LSU hitting coach Eddie Smith believes the Tigers are hitting with what he described as an "animal instinct." It's the term he uses to describe his philosophy as a hitting coach and the attack style approach he wants the players to utilize on each and every at bat.
It's that aggressiveness at the plate that has helped the team bat with a .303 average, rack up 76 hits, drive in 63 runs and blast 15 home runs in the first seven games of the season. From top to bottom of the lineup, the LSU batters are taking what Smith is preaching, slapping the ball all over the field and out of the ballpark.
Not since the 2009 season and historic 1997 season before that have the purple and gold come out of the gate so powerful at the plate. Smith likes to use the analogy of a great white shark on the Discovery channel to describe the mindset of the LSU hitters.
"When that great white shark is going to get its dinner, it's not sitting there and thinking 'Is that seal going to be swarming right or left,'" Smith said. "It's just going to get its dinner and staying on the attack. That's an image and an approach we like to use with our players."
Many of the veterans like Gavin Dugas, Cade Doughty, Drew Bianco and Cade Beloso have shown steady improvement and produced clutch hits in the early part of this season. Those four have combined for nearly half of the team's total RBI through seven games.
A year ago this time, LSU was struggling to get consistent offense from all of its players. In 17 games, the team as a whole was barely able to hit .250 before the season was cancelled.
Players like Beloso, Dugas and Bianco just weren't consistent at the plate in 2020 and Bianco said that the biggest difference between last year and the hot start to this year is a change in attitude.
"The mindset really, less than two strikes, let's drive the baseball," Bianco said. "I think last year when you're not hitting good, you're thinking about it. This year, after the Air Force loss, we said we're not getting back into that mindset. We're good enough to be here and came out there confident. I think confidence is the biggest thing."
"Hitting is contagious and you see it done and all of the sudden you start believing," Smith said. "It's so much about belief, it's so much about confidence that when that gets going some special things can happen."
But it's this freshman class, headlined by Dylan Crews and Tre' Morgan who have really impressed Smith because of their mindset, preparation and maturity as true freshmen. The two freshmen starters have shown a poise beyond their years at the plate and Smith believes both can go down at two of the best.
"It's exciting there's no doubt. I remember the first day we worked out this fall, I went home that night and had a little bit of hop in my step that whole night," Smith said. "Both of those guys are elite, there's no question about that but really it's when the lights come on you have your true answer. So far when the lights come on they've only gotten better and that's what the great players do."
One component that Smith, Bianco and even coach Paul Mainieri have said contributed to the early success are the ideal weather conditions. The first few weeks at Alex Box, the temperature has been warm and the wind is blowing out of the stadium, leading to more home runs and extra base hits.
Knowing when and how to adjust when the wind is blowing in will be the next step but Bianco doesn't think the strategy or mindset will change much in those situations. If the wind becomes a factor, by the middle of the game is when Smith and Mainieri will start advising the hitters to try and hit on top of the ball for more line drives and hard ground balls.
"That's something that isn't talked about enough, how the weather can dictate a game," Bianco said. "On days when the wind blows in, I wouldn't say our whole mindset changes. It's let's hit the middle of the baseball, hit it hard and see what happens.
"I think the guys are doing a great job of staying on the attack, that's been a point of emphasis from day one and the last five games I think you've seen some guys really take that challenge head on," Smith added. "Hopefully we can keep that going."
Photo courtesy of LSUsports