LSU Lineup Shows Off Strength, Depth Against Tennessee

BATON ROUGE, La.  It doesn’t, Tre’ Morgan says, take much to get the Louisiana State lineup rolling, momentum spilling from one hitter to the next.

“Really, it doesn’t even have to be a barrel,” the junior said. “Once one dude gets going, the whole lineup just forgets how to get outs, so it’s a very good feeling. The dugout gets rowdy, so it’s fun.”

The top-ranked Tigers brought that energy from the start Friday night against Tennessee righthander Chase Burns. Morgan, batting second for LSU, ripped a double to right field in the first inning. Two batters later, Tommy White doubled to left and then Cade Beloso pulled a double down the right field line. With 12,551 fans at Alex Box Stadium cheering, a pop up fell in untouched on the mound going for yet another double.

Suddenly, LSU, which had started the game in a 1-0 hole thanks to a leadoff home run from Tennessee shortstop Maui Ahuna, had flipped the script. It was squaring up balls against Burns, a Preseason All-American and one of the top prospects in the 2024 draft class. The Tigers, who average 10.7 runs per game, second most nationally, were rolling.

Because Burns has some of the best stuff in college baseball, LSU’s momentum didn’t go unchecked. The Tigers never were allowed to break the game open, and the Volunteers retook the lead in the fourth. But as soon as that happened, the Tigers answered with back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the inning from Brady Neal and Gavin Dugas, the team’s nine-hole and leadoff hitters.

In the end, LSU pounded out 12 hits—the most Tennessee has allowed in a game this season—and went on to win, 6-4. The Tigers (24-3, 6-2) clinched another big series win, their second straight against a top-15 opponent after taking down Arkansas a week ago.

LSU has pitched well this weekend, holding Tennessee to six runs over two games. Its bullpen has been nails, allowing just one run in six innings. Righthander Paul Skenes on Thursday delivered an outstanding start and Ty Floyd (5-0, 2.87) on Friday got the win after throwing five solid innings.

But while facing some of the most talented pitchers in college baseball, LSU’s ballyhooed offense has lived up to its billing. Of its 12 hits Friday, nine went for extra bases—seven doubles and two home runs. It was the most extra-base hits Tennessee has allowed in a game since April 27, 2019 (10, Arkansas). Eight of LSU’s nine starters recorded at least one hit and the Tigers were retired in order just once.

Burns and reliever Andrew Lindsey did a good job of limiting the damage, but LSU coach Jay Johnson was pleased with the pressure his team put on the Tennessee pitchers.

“We did a great job against a guy that’s going to make $100 million or more in major league baseball,” Johnson said. “Preparing for this one, I know he gave up some runs at Missouri and Texas A&M but there were runs where he’d strike out five or six guys in a row. We just wanted to battle him and not let him get on one of those runs.

“The combination of hitting the mistakes and battling with two strikes, I’m really proud of the effort of the offense today.”

The game showcased the depth of LSU’s lineup. All-American Dylan Crews, the favorite to be the first player drafted in July, extended his hitting streak to 25 games, but he had a relatively quiet 1-for-3 night with a walk and a hit by pitch. All-American Tommy White drove in two runs, one in the first and a key insurance run on a sixth-inning sacrifice fly. But it was also Dugas and Morgan combining for five hits—including three doubles and a homer—at the top of the order, veteran lefthanded hitters Cade Beloso and Brayden Jobert taking advantage of their opportunities and Neal, whose biggest contribution to the team typically comes from his defense behind the plate, showing off his power with his third home run of the season.

No matter where a pitcher turns against the Tigers, there’s a hitter waiting to do damage. On Friday, they stuck to their gameplan and found plenty of success even while facing premium stuff.

“We took really good at-bats, starting from the very beginning,” Dugas said. “Guys found a lot of barrels. We hit a couple balls at guys. They made some good plays in the outfield. But at the end of the day, we just stuck to our plan.”

That LSU has a high-powered offense isn’t catching anyone by surprise. Once White transferred to LSU from North Carolina State over the summer, the pairing of him and Crews in the heart of the order became the most formidable 1-2 punch in the nation. But the Tigers have done a good job of building depth around them.

Dugas is hitting .350/.514/.750 with nine home runs as a fifth-year senior. Beloso, who missed last year due to injury, has reintegrated into the lineup and is 14-for-30. Jobert is hitting .268/.391/.554 with four home runs despite only starting half of the Tigers’ games. Their veteran presence has helped lengthen a lineup that also has serious star power beyond Crews and White—Morgan (.299/.422/.483) and shortstop Jordan Thompson (.303/.432/.472) are three-year starters for the Tigers and figure to be solid draft picks this summer.

In all, Johnson has about a dozen players he can write into the lineup on any given day. And no matter how he fills out the card right now, the Tigers are finding success.

“It’s great because they work hard and they push each other and they support each other,” Johnson said. “That’s the part that—outside of executing and winning big games like this—that I appreciate the most about them. Because it’s very uncommon for players this age to think outside themselves and these guys are really able to do that.”

LSU has more difficult series to come—the next two weeks it will take on South Carolina and Kentucky, which both rank in the top 10 nationally in team ERA—but stopping its offensive momentum is going to be a tall task all spring.

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