LSU is riding an eight-game winning streak into the postseason and stormed through the Southeastern Conference tournament last weekend. The Tigers have the nation’s elite starting pitcher in righthander Aaron Nola, who’s likely to be a top five or six pick in the Major League Baseball draft. Nola has a 1.49 ERA in 109 innings, along with 127 strikeouts and 26 walks in 126 innings. He has a fastball that sits 92-95 with immaculate command, along with a 79-81 curveball and high quality changeup. Meanwhile, freshman lefthanded pitcher Jared Poche sits 86-89 with his fastball and has a quality curveball, while Alden Cartwright (1.87, 33.2 IP) and Kyle Bouman (2.34, 57.2 IP) are quality starting options. In the bullpen, the Tigers have a good one in hard-nosed righthanded pitcher Joe Broussard, who can get up to 94-95 with his fastball, while Zac Person (2.77, 36 IP), Nate Fury (2.82, 22.1 IP) and Kurt McCune (3.00, 33 IP) are good bullpen options, with McCune providing an especially veteran approach … Offensively, don’t be fooled by Alex Bregman’s .301 overall batting average. He’s been very productive the past few weeks and leads that offense with an advanced approach. Meanwhile, Conner Hale (.314/4/27) and Jake Fraley (.385/3/29) have some pop in their bats, while C Kade Scivicque and OF Sean McMullen each have six homers on the season. Also watch for Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson, who both have the ability to hit well, while also bringing a lot of athleticism to the table.
I’ve had an opportunity to see Houston several times this season, and there won’t be a more motivated bunch this weekend after they were snubbed out of an NCAA Regional host. The Cougars have a lot of experience and possess a very solid one-two punch in the weekend rotation with righthanded pitchers Aaron Garza and Jake Lemoine leading the way. Garza sits upper-80s, with the ability to touch 90, while also possessing an above-average slider at times. Meanwhile, Lemoine is a big-time prospect for the 2015 draft with a fastball sitting 92-95, along with a very good slider. David Longville (2.98, 54.1 IP) and talented youngster Andrew Lantrip (1.40, 38.2) are other starting options, while the bullpen is paced by Tyler Ford (1.26, 64.1 IP) in addition to power arms such as Chase Wellbrock (1.15, 12 saves, 39 IP) and Bubba Maxwell (2.53, 21.1 IP) … Offensively, the Cougars have the ability to be much better than their .281 batting average would indicate. Veteran Casey Grayson leads the team with a .335 average, six homers and 48 RBIs, while his greatest attribute is his ability to get clutch hits. Meanwhile, Kyle Survance (.315/2/29) and Justin Montemayor (.304/1/30) are table setters, and Frankie Ratcliff (.281/2/24) and Josh Vidales (.278/0/29) can be electric, with Vidales setting a personal record for hits in the game in the AAC tournament last weekend. Also watch for Ashford Fulmer. Fulmer is only hitting .266, but has good raw power and could matchup very well at Alex Box Stadium.
Bryant head coach Steve Owens is one of the nation’s most underrated coaches. Just a year after getting the Bulldogs to the Manhattan Regional, he’s back in business with another team and another postseason trip. Bryant certainly has a tough field with LSU and UH this weekend, but possesses a very stable three-man rotation with veteran righthanded pitchers Kevin McAvoy, Craig Schlitter and Vaughn Hayward leading the way. McAvoy is 89-93 with his fastball, along with an average slider and good command, Schlitter 86-90 with his FB and pounds the zone, while Hayward is an 88-92 guy who has a 2.41 ERA in 71 innings, along with 47 strikeouts and 23 walks. Also watch out for relievers Jonathan Cohen and Trevor Lacosse, who are consistent and enter the weekend with ERA’s of 2.53 and 2.94, respectively … Offensively, the Bulldogs are very solid top to bottom with a very aggressive lineup. As a matter of fact, the Bulldogs have four guys in the lineup with double-digit stolen bases totals, including Carl Anderson, who’s hitting .316 with 29 stolen bases. Meanwhile, Cole Fabio (.340/1/16) has 12 stolen bases, Matt Albanese (.329/2/36) has 11 and John Mullen (.301/4/36) with 15. In other words, this is a very difficult lineup to tame.
Southeastern Louisiana might be the team to keep an eye on if you want to see a first-round upset. We’re not calling it officially, but it wouldn’t be too shocking if the Lions give LSU all it can handle. Lions head coach Matt Riser has done a terrific job in his first season, and the Lions have several quality arms, including ace righthanded pitcher Andro Cutura, who has a 1.72 ERA in 99 2/3 innings, along with 95 strikeouts and 19 walks in addition to an 89-94 mph fastball, cutter and a very good 78-82 changeup. Meanwhile, Tate Scioneaux (3.11, 104.1 IP) is another quality starter. In the bullpen, Matt Pittari (1.24) and Mason Klotz (1.54) are two talented arms, while righthander Dylan Hills has appeared in 25 games with a 1.89 ERA in 38 innings. He also its 86-90 with his fastball, his cutter at 80-84 is a good pitch and he pounds the strike zone … Offensively, heralded catcher Jameson Fisher is doing what was expected of him this season with a team-best .394 average and .487 OBP, while Andrew Godbold is a talented hitter who gets the most out of his at-bats. For instance, Godbold is hitting .348 with eight homers and 57 RBIs, while he also has walked 24 times and been hit by pitches on 20 occasions.
LSU is one of the hottest teams in the country after its magical run through the SEC tournament. Now, the Tigers return home for the Baton Rouge Regional, which includes a rather intriguing field. Though the Tigers are the clear favorite at Alex Box Stadium, it wouldn't be too much of a surprise if the Cougars came out victorious. UH will have a chip on its shoulder, and the Cougars have the pitching to make some noise. It all boils down to whether or not the Cougars consistently hit, something that's been an issue at times. I like LSU in this one, though.