LSU Follows 2022 Tennessee In Being Dominant SEC Favorite To Fall Apart As College Baseball Postseason Nears

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BATON ROUGE, La. – Tennessee was the No. 1 college baseball team in the country for 12 consecutive weeks a year ago after its first top ranking in history.

The Volunteers dominated the Southeastern Conference regular season with six, three-game sweeps and won 10 of 11 league series. But UT was upset by No. 6 Notre Dame in the best-of-three Super Regional.

And Tennessee’s season was over at 57-9. At least, Notre Dame was a good team, though.

Tigers Falling To Lower Division Teams

LSU was No. 1 in the nation before the 2023 season and for the first 12 weeks of it as the Tigers won six of seven league series with two sweeps. Over the last two weekends, though, LSU is 2-4 in the SEC with series losses to teams that were near the bottom of the league just last month.

Auburn (30-19-1, 14-13 SEC) took two of three against LSU two weeks ago. And over the past weekend, Mississippi State (26-24, 8-19) took two of three at then-No. 2 LSU (40-12, 17-9).

Will Tennessee and LSU spend a combined 24 weeks at No. 1 the last two seasons and each not make it to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series? It is looking that way.

The Tigers fell to No. 5 in the Baseball America poll on Monday. The Bulldogs entered the series last in the league in pitching with a 6.90 earned run average. But they managed to hold the league’s No. 1 hitting team (.316) to seven hits on Saturday. And LSU scored zero runs in four of the last five innings for a 9-4 loss. LSU had led 4-2 after seven innings.

LSU Relief Pitching Is A Disaster

On Sunday, LSU led State 13-4 after five innings, but somehow lost 14-13 in 10 innings in one of the biggest collapses in LSU baseball history.

“You’d have to ask the nine pitchers we used,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said when asked if the near-100-degree heat index had anything to do with his bullpen melting.

That was impossible as LSU made no players available for interviews, which is really strange in college baseball. That is more of a football mentality.

Through 15 seasons of previous coach Paul Mainieri with a national title in 2009 and five trips to the College World Series, players were always available after games. Same for the 18 seasons of former coach Skip Bertman, who did not let media access stop him from winning five national championships and reach the CWS 11 times.

Players were not available after the Saturday loss either.

LSU’s Tommy White is one of the nation’s top power hitters, but pitching is killing the Tigers of late. (Getty Images).

But the numbers speak loud enough at the moment. LSU’s 11 relievers on Saturday and Sunday combined to give up 21 earned runs on 25 hits through 10 and one-third innings. That’s an ERA of 18.29.

“I’m not going down the excuse thing,” Johnson said. “It (the heat) is the same for them.”

And hey, Mississippi was probably 50th in the country at getting air conditioning to Louisiana’s 49th, right?

Jay Johnson Has Some Building To Do

“We’ve got some building up we’ve got to do,” Johnson said when asked about his relief staff. “As bad as the pitching was, we had a chance to win the game.”

LSU left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and hit into a unique 9-3 double play to end the game with the tying runner on first. State had to use only six relievers after ambidextrous starter Jurrangelo Cijntje left the game after two innings with an injury. Entering with a 7.20 ERA through 45 innings, LSU got just three runs off him on three hits.

In addition, when LSU’s mighty offense did get good pitching from its side Saturday, the Tigers couldn’t score.

LSU Remains In Contention For National Seed

The Tigers remain in strong contention for a top eight NCAA postseason seed that carries a home NCAA Regional and NCAA Super Regional with advancement. But they’re slipping. Another struggling opponent awaits to end the regular season this weekend at Georgia (28-24, 10-17 SEC), but the Bulldogs probably can’t wait to try on that 18.29 ERA for size.

“We’ve just got to find out who can pitch and deal with it,” Johnson said.

LSU pitcher Paul Skenes leads the nation with 17.17 strikeouts per nine innings. (Getty Images).

At the moment, LSU has one great pitcher in junior superstar Paul Skenes (10-1, 1.69 ERA, 152 strikeouts in 79 2/3s innings). He is expected to be the No. 1 pick or close to it in the Major League Baseball Draft this summer.

But after Skenes, it gets scarier and scarier.

“It is painful,” Johnson said. “But we have baseball ahead of us. And that’s where we have to turn our focus.”

Johnson may have to consider what college baseball coaches are afraid to do. He may need to pitch Skenes like a closer after a day or two of rest in an NCAA Regional and Super Regional. College coaches fear MLB will not like that. It could also hurt recruiting down the road. But it has been done in college and MLB postseason.

Drastic, yes. But LSU is nearing that mode.

And next is panic.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau joined OutKick as an SEC columnist in September of 2021 after covering LSU and the Saints for 17 years at USA TODAY Louisiana. He has been a national columnist/feature writer since the summer of 2022, covering college football, basketball and baseball with some NFL, NBA, MLB, TV and Movies and general assignment, including hot dog taste tests.

A New Orleans native and Mizzou graduate, he has consistently won Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) awards since covering Alabama and Auburn at the Mobile Press-Register (1993-98) and LSU and the Saints at the Baton Rouge Advocate (1998-2004). In 2021, Guilbeau won an FWAA 1st for a game feature, placed in APSE Beat Writing, Breaking News and Explanatory, and won Beat Writer of the Year from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association (LSWA). He won an FWAA columnist 1st in 2017 and was FWAA's top overall winner in 2016 with 1st in game story, 2nd in columns, and features honorable mention.

Guilbeau completed a book in 2022 about LSU's five-time national champion coach - "Everything Matters In Baseball: The Skip Bertman Story" - that is available at, and Barnes & Noble outlets. He lives in Baton Rouge with his wife, the former Michelle Millhollon of Thibodaux who previously covered politics for the Baton Rouge Advocate and is a communications director.

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