LSU baseball coach Jay Johnson has recently taken a liking to a new approach to infield defense.
Since the Tigers' run in the Southeastern Conference tournament, they have occasionally flipped their middle infielders, moving second baseman Gavin Dugas to shortstop and shortstop Jordan Thompson to second base. So far, the adjustment has worked, Johnson said Wednesday.
Against Oregon State in the Baton Rouge regional, LSU made the moves for two reasons. One, to position themselves to better defend Oregon State’s left-handed batters, whom Johnson said tended to pull most of their hits toward the right side of the infield. And two, to put a stronger arm at second base.
Dugas said Wednesday he’s still battling an injury to his throwing shoulder, which he suffered in mid-April.
If LSU chooses a similar approach in the super regional against Kentucky, which begins at 2 p.m. Saturday in Alex Box Stadium, it’s especially critical that the switch works.
At the plate, the Wildcats play small ball. They often advance their runners with grounders, bunts or fly balls.
Their style of hitting puts pressure on the LSU infield. To win the super regional and make the College World Series, the Tigers must play error-free baseball.
“We’ve adjusted a few things, in terms of how we’re structuring the field on defense,” Johnson said. “The guys are executing that. Just doing everything we can to put ourselves in the best position to play good defense and pitch to good defense. Feel real good about how we did that (last) weekend.”
In their two games against LSU, Oregon State’s left-handed hitters — Travis Bazzana, Micah McDowell and Brady Kasper — went a combined 6 for 25 at the plate (.240). Their only hit to the middle of the infield was off the bat of Bazzana in the fourth inning of the first game, when he singled on a chopper to Thompson at second, then advanced to second on Thompson's errant throw to home.
Since postseason play began, LSU has committed just three errors in six games. Two of those came in the regional, and one occurred in the SEC tournament, when Hayden Travinski was called for catcher’s interference against Arkansas.
Johnson said he first started swapping Dugas and Thompson in the second half of that same game.
“We decided to carry that forward,” Johnson said. “You gotta do it at the right time with the right pitcher on the mound for us and the right hitter in the box.”