How LSU baseball reversed course by winning two out of three at Florida
LSU baseball fans had plenty of reasons to be skeptical entering a three-game series at Florida.
The Tigers had lost at home Wednesday to Louisiana Tech, falling for the second time this season to the Bulldogs. The starting pitching was flaming out early in games. The bullpen was being overworked. The defense continued to suffer.
However, No. 18 LSU (17-7, 3-3 SEC) flipped those narratives against No. 7 Florida (17-7, 3-3), winning the last two games against the Gators, one of the top teams in the nation.
Here are three takeaways from the Tigers' first series win in SEC play.
LSU BASEBALL VS. LOUISIANA TECH:How LSU baseball's 12th-inning loss to Louisiana Tech further exposed Tigers' flaws
JAY JOHNSON'S FIRST GAME:How new LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson's first game went to plan
Sam Dutton steps up
In his first start of the season, Sam Dutton allowed no runs and just one hit in 3⅔ innings pitched in LSU's series-clinching 11-2 win on Sunday. He did it against a Florida lineup that's top six hitters possess batting averages of at least .290 and had scored at least three runs in all but one game this season.
His outing didn't last long, but the Tigers have been desperate to find any solutions to their starting pitching problems. LSU's starters, in the five games prior to the Florida series, had allowed 17 earned runs and 27 hits in just 12 innings pitched.
Dutton, a freshman, had been effective in relief prior to Sunday. In six appearances, he had a team-low 0.96 ERA. His relative unfamiliarity with the wear and tear of a college baseball season could diminish his effectiveness moving forward, but with Blake Money and Will Hellmers' recent struggles, the risk should be worth taking for coach Jay Johnson.
Is Cade Doughty the answer at shortstop?
Jordan Thompson has had a tough season defensively. LSU's starting shortstop — for most of the season — had committed 10 errors and held a fielding percentage under .850% entering Sunday's game.
So in the eighth inning of Friday's 7-2 loss, Johnson flipped Thompson and second baseman Cade Doughty defensively.
The transition has worked. Since the switch, they committed just one error, the only defensive mistake LSU made following the opener.
The rise of Brayden Jobert
He wasn't even supposed to start on opening day.
Brayden Jobert, a redshirt sophomore, was slotted to come off the bench in the season opener against Maine if it weren't for a pregame injury to Cade Beloso. Not much was expected from Jobert, a transfer from Nicholls State.
But he jumped on his opportunity — hitting LSU's first home run and scoring its first run of the season — and has continued to take advantage of his good fortune.
Jobert is hitting .312 and is second on the team in home runs with seven, including one in Saturday's 16-4 victory and two more on Sunday. He is also batting .440 with runners in scoring position and is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 29.
Against Florida, Jobert went 4-for-9 with nine RBIs.
LSU's offense was always expected to be its strength. Tre Morgan, Jacob Berry, Doughty and Dylan Crews are four of the better hitters in the nation. But with Jobert's rise, it might be time to add a fifth name to that list.
The road ahead
LSU heads back to Baton Rouge for a matchup against Louisiana Monroe on Tuesday (6:30 p.m.) before hosting Auburn for a three-game series starting on Thursday.
Koki Riley is a recruiting and high school sports reporter for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.