Tigers Still Missing Ace Ranaudo
LSU opens SEC play this weekend against Arkansas. Here’s a look at their current pitching situation with Collegebaseball360.com contributor Randy Rosetta, who covers the LSU baseball beat for the Baton Rouge Advocate.
BATON ROUGE, LA–Could the weekend series against Kansas be a sign of things to come this Southeastern Conference season for LSU?
That might be the case until Tigers ace Anthony Ranaudo is back and healthy.
That was LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s assessment after the Jayhawks stunned top-ranked LSU for the second time in three days.
“We’re going to have a lot of series like this,” Mainieri said.
“We’re not as dominant on the mound as we were last year.”
Without Ranaudo for the third weekend in a row, the Tigers (13-2) got only one quality start in three games — Austin Ross’ no decision in a 4-2 LSU win Saturday.
Friday starter Joey Bourgeois couldn’t escape the second inning before allowing six runs, and Sunday starter Jordan Rittiner ran into trouble with a four-run fifth.
Kansas racked up 32 hits in 27 innings, anchored by a 13-hit assault Friday that was the most the Tigers have allowed this season. The Jayhawks had 12 hits Sunday.
Not that the LSU pitchers need to shoulder all the responsibility.
The Tigers squandered several chances at big innings throughout the weekend and got outscored 21-17. LSU scored more than two runs in an inning only once all weekend.
“We can’t expect to score four runs and win on a regular basis,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri said Ranaudo is scheduled to try to throw again today (Monday), and “if it goes well (LSU) will progress from there.”
Ranaudo has missed his last three starts with a stress reaction in his right elbow. He threw last Monday and still had discomfort, prompting a CAT scan that showed no structural damage to the tendon or ligament.
Should Ranaudo show positive signs today, he will throw again at least twice this week with the aim of getting him against Arkansas on Sunday.
Kansas coach Ritch Price said before the series his team was disappointed to not get a chance to see Ranaudo.
With Ranaudo on the shelf, the Jayhawks instead saw Bourgeois, Ross and Rittiner, who made his third consecutive Sunday start.
Rittiner was effective in his first two starts, allowing one run each time in six innings.
He was following a similar path Sunday — Kansas had one run in four frames — before the Jayhawks erupted for four runs in the fifth.
That didn’t keep Price from singing Rittiner’s praises.
“I really liked the freshman left-hander,” Price said. “Whether they use him as a starter or use him out of the bullpen, he’s really tough on left-handed hitters. Whether coach Mainieri keeps him in the bullpen or makes him a midweek starter, they’re going to be a lot better when they get their first-rounder back.”
LSU was also without sophomore left-hander Chris Matulis, who has had a sore forearm since his start against Pepperdine on March 4, a game he won 8-1.
Matulis could be the starter Wednesday against Nicholls State, but Mainieri said he wanted to sleep on it before making a decision.
Déjà vu all over again?
The series loss to KU comes at the exact same point of the 2009 season when the Tigers lost two of three games to Illinois before embarking on SEC play.
Between Illinois and this weekend, LSU lost just one other series: at home to Tennessee.
The Tigers start league play this weekend when Arkansas visits Alex Box Stadium in a showdown of 2009 College World Series teams.
Like the Jayhawks, the Illini handed LSU its first loss of the season.
“Everything is a learning experience,” Tigers senior Paul Bertuccini said. “It’s good to get tested like this before conference play. It was a tough weekend for us, but last year we did the same thing against Illinois and won the national championship. We can build off this.”
Or at the very least, the LSU players ought to learn something from the weekend.
“Whenever you lose two out of three, it needs to be a little bit of a wakeup call,” first baseman Blake Dean said.
In the losses, the Tigers bullpen was up and down, with 13 hits and eight runs allowed in 111/3 innings.
Besides closer Matty Ott’s impressive four-batter, four-strikeout save Saturday, the other bright spot was junior Mitch Mormann.
In a pair of appearances, Mormann faced 15 hitters, allowed two singles and no runs to stretch his scoreless stretch to six innings over four outings.
Mormann has entered a game only once this season when LSU led.
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