Paul Skenes' dominance and Thatcher Hurd's struggles: LSU baseball takeaways vs. Tennessee
BATON ROUGE – Another week, another productive but imperfect series for No. 1 LSU baseball.
The Tigers (24-4, 6-3 SEC) defeated No. 9 Tennessee twice in their three-game series from Alex Box Stadium. LSU beat the Vols on Thursday (5-2) and Friday (6-4) but dropped the final game of the series on Saturday (14-7).
Here are four takeaways from the series win over Tennessee (21-7, 4-6).
Paul Skenes can't be stopped
Thursday was another dominant performance from Paul Skenes.
In his seventh start of the year, Skenes struck out 12 batters in seven innings pitched, allowing just one earned run. His ERA on the season sits at 0.81, as he's also struck out 51.9% of the batters he's faced.
Skenes' FIP (a statistic similar to ERA but only measures what a pitcher can control such as home runs and strikeouts) is at a ludicrously low 1.32, and opponents have been held to a .175 on-base percentage against him.
There aren't enough adjectives to describe how good his season has been.
"The level of discipline in his life is unmatched," LSU coach Jay Johnson said on Thursday. "And then you put the supreme talent and then this great development deal he has going on here, now you're seeing this jump."
Crews' hitting streak continues
Dylan Crews nearly lost his hitting streak twice against the Vols, going just 1-for-4 on Thursday and 1-for-3 on Friday.
But on Saturday, Crews emphatically extended his streak to 26 games with a single in the first inning before recording an RBI single in the third and a two-run single in the fourth.
By the end of the day, Crews' batting average was up to .543 after he added his fourth hit of the day on a double in the eighth inning.
LSU has a No. 3 starter problem
The obvious lowlight of the week for LSU came on Saturday when starter Thatcher Hurd allowed six earned runs without recording an out in the first inning. His performance shot his ERA up to 6.26 on the season, as he's now allowed 12 earned runs in 5⅓ innings pitched against SEC competition.
"When it went bad, we just got to get him to just keep it under control," Johnson said. "I was talking with Ben McDonald about that today and something he learned in the major leagues is like instead of giving up four (runs), it's a learned skill to only give up one right there."
Hurd's latest performance begs the question: If he continues to struggle, who should be LSU's third starter?
For coach Jay Johnson, the answer to that question might not be totally clear.
Christian Little, Riley Cooper and Chase Shores have all started games this season. But Little has struggled in SEC play, while Cooper and Shores have been more effective out of the bullpen.
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Garrett Edwards could fill the role, but Johnson has said that LSU still needs to keep some of its best arms for the bullpen, Edwards being one of those top arms.
Griffin Herring emerges into a prominent role
Griffin Herring has been a favorite of Johnson's since the start of the preseason. And now Johnson has entrusted him as one of the Tigers' top relievers.
Against the Vols on Friday, Herring repaid Johnson's faith by striking out four batters in two innings of relief, earning the save.
"It's been surreal. I mean, pitching in this place is unlike any other baseball experience I've ever had," Herring said.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.