Before LSU played one game this season, coach Jay Johnson wasn't shy in expressing how much growth this baseball team needed to make. The growth this team needed to make couldn't have been more apparent after Friday night's loss to Florida.
But a postgame team meeting that Johnson elected to keep internal was a spark into what transpired over the next two days. The Tigers outscored Florida 27-6 over the final two games of a momentum shifting series win for this team and Johnson could see those steps of growth moving in the right direction as a result.
"There's growing that needs to take place still but I think some of that happened," Johnson said. "The daily effort it takes to get in the right frame of mind, that's what separates elite players, elite teams and elite programs and we've got work to do on that but I think it was a step in the right direction."
Since being hired last summer, practically every press conference Johnson has held revolves around preparation at some point and what he's wanted out of the program he's trying to build is a "consistency in approach." Johnson likes the way this team has competed in practically every game this year but the consistency element has been where this group has struggled which is why it was so important to see the results that came with a great effort.
"It was a good accomplishment. When I took this job, big picture I wanted to get back to the top of the SEC and there's a lot of great programs. The only way to it is through it so to go to that place and win a couple I thought was great," Johnson said. "Very good mindset from our team on Saturday and Sunday in all phases."
Johnson referenced the energy in the dugout being there all weekend but the offense's ability to capitalize on Florida's mistakes, a cleaner defensive effort and great pitching over the final two days were the biggest takeaways for him in the series win. Over the weekend the offense really seemed to have its coming out party over those final two games, making the Gators pay for every hit by pitch and ball left over the plate.
However, the true winner in Johnson's eyes was this pitching staff and its ability to use as few a guys as possible. LSU used just five pitchers over the final two days with great performances across the board from Ma'Khail Hilliard, Paul Gervase, Trent Vietmeier, Sam Dutton and Grant Taylor.
What it allowed the Tigers to do was not overextend many of its bigger bullets like Devin Fontenot, Eric Reyzelman and Riley Cooper, who were all coming off multiple outings against Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech. An extremely potent Florida offense collected just 17 hits over the entire weekend which reaffirms to Johnson that the potential is there but the next step needed is finding that consistency.
"You're looking at winning that series without Reyzelman, Cooper or Fontenot and those are three guys we're going to go to in leverage situations," Johnson said. "I think that really speaks to the job those guys did. That's something I felt good about the whole time, it's not perfect. There's not this sure fire first round pick right now but there are some really good signs emerging."
LSU now has a midweek game against UL-Monroe on Tuesday before gearing up for another home series against Auburn. The consistency will be key for this team moving forward and Johnson is starting to see that spike with his team's recent play.
(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)