As part of Tomahawk Nation’s continuing in-depth coverage of Florida State’s trip to the College World Series, TN and And The Valley Shook, SB Nation’s LSU affiliate, have collaborated to provide previews of each team on the other’s site. You can read my take on FSU here and here you will find my talk with PodKATT of ATVS.
Curt Weiler: Alex Lange has had an impressive career in Baton Rouge, but he has especially turned it on over the last few weeks. What has allowed him to take his game to the next level down the stretch?
PodKATT: Lange always seems to get better as the year goes on and I think this season it's really been the command of his breaking ball, that he's been working on his whole career with Alan Dunn the LSU pitching coach, that has come along the most over this recent stretch. His fast ball isnt the best in the world, but it's more than enough to get most college batters. And when he gets in a rhythm and adds in that curve, it's just unfair. The only thing I'd worry about is that Lange, and the whole starting staff for that matter, has had a bad tendency to give up some homers to the first couple of batters. Not sure that really needs to be worried about in Omaha's barn, but the margin for error is now zero.
CW: Lange is a known commodity, but what does the LSU bullpen look like? Who are the guys we are most likely to see if it becomes a matchup of the bullpens?
PK: LSU has basically spent the regular season sacrificing the midweek games to work on this bullpen and find trusted arms, so we've got a good idea of who will be seen if things go south. Caleb Gilbert is your first out of the pen type of setup reliever. He wont go long, but he'll cleanup whatever mess is given to him. Zach Hess is the relief workhorse, a mean country boy with a fireball that's only gotten faster in his last couple of appearances. Hess has got a real shot at the closer or even a starting role for LSU next season. LSU's closer this year is Hunter Newman. In a change from closers we've had in the past, he doesn't really blow anybody away. What he does have though is an ice cold steady hand. He'll put a man or two on in the ninth and wont effect him one bit. He throws stuff that's meant to be put in play and lets LSU's spectacular defense take care of the rest.
CW: Greg Deichmann has led the way for the LSU offense with his power bat. How will he and the rest of the Tigers lineup be affected by playing in the cavernous T.D. Ameritrade Park in Omaha which makes homers significantly less frequent?
PK: LSU, and Deichmann specifically, do hit a lot of home runs for this era of college baseball, and it's true that LSU fans have a lizard brain Want to see the good old days of Gorilla Ball return. But frankly, this isn't a team that bases it's offense on the long ball. LSU's offense works by getting a guy or two on base, using aggression and immense speed to get those guys into scoring position, then knock them in with doubles into the corners or bloop shot singles that drop into no man's land. Deichmann and Duplantis are going to take their shots, to be sure. It's too tempting for them not to want to be "The Guy That Can Hit Homers At TD Ameritrade". But overall I think this team, and especially the seniors, know that the longball wont work in this park and you have to work on moving base runners around to score.
CW: FSU has gotten a surprisingly good offensive spark from second baseman Matt Henderson down the stretch. Do the Tigers have a similar player who has overperformed down the stretch to take the lineup to the next level?
PK: For LSU, that player is Freshman center fielder Zach Watson. He's been starting at CF for most of the year, but over the last month his bat has caught up to the speed of the college game and he's been on quite a tear. At the start of the post season he was moved in the lineup to behind Deichmann for protection against his IBBs and it's worked out brilliantly.
CW: What's your prediction for the first game between the Seminoles and Tigers and how far do you see LSU going?
I would trust Alex Lange over any other starting pitcher in the country, but there's no such thing as an easy out in Omaha. Not to mention that The Trade is developing into a full blown cursed place for this program. If LSU can just ignore the stage and it's past demons and play the strong game that they have been for the last month, they can go as far as they want to in Omaha. For FSU specifically I think it's a tight game for 5 or 6 innings, then LSU gets an advantage from an FSU error and the dam breaks open as it has so many times for the Tigers this post season.
Or Lange gives up a couple of home runs in the first inning and I spend the rest of the weekend in the fetal position. Either way we ought to have a lotta fun eh?
First pitch between the Seminoles and Tigers is slated for 8 PM on ESPN.