Zach Watson may have found his postseason magic once again.
Twice during this NCAA regional has LSU’s center fielder homered to left field, and twice has the baseball almost climbed out of the south Louisiana sky.
Two years ago, Watson had consecutive two-home run games when the Tigers last hosted an NCAA regional.
The Tigers are headed into the Championship round of the Baton Rouge Regional.
Here’s how they got there ?? pic.twitter.com/FyFMLk5ZlH
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) June 2, 2019
Maybe this is just his moment. “I sure hope so,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri following the Tigers’ 8-4 win over Southern Miss on Saturday. “Zach’s a little bit of a streaky hitter. It’s a confidence thing with him a lot.
Once he hits one, he normally hits them in bunches. Let’s hope he hits two tomorrow night.”
Mathematically speaking, power is the amount of work over time, and considering the body of work Watson has produced through two undefeated days in the Baton Rouge regional, his power has helped keep the lights on at Alex Box Stadium.
And there was no question that LSU’s winner’s bracket win over Southern Miss came down to who was the most powerful.
Just when the Tigers felt they had a cushy four-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, Golden Eagles second baseman Matthew Guidry golfed a low pitch into the right-field stands for a game-tying grand slam.
Had it not been for Cade Beloso’s solo home run in the second inning, or for Watson’s two-run shot to left in the sixth, LSU may have been sunk.
— CB (@cade_beloso) June 2, 2019
But those long balls helped keep the Tigers (39-24) undefeated in the postseason, and they’ll await the winner of Southern Miss (31-23) and Arizona State (38-18) for the championship round game at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Watson, fourth on the team with seven home runs, is no stranger to the long ball. But before the NCAA tournament began, the 6-foot, 160-pound Ruston native had gone 18 games without a homer.
Watson’s three-run home run April 27 was the difference in a 5-2 win at Alabama, but instant replay had to prove that the baseball had barely stayed fair. As Mainieri said: streaky.
“The one constant has been he’s always played phenomenal in center field,” Mainieri said. “And if he hit 0 for 50, he’s still been our main center fielder because he saves runs.” It isn’t just Watson that’s seeing an uptick in power.
Second baseman Brandt Broussard hit the first home run of his career against Stony Brook on Friday, and Beloso’s home run against Southern Miss gave the Tigers four homers this weekend.
LSU, which entered Saturday No. 69 nationally with 58 home runs, only hit two homers in its five games during the Southeastern Conference tournament.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 2, 2019
Some of that is due to the difference in pitching. Stony Brook ranks No. 176 nationally with a 5.30 team ERA, which will inflate even more following its 13-5 loss to Arizona State in Saturday’s early elimination game.
But Southern Miss’ pitchers were much better, ranking No. 58 with a 4.10 ERA.
The Golden Eagles pitched ace Walker Powell (6-2, 2.68 ERA), and their No. 2 pitcher, Gabe Shepard (3-0, 2.35), pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings in Southern Miss’ combined no-hitter in a 6-0 win over Rice during the Conference USA tournament.
Powell pitched into the sixth inning Saturday, going 5 1/3 innings with seven hits, two earned runs, two strikeouts and a walk.
One of his few blunders came against Beloso, and Powell said the 0-1 pitch Beloso belted would have been a ball if he’d let it go past. “That’s a good hitter,” Powell said. “I thought it was a good pitch.
” Now, Beloso and Watson wait for the championship matchup Sunday. “Hopefully (Watson’s) confidence continues to grow and he’ll come out tomorrow and do something special for us again,” Mainieri said.
This article is written by Brooks Kubena from The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.