Full complement: White to return to lineup

Published 9:00 am Friday, June 2, 2023

Special to the American Press

Expect a healthy Tommy White in LSU’s lineup this afternoon when the Tigers open the Baton Rouge Regional of NCAA baseball tournament at 2 p.m. today against Tulane.

White missed last Friday’s elimination game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, a 5-4 loss to Texas A&M, with a shoulder injury. He also injured his right shoulder in February and in late April he was hampered by a leg injury.

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Despite the bumps and bruises, the sophomore turned in all-American numbers. On Thursday, White and teammates Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes were named to the first team by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

White has 91 RBIs, third most in the nation and fifth most in a single season in LSU history. A first-team all-SEC selection, White is No. 1 in the SEC in RBIs, No. 3 in doubles (22), No. 3 in total bases (164), No. 3 in batting average (.387), No. 4 in slugging percentage (.774), No. 5 in hits (82) and No. 8 in home runs (20).

Crews (.420, 15 HRs, 59 RBIs), a junior center fielder, is the SEC Player of the Year, is No. 2 in the nation in on-base percentage, No. 2 in runs scored and No. 10 in walks. He has reached base safely in 62 consecutive games, which includes all 58 games.

Crews leads the SEC and is ranked seventh nationally in batting average. He has 13 doubles and is the league leader in on-base percentage (.567), runs scored (82) and walks (58).

Skenes (10-2, 1.89 ERA), a junior right-hander, was named National Player of the Year. He leads the nation in strikeouts (167) and leads the SEC in wins earned run average, innings pitched (901/3) and opponent batting average (.166). The SEC Pitcher of the Year is ranked No. 2 on LSU’s all-time single-season strikeouts list, trailing Ben McDonald, who recorded 202 strikeouts in 1989. He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 12 of his 15 starts.

Skenes is No. 1 in the nation in strikeouts per nine innings (16.64) and walks and hits per innings pitched (0.79). Skenes is No. 3 in the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.82), No. 4 in ERA and No. 6 in hits allowed per nine innings (5.38).

He is the third LSU player to receive the National Player of the Year award, joining McDonald in 1989 and right-hander Lloyd Peever in 1992.

As for the regional, the host Tigers (43-15) enter as the No. 5 national seed but have lost three of their last four games as they look to make it back to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time since 2017.

“Our approach to this season has been to consider every game as a playoff game,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “By doing that, you put yourselves in a position with talented players to play home baseball at this time of the year.

“The other phase of it is, you don’t have to change anything when you get to this point. If there is a team that deserves to play with a lot of confidence based on what they’ve accomplished, our team deserves that. They have respected the process to get here, they know what it looks like, and I trust them a lot.”

LSU, in the NCAA Tournament for the 11th consecutive season and 35th time overall, has won three of the last four meetings against the Green Wave (19-40), including an 11-5 win on April 11 in New Orleans.

The six-time national champions’ lineup is supported by Tré Morgan (.308, 7 HR, 43 RBIs), Brayden Jobert (.306, 10 HR, 38 RBIs) and Cade Beloso (.305, 11 HR, 11 RBIs).

Tulane, making its 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2016, has the most losses of any team ever to make the national tournament.