Consider this probably your last one of these for awhile, since I am guessing Baby Beef will arrive before the Okie State series next weekend. MU heads west for a Friday night, Sat twin-bill series against Oregon.
Sometimes I am right.
At any rate, while I had hoped to get some info on the site about the Regional last weekend, it just never happened. As it stands, and really only because I am at work on a slow, before-a-holiday-weekend Friday is this one getting done. That said, lots of interesting info out there, so let's get right to it.
MU Since Last We Talked:
Um...a lot has happened since then. (Deep breathe)...and here we go.
Mizzou headed out to Eugene and took two of three from the #13 Ducks. The pitching was not great, but the Tigers plated 15 runs over three days, which is a solid output. They returned home after that to finish the regular/conference season against the Lady Pokes from Okie State. The pitching improved, with two shutouts in three days and the Tigers swept the weekend, finishing with a 1-0, 10 inning win. Of note in that game was Chelsea Thomas setting the career strikeout record at 893, as she K'ed 13 over the course of 10 innings. This gave the Tigers a final record of 43-12 (46-12 now) and 17-7 in conference, which was good enough for second place. They went 23-3 at home, 12-6 on the road and 11-3 at neutral games (which includes the NCAA games). They finished ranked 10th in THIS poll and their RPI was 14th per THIS link.
On to the Regional round of the NCAA tournament, the #9 seeded Tigers once again got to host, and once again welcomed #26 (RPI) Depaul and #52 Illinois State, along with #34 UMASS. I will tell you Mizzou lucked out a bit in never having to face UMASS (seeded #3 in the pod), as they have a pitcher with over 1,600 career K's. Yes, go back and read what I said about Thomas above and come back to me...I'll wait. Yeah. Seriously.
At any rate, the bats were a little slow to get going against a game Redbird team, but eventually the Tigers prevailed by a solid 6-0 score. Thomas spun the shut-out and Kelsey Roth went yard. That set up a winner's bracket match against Depaul and the pitching was on full display. Once again, Thomas was amazing, but the MU bats went to sleep until Ashley Fleming woke them up with the 9th inning walk-off to win the game 1-0 for Mizzou. The Tigers then waited as #4 seeded (in the pod) Illinois State went about upsetting Depaul to set up a rematch in the pod Finals. I-State was solid and squeezed across the first run against Mizzou in the tourney, but it was not enough and the Tigers advanced on a 2-1 win. They then found out that LSU had upset #8 seed aTm and the Tigers would get to stay home for the third straight year in the Super Regional round.
MU Regular Season Offensive Leaders:
- Batting Average: Ashley Fleming - .377 (Marston and Hudson both hit .301)
- OBP: Ashley Fleming - .473
- Slugging: Ashley Fleming - .737
- Runs: Jenna Marston - 53
- HR's: Ashley Fleming - 16 (we will come back to this number..Hudson, Roth and Muller had 7 each)
- RBI's: Ashley Fleming - 51
- XBH: Ashley Fleming - 28
- Walks: Jenna Marston - 45
- SB's: Jenna Marston - 10
- Team Batting/OBP/Slugging: .270/.368/.430
Because I have not covered pitching all year, allow me to throw out the current stats on Thomas for the season to this point. She has thrown 211 innings, giving up 115 hits and 67 BB's. Her ERA sits at an even 1.00, with 30 earned runs (37 total). She is 26-7 with 3 saves, 23 complete games, sporting 290 K's on the year. She has given up just 23 XBH, with 7 HR's. Teams are hitting .159 against her. In the tourney, she has thrown 22 innings, giving up just 1 earned run on 11 hits, walking only 3 and striking out 28.
Alright...on to the Tigers
LSU started the year ranked #22 in the country after falling the NCAA Regional round last year and finishing inside the top 25. They struggled out of the gate a bit, losing to #25 (RPI) Michigan, #26 Depaul, #1 Cal and #105 Penn State in the first two weekends. They lost three out of four against #6 OU (swept) and #38 Okie State (split). Their strongest OOC win was likely against #21 Ga Tech. In the tough SEC, they managed a 15-13 record, featuring wins against #31 Auburn, #35 Miss St., a sweep of #47 Arkansas, a 3-2 win against #2 Alabama, a 1-0 win against #7 Florida and a 1-0 win against #15 UGA. Ultimately, their regular season would end with a 1-0 loss to Florida in the opening round of the SEC Tournament (excited to get back to playing in those). The Tigers finished the season outside the top 25 and were #27 in the RPI with a record of 37-22, winning 24 of 31 at home but going just 9-11 on the road and 4-4 in neutral games. In the NCAA's down at College Station, TX, they beat #39 Texas State 1-0 in the opener as the #2 seed before upsetting #8 aTm 2-0 in the winner's game, and then beating them 2-1 in the Pod Final.
