Baton Rouge will play host to a highly anticipated three-game series between the # 1 LSU Tigers and the #10 Tennessee Volunteers beginning on Thursday, March 30th at Alex Box Stadium. LSU came into the season ranked number 1 and they have done nothing but separate themselves even further from the rest of college baseball. This will be a star studded matchup with both teams boasting multiple projected first round picks in the upcoming MLB draft. LSU will look to defend their top ranking, led by Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes. As for Tennessee, it is nut cutting time on Rocky Top. This series will mark the beginning of what is the toughest stretch of games that any team in the country will have to face.
Tennessee’s upcoming schedule:
@ no. 1 LSU
vs. no. 3 Florida
@ no. 7 Arkansas
vs. no 4 Vanderbilt
Photo By Emma Ramsey/Tennessee Athletics
If Tennessee wants to steal a series from LSU they will need to be at the top of their game. The Vols will need the starting pitching to get back on track in a big way this weekend. Chase Dollander has given up 9 runs in his first 2 SEC starts this season in 12.1 innings pitched. Dollander has had an issue getting out of the first inning unscathed, giving up 6 runs in the first inning of his 2 SEC starts. After that first inning, he has been everything Vols fans have expected, giving up 3 runs in 10.1 innings. Chase Burns and Drew Beam have had similar issues giving up a combined 6 runs against Mizzou and Texas A&M in the first inning. As a team, the Vols are being outscored 12-6 in the first inning by SEC opponents.
On the other side of the ball, the lineup will need to step up in a big way. While the Vols are coming off a good weekend of offensive production against Texas A&M, the middle of the order has been lackluster at best in SEC play to this point. Blake Burke and Maui Ahuna need to get back on track at the plate if the Vols want to leave Baton Rouge with a series win this weekend. There have been some bright spots in the lineup in Christian Moore, Zane Denton and Jared Dickey. Those three have combined for a .358 batting average and 4 home runs in conference play. If they can stay hot and the Vols get added production from Ahuna and Burke, look out.
As for the Vols opponent, the LSU Tigers have been as dominant as everyone expected, boasting Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes who might be the best two players in college baseball. LSU added a lot of players through the transfer portal over the offseason and they have had no problem gelling as this group hit the ground running jumping out to a 22-3 start to this season. The best comparison to how this LSU team has played to this point is to look back at what the Vols did in the 2022 regular season. Crews and Skenes are both projected top 5 picks in the upcoming MLB draft, but the entire roster is deep. Crews is on a historic pace, batting .542 with 9 home runs in 25 games for the Tigers. Paul Skenes is the other Tiger drawing a lot of national attention posting a 0.71 ERA and 71 strikeouts in 37.1 innings. As good as Crews and Skenes have been, plenty of additional depth on this Tigers roster has gone somewhat under the radar. Tommy White, who was a freshman standout at North Carolina State last season, has quietly hit .390 and 8 home runs in 22 games for LSU.
One of the most anticipated series of the year should make for an electric weekend in Baton Rouge. Both teams are going to find out a lot about who they are this weekend. LSU is the clear favorite heading into the 3-game set, however, the Vols have had their number over the last 2 seasons. The last time LSU beat Tennessee was in 2018. During that span, Tony Vitello’s squad is 6-0 against LSU, including 2 wins in the 2021 super regional to end LSU’s season. Both teams will be looking to make their statement in the SEC.
Projected Pitching Matchups
Paul Skenes (5-0, 0.72 ERA) v Chase Dollander (4-2, 3.93 ERA)
Ty Floyd (4-0, 2.05 ERA) v Chase Burns (2-1, 4.15 ERA)
Thatcher Hurd (2-0, 3.91 ERA) v Drew Beam (3-1, 2.54 ERA)