No. 1 LSU Is No More As Wake Forest Takes Over Top Spot For 1st Time In School History

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BATON ROUGE, La. – Sooner or later, LSU’s average pitching was going to catch up with its elite offense.

It happened over the weekend in Auburn, Alabama, to LSU, which had been No. 1 in every poll since before the season.

LSU’s pitching collapsed after the Tigers led 4-3 in the sixth for an 8-6 loss on Saturday. Then disaster struck again Sunday with a 12-2 loss in the series finale as four pitchers allowed eight hits and eight walks. That included four free passes by starter Christian Little, who did not record an out in the first inning.

LSU (37-10, 16-7 SEC) lost an SEC series for the first time all season, two games to one. And Auburn (27-19-1) is tied for eighth in the SEC and not even .500 in the league at 11-13. LSU had won six series with a pair of three-game sweeps and tied a series at South Carolina, 1-1, when rain canceled a third game.

On Monday, the Tigers fell from No. 1 in the Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, USA TODAY and D1 Baseball. Wake Forest (39-7, 18-5 ACC) moved up from No. 2 after taking a series from Boston College for its first No. 1 ranking in school history.

LSU coach Jay Johnson’s team did not lose an SEC series through seven until Sunday at Auburn (Photo by Getty Images)

“Relative to what happens on the field, it’s completely irrelevant, and has been since day one,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said of the ranking Monday. “It’ll remain that way. As competitors, you love being on top, and my hats off to them for how they’ve handled that (the No. 1 ranking). But I don’t see that as anything.”

But Johnson knows his pitching issue is something.

LSU Pitching Drops After Paul Skenes

After junior ace Paul Skenes (9-1, 1.73 ERA), LSU is hit and miss. Other than Ty Floyd (6-0, 4.86 ERA), the Tigers have one pitcher with more than four wins. After Skenes, LSU usually has to score big to win. Such was the case over the weekend.

Skenes struck out a career-high 15 on Friday night in seven and a third innings for a 3-0 win. No LSU pitcher had struck out that many in an SEC game since Anthony Ranaudo did against Auburn in 2009 – the last year LSU won the College World Series.

Johnson will likely need more effective starters and relievers if LSU is to advance in the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska, this season or even get there.

LSU is second in the nation in slugging percentage (.560), third in on-base average (.440) and fourth in runs per game (9.6). And Skenes leads the nation with 139 strikeouts and is No. 1 in the SEC in ERA and in opponent batting average (.165). But as a staff, LSU is 38th nationally and sixth in the SEC in ERA at 4.50.

And LSU pitching has struggled recently in mid-week games. It lost on April 25 at home to Nicholls State, 6-5, on 10 hits after leading 4-3 through seven. LSU allowed 14 hits in an 8-5 loss at home to Louisiana on April 18.

Jay Johnson Will Tinker With Staff

“What we’ll do is make some adjustments and get back on it,” he said. “We have some injuries, and we have some guys who have pitched well that didn’t pitch well on Saturday and Sunday. That’s how I see it. So you go back to where you get to execute with each of them. And that’s what we’ll do.”

He doesn’t have a lot of time to cure his season-long pitching woes. The SEC season has just two weekends left before the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, May 23-28, and the NCAA postseason.

“There’ll be some shifting in personnel and those types of things,” he said. “I still think there are enough guys to execute the way we want to. We’ve just got to get them a little bit better.”

Arkansas (36-12, 17-7) took over first place in the West and is No. 3 in the D1 Baseball poll after sweeping Mississippi State. Stanford (31-13, 18-6 Pac-12) is No. 4.

LSU was not the only highly ranked team to fall to a sub-.500 SEC team. Vanderbilt (34-13, 17-7) remained in first in the SEC East and is ranked No. 5 after losing two of three at Alabama (32-16, 11-13). And the Tide had to use an interim coach with the firing of Brad Bohannon last Thursday amid a gambling controversy.

South Carolina (36-11, 14-9) is ranked sixth with Florida (37-12, 15-9) at No. 7. Kentucky (33-13, 14-10) is No. 17. Tennessee (32-16, 12-12) is No. 23.

LSU can make up for its Auburn losses against the two of the worst teams in the SEC the next two weekends. Mississippi State (24-23, 6-18) is at LSU Friday through Sunday. Then the Tigers play at Georgia (27-21, 10-14) to close the regular season. But Johnson doesn’t see it like that.

The Tigers Have Light Schedule

“That team is in first or second place in any other league in the country right now,” Johnson said of Auburn. “No question about that. This is something else – this sport, this league, this time right now. Team 1 to 14, it does not matter in the SEC. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t other really good teams out there. Stanford’s a really good team. Wake Forest is a really good team. But the SEC is the ultimate test. And we’re better for that. We’ll be better for that.”

Johnson dismissed a “panic” question about his team.

“I don’t even use that word,” he said. “We’re a no-drama program. That’s why we’re 37-10 and at the top of the league and college baseball.”

Well, technically, not right now.

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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