Super Regional foes LSU, Kentucky rely on different strengths
The 40-19 Kentucky Wildcats, the 12th seed in the NCAA Tournament, visits Alex Box Stadium this weekend where the 46-15 LSU Tigers, seeded 5th overall, await. The Super Regional is a classic contrast in styles. The Tigers possess more power while the Wildcats rely on a crafty approach.
LSU coach Jay Johnson is in year two in Baton Rouge and Kentucky’s Nick Mingione took over the UK program in 2017. Their teams met earlier this season on April 13-15. The Tigers took the opening match, 16-6 but Kentucky rebounded to take the second game, 13-10, before while LSU eeked out a 7-6 decision to win the weekend series.
It would surprise no one if the rematch went three games with Omaha on the line.
This will be LSU’s 16th appearance in a super regional, trailing only Florida State who has 17 since the format started in 1999. In their last Super Regional, the Tigers lost at Tennessee in 2021.
Kentucky has never been to the CWS. Playing in their first super regional since 2017 when they were swept on the road against Louisville, The Wildcats have less pressure than the Tigers. Expectations of ‘Omaha or Bust’ have been saddled upon LSU since the preseason.
Comparing the SEC rivals:
|BA||LSU||.314||(1st in SEC)||UK||.293||(4th in SEC)|
Projected to be the top pick in the upcoming dMLB Draft, Dylan Crews paces the Tigers at the plate with a sizzling .432 average, adding 17 HRs, 63 RBI and 87 runs scored. The average and runs scored are both second best in the country.
Third baseman Tommy White has an impressive .378 average with 93 RBI, John Curtis alum Cade Beloso has been a pleasant surprise hitting .329 with 13 round trippers and Brother Martin product Tre’ Morgan has been a dependable bat with a .303 average. Brayden Jobert out of Northshore High and Delgado, Gavin Dugas and Jordan Thompson also have been steady providers of key contributions.
The LSU lineup is deep and capable but a winning outcome for the the home team will be determined by the overall success of the Tigers’ pitching staff.
National pitcher of the year Paul Skenes and his 1.90 ERA with a nation’s best 179 punchouts is amazing.
Ty Floyd has bene the No. 2 starter all year. A potential top 100 overall draft pick, he must provide LSU with steady outings the rest of the way.
Thatcher Hurd, the touted UCLA transfer, has rounded into form. He can pitching at anytime when the Tigers need him, from starter to closer.
Gavin Guidry, a true freshman, went from backup shortstop to late inning stopper as the season progessed and the Tigers faced numerous pitching injuries. He has a 3.86 ERA and a nasty curveball.
Three left-handers have become key relievers. Nate Ackenhausen, Riley Cooper and freshman Griffin Herring will likely be called upon in key spots. All three performed well enough in last week’s Baton Rouge Regional for LSU to sweep it.
The Wildcats have some solid pitching depth:
RHP Zack Lee with a 3.58 ERA is the defacto ace of the staff.
RHP Travis Smith with a 5.28 ERA, 43 K’s, 26 walks could start.
LHP Taylor Bosma (5.61 ERA) could be another consideration for the series opener.
RHP Darren Williams will be called upon (4.08 ERA, 61 K’s). His performance will be important for UK.
RHP Mason Moore is a bullpen option (50.2 innings, 1.95 ERA, 49 K’s, 28 walks).
RHP Austin Strickland is another relief option with a 5.01 ERA.
As for the offense, Kentucky is a team that relies more on gap power, moving runners and team speed. They will challenge the catcher and infield with bunts and steals.
Senior Hunter Gilliam carries a big bat with a .324 average, team-leading 12 HR’s and 71 RBI. His eight sac flies ranks second in the SEC.
Jackson Gray, senior center fielder and leadoff hitter, has scored 69 runs to rank third in SEC and has a league-best six triples. He has been hit by pitch 25 times. Gray has a .348 BA with 41 walks and 19 stolen bases but has been caught stealing seven times. He is aggressive in looking to get on base and make things happen when he gets there.
Sophomore catcher Devin Burkes is the clean up hitter and emotional leader, hitting .298, with eight homers and 52 RBI.
Senior shortstop Jase Felker, the three-hole hitter. is batting .297 with 20 stolen bases. He’s tied for SEC lead with 11 sac bunts.
Second baseman Emilien Pitre hits .322 with 16 doubles, 51 RBI, 42 bases on balls and 18 stolen bases
Grant Smith could play in a number of spots. The senior sports a .283 average with 30 RBI and a co-SEC best 11 sac bunts. Ryan Waldschmidt chips in 17 stolen bases and another nine sac bunts (2nd in SEC).
These teams are familiar with each other so there will be few surprises. Execution will be the key for both sides.
LSU must minimize defensive miscues under UK pressure and take advantage of base traffic to put up big innings with the bats. Kentucky must pressure LSU’s pitching and defense to throw strikes and make plays.
- < PREV Jered Wilson earns ITA national award
- NEXT > Cypress Physical Therapy downs Malcolm Dienes in battle of unbeatens
Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to play football at LSU, developing a passion for the game in even greater fashion while in…