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LSU Baseball Still in Search of Consistency With Back-to-Back SEC Road Series Imminent

Johnson says Tigers need to win the six or seven pitches that change the outcome of a game, mindset must improve

After a second straight home series loss to open up SEC play, the mood in the LSU locker room after the loss to Auburn was expectedly deflated. The Tigers once again found themselves in position to pull off a comeback and just couldn't string together enough production at the plate or stops in the field. 

Three of the five conference losses have come down to the wire, with the purple and gold losing by two runs or less. While the Tigers sit at 4-5 in SEC play, they very easily could be 7-2 and among the top of the standings. Jay Johnson recognizes the effort that has ben there from his team but far too often LSU has let poor at bats or pitches bleed into the rest of the game, leading to big scoring innings for opponents and stopping the Tigers momentum.

But there are some positives to take away from the start of conference play. In nine SEC games, only two pitchers have extended into the sixth inning against the Tigers offense, something Johnson views as a positive. But the goal and one area the offense is attempting to get more consistent at is getting those one or two hits that turn baserunners into runs scored.

Being more consistent in bringing those extra runs in offensively will in turn help the pitching staff. One of the components to getting those runs across that is in Johnson's control is how he sets up the batting order on a game to game basis.

Cade Doughty, Tre Morgan, Dylan Crews and Jacob Berry have been in the top half practically all season. But getting guys like Gavin Dugas, Brayden Jobert, Jordan Thompson and Giovanni DiGiacomo set up correctly is a mixture of matchups, whether they bat left or right and situational analytics as well. Some games, the lineup has worked out perfectly and other nights there are more glaring missed opportunities, which is just a part of the game. 

"We're halfway through the season and we're hitting over .300 as a team, we've played 11 Quad 1 games. The production part has been fine but when it comes timely, we win like at Florida," Johnson said. "When it's not, you put yourself in a tough spot that's why setting the lineup correctly is super important. It's not perfect, I try to do the right left thing as best we can but there's a give and take with all of it."

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Mindset is something that Johnson continues to preach. He talked to a number of coaches before taking on this challenge in the SEC and the most common response he received was the importance of having a steady, mentally ready team. 

It's been an area that Johnson has openly said needs work with the players on this current roster but that he hopes to see some of that maturity manifest over the next couple weeks with road series at Mississippi State and Arkansas. 

"We have good players, the competition's been good. Good pitching is gonna beat good hitting so it's important our pitchers stay sharp, it's important our defense is sharp and at times it's been there," Johnson said. "The important thing to remember is 'hey we really wanted to win Saturday' but that game doesn't change where we want to go unless we let it."

Johnson and the Tigers certainly don't want to be sitting at 4-5 in SEC play but this is a team that also realizes it has a lot of time to start showing improvement. With as many as six Quad 1 series in their SEC schedule remaining, LSU is still in a spot where it controls its own destiny.

For this team to reach its full potential in 2022 the focus needs to be there on an everyday basis and not let any in game failures become too much to overcome. 

"You just gotta keep playing. There's a couple of innings in that series that if you get up off the mat, you're still right there. It's still not letting any of the in game failures become fatal or carry over to where they affect the next performance," Johnson said. "Baseball's gonna be decided on six or seven pitches, you don't always know when they're coming but if you win those six or seven, you have a chance to win."

(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)