30 games down and 25 to go. This season has been full of hope, injuries, let downs and questions. As The Fighting Tigers of LSU sit in a position that currently has them projected to not make a regional, there is still hope that the season can be turned around.
It is definitely easy to write the 2021 team off and call it a failed season, or call for coaching changes. While those are options, it could also potentially turn into not only a special season for LSU, but also one of the best coaching jobs of Paul Mainieri’s coaching career.
Top five MLB Draft Prospect and starting pitcher Jaden Hill’s season is officially over after suffering a UCL injury against Vanderbilt. Jaden is one of the most talented pitchers to ever come to Baton Rouge and it is truly a shame that he was never able to get a full season without suffering an injury. Hill is a phenomenal athlete and has an unlimited upside once he goes pro. Now this is where the scenario for how Coach Mainieri can pull off one of the greatest coaching jobs in his career.
Who takes over for Hill? Do you go “Johnny Wholestaff?” Do you give the ball to a Freshman and see what happens? Do you give the ball to a veteran? Options are limitless. Garrett Edwards, Will Helmers, Blake Money and Michael Fowler come to mind. You also have to consider Ma’Khail Hilliard, who was a Freshman All American and has one of the best curve ball’s in college baseball. Lastly, you have Senior Brandon Kaminer, who has starting experience for LSU and was able to provide solid innings in the past. I left out Ty Floyd because he has been a great set up guy late in games and can stack up some strikeouts.
As fans have seen in the last two games, offensively, The Tigers are hitting everything. Hayden Travinski has emerged as the offensive Catcher, while Gio DiGiacomo has returned and provided some much needed veteran depth to the line up. The battle between Zach Arnold and Collier Cranford at Second Base is a weird one. Cranford has provided the better defensive plays while Arnold has provided the better at bats. You also have Cade Beloso, who has had the worst luck this season. Cade has had only 10 strikeouts in 30 games, his issue is that he doesn’t see a lot of good pitches and when he does he crushes them right to the defender.
The talent is clearly there in Baton Rouge and hopefully this is the time where everything starts clicking for them as a team. Consistency is what is needed. Game one versus Kentucky is a perfect example of what this team has to do to have a successful season. Marceaux is going to give you a great outing 95/100 times, but run support has lacked. Versus Kentucky, Marceaux gave a great performance and the bats matched his work from the beginning of the game and never let up. In order to compete the rest of the season, this team is going to need to average about five runs per game. Give the pitchers some breathing room. If the pitcher is relaxed, your chances of winning are vastly increased.
So, what does it take for Mainieri to pull off a great coaching performance? Establish a third starter. Find your future Friday night guy. Ride the momentum wave and keep using the lineup that produces the best offensive output. Nothing is out of reach or impossible for this team, except for winning the regular season SEC Title. So to sum up here are the steps to closing out strong: 1) Establish a new Starting Pitcher. 2) Figure out who the Second Baseman and Catcher is going to be. 3) Continue to provide run support. 4) Get to .500 in League Play. 5) Just keep winning.
Momentum is there, the run support has been there. Now capitalize on it. Forever LSU!