012 they beat LSU to win the Baton Rouge Regional, which shocked everyone. However, this team is not nearly as talented as Stony Brook’s 2012 team. This is Stony Brook’s first time back in the NCAA tournament since 2015. They were able to win the American East’s regular season and their conference tournament, but 6 of the 7 conference teams were within 4 games of each other at the end of the regular season. They were nearly as dominant as they were back in 2012; however, they were able to sweep the American East Conference Tournament to get that auto-bid. Stony Brook really hasn’t been boosted by an out of conference resumé at all, and as a result, they don’t have a lot of quality wins. However, they are one of the only teams in history to defeat LSU in a Baton Rouge Regional, so obviously they have history. I just don’t think history repeats itself this year.
Before LSU was awarded a 1 seed, I was not confident in their ability to make it out of a regional. However, now that I know they will be playing in Alex Box Stadium in front of all the LSU fan, I’m a lot less worried. Also, after looking at all the teams, the only team that, I believe, really poses a threat to the Tigers is ASU, but they just aren’t the same team they were earlier in the season and are really dependent on their ability to hit home runs. So, we shall see what LSU is able to do with this regional, but I’m confident in their chances to advance.
The Baton Rouge Regional Schedule:
Friday, May 31
Game 1 – 1 p.m. ET – 2 Arizona State vs. 3 Southern Miss (ESPN3)
Game 2 – 7 p.m. ET – 1 LSU vs. 4 Stony Brook (ESPNU/ESPN3)
Saturday, June 1
Game 3 – 1 p.m. ET – Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser (TV TBA)
Game 4 – 7 p.m. ET – Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner (TV TBA)
Sunday, June 2
Game 5 – 3 p.m. ET – Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser (TV TBA)
Game 6 – 9 p.m. ET – Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner (TV TBA)
Monday, June 3
Game 7 – Time TBA – Game 6 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser (if necessary) – TV TBA
– Parmesan Don