June 2, 2014 9:43:52 AM
LAFAYETTE, La. -- Louisiana-Lafayette players and coaches know eventually the bullpen door will open and they'll be matched up against arguably one of the nation's best relief pitchers in Jacob Lindgren.
They just don't know when.
In tonight's 6 p.m. winner-take-all championship game for the NCAA Lafayette Regional, Mississippi State (39-23) will try to rally to take home its third regional title since 2011. However, in order to do that they must find some bullpen answers to one of the nation's best lineups at ULL. By saving Lindgren until this final day, the MSU coaching staff has done everything but come out and say the power lefty is the most dangerous weapon MSU has left to try against the Ragin' Cajuns.
In the meantime, the aggressive nature of ULL (56-8) offensive style has all nine players in the lineup immediately understanding it won't be one swing of the bat that takes down Lindgren's overpowering stuff. ULL coach Tony Robichaux preached Sunday night after a 14-8 win that whenever his team sees a matchup with Lindgren, it'll have to a bunch of little dents in the armor.
"We'll study the guy extensively but what we try to do with swing-and-miss guys like Lindgren is take him down collectively," Robichaux said. "You're not going to take a guy like that, like a buffalo, down by yourself. It's going to take all nine guys with a good approach to be able to take that guy down."
Throughout the first three days of the regional, MSU has had multiple opportunities to showcase Lindgren but wanted to make sure his presence would all but guarantee a regional championship. That time has now come for the Bulldogs 2014 baseball season.
"We think that (MSU left-handed starter) Lucas Laster can give us a quality start to the game and then we'll use Jacob Lindgren at some point but just don't know when that will be yet," MSU coach John Cohen said.
After lowering his Southeastern Conference ERA from 5.20 in 2013 to a league-low 0.55 this season, Lindgren has surpassed his two-year career strikeout total (83) with 93 alone this season. Lindgren leads all relief pitchers nationally in fanned batters and leads the country overall with 16.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
The first-team All-SEC selection led the league in SEC-games only in ERA, opponent batting average (.114), fewest hits allowed (13), fewest runs allowed (4) and fewest earned runs allowed (2). Also a candidate for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award, Lindgren leads the team with a 0.88 ERA overall and a .116 opponent batting average, while owning a 6-1 record on the season.
The hope for MSU is whenever Bulldogs pitching coach Butch Thompson does turn to Lindgren that his swing-and-miss action with the slider will neutralize any lingering success for ULL over left-handers this season.
The 14-8 win over MSU Sunday that followed an 11-1 victory over Jackson State ran ULL's record to 16-1 this season against a left-handed starting pitcher. The only loss? You guessed it - the Friday night loss to Jackson State to open regional play.
"We'll look at video accordingly and then give our guys something to look at similarly in batting practice before the game Monday night," Robichaux said. "We did a great job today of letting our guys see slow B.P. and our guys got a chance to see how they'll be able to attack the middle of the field."
ULL came into this regional leading the nation in slugging percentage and scored more than eight runs in a game for the 30th time this season. Since being humbled in a 1-0 loss Friday night to four-seed Jackson State, the Ragin' Cajuns have totaled 34 runs in the next three games against San Diego State, Jackson State and MSU. Robichaux said the game plan for tonight will be to take away the effectiveness of Lindgren's fastball and by doing that, making his slider that isn't normally thrown for strikes completely useless.
"We try to take away a guy's fastball and we will do the same thing with him because that's what all great pitchers have to base their stuff off of," Robichaux said.
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