LSU Offense (stats only through 5/14):
In a word....ggghh. In a real word, lacking. LSU's top hitter is senior Ashley Langoni, who leads the Tigers in most, if not all offensive categories. She hit .270/.425.474 on the season with 41 hits and 32 runs scored. She had 6 HR's and 29 RBI's. She walked 42 times and had 11 doubles. By comparison, the Tigers had 5 players at (Angela Randazzo hit .269 who I counted and Mackenzie Sykes .267 and I did not count her) or above her in average. As a team, LSU hit only 13 HR's...Fleming had 16. Going off their lineup in the clincher, here are the batting averages of their starting nine:
- A.J. Andrews - .232 (lead the team with 13 SB's)
- Simone Heyward - .208
- Langoni - .270
- Juliana Santos - .257 (second on the team with 22 RBI's...Mizzou has 5 with that many or more)
- Alison Falcon - .254 (2nd on the team with 3 HR's..Mizzou has 6 with more than 3 HR's)
- Ashley Applegate - .201
- Tammy Wray - .167
- Lauren Houston - .220
- Dylan Supak - .218 or Heidi Pizer - .172
- Kasey McCasaland was the PH for LSU, hitting .220
There is really not much else that can be said. The team hit .220/.335/.290 (yes, Slugging was .290) on the year. They have solid speed with 69 SB's (Mizzou has 76). They walked 190 times (Mizzou 211) and struck out 266 times (MU 228)
In this category, and given the razor thin line the offense provides (or does not provide really), the Tigers are not where they likely want to be. Their fielding percentage is .966 (Mizzou .975) as they have 56 errors on the year. This led to 35 unearned runs being scored against them (Mizzou 24). Wray leads the team with 14 errors.
You just had to know LSU would excel somewhere, and here it is. The two Tiger pitchers are dirty. Rachele Fico, a junior is their leader, sporting a 18-11 record on the year in 206.1 innings. Her ERA is 0.92 with 130 hits and 75 BB's. She has K'ed 204, with opponents hitting .176 against her with 30 XBH (18/4/8 HR's). She has given up just 27 earned runs (44 total) and has 24 complete games on the year. In the tourney, she gave up 2 hits and 2 BB's with 6 K's in a CG shut-out of Texas State before coming back against aTm in the next game, throwing 7 more shutout innings with only 2 more hits, 6 BB's and 6 K's. Fico also owns the 3-2 win over Alabama on the year.
The other gun in the arsenal is senior Brittany Mack. She checks in with a 15-11 record and a 2.38 ERA. She has thrown 156 innings, giving up 142 hits and 51 BB's. She has allowed 53 earned runs (71 total) and opponents are hitting .230 against her with 23 XBH (13/1/9 HR's). She has K'ed 176. She owns the series-clinching 2-1 win over aTm in the Regional, where she went the distance allowing 1 earned run on 3 hits with 3 BB's and 7 Ks' (and 2 WP's). She also owns 1-0 wins over Florida and Georgia on the year.
I believe Bill C. said it best to me earlier this week when I started to tell him about LSU's very pronounced strengths and weaknesses in that he would rather face an offensive team with a pitching problem than a great pitching team with an offensive problem. Lord knows runs have been tough to come by against Thomas at all points in her career, but in a best 2 of 3, you'd hate to lose game 1-0 and that appears to be exactly how LSU is going to need to win them. LSU appears to have just enough offense to grind out the occasional run. In the circle, it looks like your inning is going to go as follows. Someone is going to strike out, and someone is going to get on base (by either hit or walk). What the other people do will tell the difference. Will LSU's defense remain strong as it was last weekend, where they accounted for a single, meaningless error? Or will it defy them and cost them a game or both? But with their true strength in mind and with the Tiger offense (outside of Ashley Fleming) consistently inconsistent, the hand-wringing has commenced. Will Nicole Hudson step up? Will Kayla Kingsley keep it going after a great weekend last weekend? Will Kelsey Roth or Jenna Marston help out? Will it be someone I have not named?
In the end, the Tigers do have a lot going for them. They will get to play at home, where they have been tremendous and LSU has struggled away from home. While the offense has led to a number of long-inning nail-biters, the Tigers have not been shut out since falling 2-0 against TTech back on 4/13 (other shut-out was against aTm on 3/25, losing 1-0 in 8). The heat should hopefully abate some on Saturday evening throughout that game, but it could be downright uncomfortable on Sunday, so gas tanks will come into question. Are we likely looking at games where the first to score 2 runs wins? I believe so, but I think MU will score just enough to book their tickets to OKC.