AF: The Tigers come in with an amazing 19-2 record, but have played no "true" road games. I guess technically, you can count playing Southern, but they are in the same town. Any worries about not having a battle tested road series before this point?
ATVS: It is a worry I have with all LSU teams over the last 7 years or so. We’ve got a new ballpark that we consider to be the standard of the college game, so scheduling has been resistant to go anywhere and just let others come to us. While certainly not a true road series, the games LSU played in Houston had enough of an unfamiliar setting combined with top-level competition (and in the Baylor game’s case, a sizable hostile crowd that briefly shook our relief bullpen) that I think it was a great test of the team’s confidence away from home.
But Baum aint Houston. And we’re starting 2 freshmen pitchers. There’s always the risk that on the road in the SEC, somebody cracks under pressure and brings the whole team down with them. I will say that I am hopeful that won’t happen, but I won’t be confident about it until the team leaves Arkansas.
AF: With six of the top seven teams in the national rankings coming from the SEC, what are LSU's chances of winning the league this year?
ATVS: Both high and low, if that makes any sense. So far, this LSU squad certainly seems to have the talent to compete with anyone in the league. Add to that the scheduling luck of not facing Florida OR Vandy until at least Hoover and it certainly seems like the conference title is within reach. But we have to get through the West first. Road series' at Miss St and a suddenly alive Alabama, not to mention inexplicably still undefeated A&M at home later in the year, and the Tigers have their work cut out for them.
AF: It looks like the Tigers have had no problems scoring runs this year, is this one of the more explosive offensive teams LSU has had in recent years?
I’m not sure if it’s the new balls or our new hitting coach, but the offense has been clicking so well so far this season. The flashy power numbers are great and guys like Kade Scivicque, Connor Hale, and Alex Bregman look so composed at the plate lately. But frankly I’ve been more surprised with how very aggressive LSU is suddenly on the base paths. As a team, LSU is 37-47 so far this year. The Tigers only stole 49 bases TOTAL last year. Most of that is thanks to our speedy outfielders Andrew Stevenson and Mark Laird. For a fan base that was raised on Gorilla Ball and is actually in favor of a return to the insane 90’s, this team is refreshingly exciting compared to the last few years of the dead bat era.
AF: What have the LSU guys said about the new baseball? What's your verdict on it?
ATVS: Almost to a man, LSU players have said seeing what the new ball could do back in fall practice has given them more confidence at the plate. And whether it’s really helping or just a placebo effect, the numbers are certainly there. HRs are up, BAs are up, we might even reach the LSU team triples record that’s stood for a good 20 years. Even some of the pitchers have remarked about how the ball works smoother in their hands, leading to less blisters and hand injuries. I think it’s great and it will only get better as the weather heats up.
AF: Prediction for the series.
ATVS: I’ll almost never predict a road series sweep in the SEC. Ark’s got some problems, sure, but we’re still starting 2 freshmen on the mound in the first true road games of their career. And despite being swept, Arkansas was still only a play or two from winning the series at Vandy. I’ll say LSU takes 2 out of 3, and the deciding game comes down to the wire.