Omaha? Maybe, maybe not

Dream Attained: Charpentier runs with the Saints
May 27, 2015
Nicholls struggles in SLC Tournament
May 27, 2015
Dream Attained: Charpentier runs with the Saints
May 27, 2015
Nicholls struggles in SLC Tournament
May 27, 2015

The NCAA Baseball Tournament begins this week, and many local fans are on the edges of their seats because LSU is a national seed – one of the teams favored to win the College World Series.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news about my alma mater’s chances, but I’ll be blunt: I don’t see any way that the Tigers win the CWS this season. The record is glistening, the home runs, doubles and offensive power are all attractive. But I don’t know. This team just doesn’t quite meet the eye test. Something is missing.

They just don’t have enough elite pitching.

Throughout the regular season, the Tigers have been a fearsome foe. They’ve pounded opponents into submission with a dynamic and explosive offense that is one of the best in the history of the program. I know that this season’s offensive statistics pale in comparison to those in year’s past – the Geauxrilla Ball Era of the program. But those stats were accumulated during the live bat era in the sport – a time when everyone around the country could score 8-10 runs per game at will.

Today, the bats are watered down 10-fold compared to where they were in years past. So that makes LSU’s offensive accomplishments something that everyone in the batting order should be very proud of.

Shortstop Alex Bregman is a polished gem. Everyone knows what he can do with the bat in his hands. He’s proven it time and time again for the past three seasons. Bregman is LSU’s leader, and is a sure-fire First-Round Pick in the 2015 MLB Draft in the coming weeks. His counterparts and supporting cast aren’t too shabby, either.

Chris Chinea just might be the best power hitter in the country this season, owning 11 dingers, a .372 average and 54 RBI.

Guys like Kade Scivicque, Andrew Stevenson, Conner Hale, Chris Sciambra, Mark Laird and Jake Fraley are also all lethal in their own right, each owning batting averages over .300 for the season.

When the Tigers are hitting for power, they are tough to stop. But what makes them a truly great offense is what they can do when the home run isn’t working out. LSU has stolen 106 bases on the season – a mark that led the SEC. It is quite rare to find a power hitting club that also can attack the bases. But in 2015, the Tigers are that, which has made them a dominant offensive club.

OK, that was all the good news.

Now, for the bad.

This LSU team just simply doesn’t have enough pitching to parlay that offensive dominance into a College World Series Trophy.

LSU’s pitching staff has been a bit of a mess in the past few weeks – a conundrum that has put the Tigers in their fair share of shootouts down the stretch run of the regular season.

On paper, sophomore pitcher Jared Poche is LSU’s ace, and he should be the guy that the team gives the ball to in big-game situations.

In the regular season, that recipe worked out quite all right. But as the season has barreled toward the finish line, Poche has been a mess, and I’m not fully sure that he’s going to be effective again this season. In the SEC Tournament opener, he couldn’t even get out of the first inning, surrendering five runs to Auburn – a team that’s not even near the top of the conference standings.

In some of his final starts in the regular season, Poche hasn’t been much better. His ERA has risen from the low 2’s to its current 3.35. That’s not going to cut it. That can’t beat anybody in the NCAA Tournament.

So with Poche throwing meatballs, logic would say that freshman Alex Lange would be the next guy in line to be LSU’s ace.

Lange is phenomenal. He absolutely, positively is the real deal. But today, Lange is also just a true freshman. It’s a risky proposition, at best, to head into the Big Dance with a freshman as your most reliable pitcher.

He’s been dominant throughout the regular season, yes.

But never in the young man’s life has he been asked to throw this many innings in a season.

That scares me.

But the real problem is that the Tigers don’t have much reliable help backing up its starters, either. The LSU bullpen is good in the back-end, but inconsistent in middle relief. LSU coach Paul Mainieri doesn’t trust closer Jesse Stallings, and his inability to put him into the game in key situations recently proves it.

The rest of the relievers have had their moments, but they’ve also had an equal amount of head scratching failures.

That needs to change and be rectified when the NCAA Tournament rolls around. No matter how good your offense is, you need competent pitching to back it up or else the College World Series goals will sizzle and go up in smoke.

I’m worried about LSU.

No. 1 ranking or not.