What we've learned about LSU baseball through nearly half of the 2022 season is that its talent can only supersede its shortcomings for so long. The talent on this roster is immense but far too often the Tigers have put themselves in compromising positions in the field, on the mound and at the plate.
There's been growth across all three phases of the game but there have also been setbacks as Jay Johnson and this staff continue to search for the most consistent combinations. For a while that balance of offense and defense was hidden quite well with Giovanni DiGiacomo moving to the outfield, allowing Johnson to reposition the infield.
But Johnson has said multiple times over the three weeks of SEC play that whatever lineup LSU rolls out won't be perfect and that's why there has been such a focus on fixing the adverse situations the team sometimes puts itself in.
Johnson has always wanted this lineup to have a nice mix of left and right handed batters and for the first time all season the Tigers got a look at Cade Beloso at the plate. The left handed veteran tore a ligament in his knee before he could take a single at bat this season and has spent the last several weeks rehabbing with the hope he can still contribute at the plate.
"The ideal lineup for me is speed, power, solid hitting skills, mix of left handed and right handed batters, guys that can start innings and move the offense," Johnson said. "My whole goal is to score two in every inning, how can we set up the lineup to score two in every inning.
"It was so weird when it happened and you go through the rehab process and have ups and downs," Beloso said. "That meant the world getting back out there and just competing again. I'm getting to as close to full speed and I found out it's a trust thing through this whole rehab process."
While it was just one at bat, having another bat to throw into the ring like Beloso will be of great use for Johnson, who likely will continue to adjust based on the situation and pitcher the Tigers face moving forward. LSU really likes what Brayden Jobert has done in the designated hitter spot and it's impossible not to as he leads the team in home runs and RBI's.
There's been plenty of lineup fluidity early in this season but not just for offensive purposes and it doesn't seem to be close to finished. Just for the midweek game alone against Grambling, Johnson made significant infield changes, sliding defensive minded Collier Cranford at shortstop, moving Cade Doughty to third and Jacob Berry back to right field.
Johnson was impressed with the at bats Cranford took and Doughty has a lot of experience playing third base but Johnson wasn't able to learn a lot about the switch because the LSU pitchers struck out 18 batters. While the defense tries to sort itself out through repetition and change to the lineup, Johnson says the most important aspect to LSU reaching its full potential is making those game altering hits and pitches at the plate and on the mound.
"What we need to do is complement parts of the game better. Take that one more good at bat, make that one more pitch to get weaker contact," Johnson said. "And then it's about getting those guys improve and collectively it starts getting better. That's my hope."
(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)