An old coach used to always hammer the five Ps: Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a high school football coach/driver's ed instructor through the day, it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here are your Five P's for Auburn's foe this weekend, LSU:
The LSU Tigers. If you thought the SEC schedule was going to get any easier after Auburn was swept by Vanderbilt; think again. Auburn gets to face the No. 3 team in the nation this weekend. A long time SEC rival, LSU boasts one of the best NCAA baseball pedigrees (six titles, 15 CWS Appearances, 15 SEC titles). The MLB pedigree is pretty stout, as well, including recent guys like Aaron Hill, Brian Wilson, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and I'm sure Brad Hawpe is toiling away somewhere (I looked it up, he's a Pittsburgh Pirate right now). Bascially, LSU is LSU. The Tigers are damn good. If you don't know how good they are in college baseball then you aren't really a college baseball fan.
Auburn has a surprisingly good track record against LSU recently, taking the past three series. It's the longest winning streak over the Bengals since Auburn won 4 consecutive series from 1979-82. This season, LSU is again off to a great start with only two losses (BYU, Mississippi State) compared to 19 wins.
Where do you start? What about freshman outfielder Mark Laird, who is hitting .338 on the season and went into last weekend's Mississippi State series on a .455 clip. Maybe Mason Katz, who has nine home runs (Auburn, as a team, only has five). Or we could talk about stud pitchers Ryan Eades (4-0, 1.69 ERA) or Aaron Nola (2-0, 3.41), who both have 36 strikeouts. LSU has five players in their normal starting nine batting over .330. The Tigers' pitching staff only has a 2.70 ERA. LSU is good. Damn good. It's tough to win a game in Baton Rouge. Damn tough. Once again, Auburn will have its work cut out for it.
Okay, this is tough to figure out. Trying to find a weakness in LSU or a point of attack against the Tigers is nearly impossible. I'm not saying it can't be done, but Auburn needs to be smart if it wants success. It really is going to start with the pitching. Auburn has to keep the LSU bats in check. That means a solid start from Daniel Koger, another positive outing from Michael O'Neal and whoever ends up in the TBA role on Sunday? Good luck.
The easiest way to do that would be to neutralize Katz and Raph Rhymes. Those guys (along with Alex Bregman) anchor the heart of the LSU order (Bregman 3/Rhymes 4/Katz 5). Katz can kill you with the longball, but Bregman and Rhymes are dangerous in their own rights. If Auburn can keep Chris Sciambra or Laird off base in the 1 or 2 spots, then the Tigers can limit the damage from the big three in the middle.
Basically, if Auburn wants to win, the Tigers have to stay within striking distance and try and hope that the offense can keep up. On the offensive side, Auburn will need to hit smart and not try to win games or at-bats with one swing. Patience will be the key. Both Eades and Nola will absolutely eat up impatient hitters, and if Auburn starts to get frustrated and swing at anything, then the Orange and Blue will find itself in for some long nights in Red Stick.
Auburn needs to string hits together; work men over and come up with a timely hit, something the Tigers seemed incapable of doing last weekend.
Finally, the key for Auburn this weekend will be the strike early. If Auburn gets into a situation where it is expecting to make waves against LSU's bullpen, then the Tigers are going to come away pretty disappointed. The LSU bullpen is solid, and Chris Cotton (the LSU closer) has been dominant.
1-2. Listen, 1-5 to start SEC play sounds like a disappointment, but if Auburn can just take one game, then it's a positive sign and progression from last weekend.