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Where LSU Baseball Stands After Being Swept by Arkansas

Johnson talks hitting woes, where improvements can be made with team settling back home

Every opportunity Jay Johnson has to see this LSU team on the field, whether it's the good like a series sweep of Mississippi State, or the bad of being swept by Arkansas, it's just more ways in which he can collect data on the strengths and weaknesses of the program. 

Johnson is the only one in the program who he wants having to compartmentalize balancing the big picture with the smaller picture of this season. Zooming out and focusing on the big picture that is the future of the program, last weekend's three straight losses to Arkansas was another eye opener into how much work is left to get to that level. 

But in the short term, there's a more nuanced focus on putting his players in the best position to be successful in order to best hide the shortcomings of this group. 

"You have to play clean to beat those teams at the top of the league. Big picture is we gotta close the gap in recruiting talent. From the starting pitcher perspective, there's a difference, from athleticism and defense, there's a difference. In the short term though, I want our guys to do the things within the game to give us a chance to win.

"As far as moving forward, that's the key. There's only three teams that have nine or more wins right now so we're all kind of lumped up right there in the middle and it's gonna be about keeping the players in the right headspace and improving."

Johnson pointed to handling the ball better on defense and doing a better job against the elite pitchers in the SEC at the plate as two areas where LSU simply must be better at to be a team that consistently wins. He also matter of factly stated that all of the games LSU has lost in conference play have been winnable from a runs perspective. 

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Three times in SEC play, the Tigers have pulled away from their opponents but in all eight conference losses, LSU has either fought back or been in position to cut into one, two, three or even four run deficits to make it the game closer. That's the area Johnson really focused in on Monday, the missed opportunities at the plate.  

LSU has been a team that all year has been able to put runners on base, with the exception of Friday's 4-0 loss to the Razorbacks being really the only time this year the offense looked completely fooled. The Tigers are able to put runners on base but getting those timely hits has been a recurring theme for this offense when in it's in prime position to score.

"We get a lot of guys on base so you are going to leave a few more on. We just gotta better at bats from the second tier player on our team," Johnson said. "We need some of those guys to move the ball a little bit better and they know it. We've put a lot of thought into that and at some point you have to move the ball."

For Johnson, it's those strikeouts looking in the first or the bizarre umpire call that squashed two runners on base in a tight game on Saturday that ruin momentum. One is out of the team's control to some extent, but the main point is the Tigers plainly need to be better with two strikes.

"Two strike hitting is a big foundational piece to what we're trying to do and the thing is we're not so deep to where 'ok let's bring this guy in.' The guys who are scuffling a little bit have to provide a better at bat and we'll provide the coaching to try and do that better," Johnson said. 

The talent is there for LSU to compete with most teams in the country on a given weekend. But shoring up those defensive shortcomings and timely hitting issues will really propel this group to where they envision. Those are two problems that are just easier said than done.  

"In our league, we can beat anybody and be beat by anybody and so focusing on the play and keeping the players in the right frame of mind is going to be the pathway to success," Johnson said.