There’s been a pretty different look to how LSU has carried itself on the road in SEC compared to the beginning of the season. The Tigers are more disciplined in their approach and haven’t let the opposing crowds phase their play in the least, coming up with clutch moments on the mound and at the plate.
LSU (23-9, 7-5) is 5-1 on the road in its two conference series wins over Florida and Mississippi State, with another battle against the top 10 Arkansas on the schedule starting Thursday. The poise and consistency this team has shown in those hostile environments has been nothing short of spectacular.
Following the sweep of the Bulldogs, Johnson was very bullish on how the team has prepared for those road contests. Finding that consistency has been the most positive part of the road success and it’s something the Tigers will need to continue against the Razorbacks this weekend.
“It’s been really good. Another good step and I’m proud of them for that. We’ve prepared well and that’s part of developing that blueprint of everything counts,” Johnson said. “I think there’s a little better understanding of that and as far as the consistency part of it, we wanna keep that going forward. You need that edge towards preparation and the things you can control to be successful.”
Now 32 games into the season, this is also starting to be the point where guys get a little banged up, making it all the more important for players to be ready for their opportunity. One notable absence the last week has been outfielder Gavin Dugas, who’s nursing a hand injury Johnson says is a lot less serious than initially feared.
It’ll be about how Dugas can handle the pain in terms of when he might be available but he is a part of the 31 players who are traveling with the team to Fayetteville. The other injury that was hard to miss was Tre Morgan and a leg injury he tweaked against the Bulldogs but he’ll be in the lineup.
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“We’re pretty beat up. There’s a quarter of the roster that can’t do much because the attention should be on the guys on the field. But it’s next man up,” Johnson said.
One of those players seizing that opportunity has been freshman outfielder Josh Pearson, who went 5-for-9 at the plate in the right field with two home runs and five RBI’s over the final two days against Mississippi State. This freshmen class is imprinting its importance on this team by the week, with a new player stepping up seemingly every week, with Pearson being the latest example.
Having a team that can be so versatile with its lineups gives Johnson that much more to work with and it seems as though this lineup has found something that can stick for the foreseeable future.
“It was great, I’ve been working pretty hard in the weight room and on the field in practice,” Pearson said. “I was just happy I was able to do something to help our team win. As the season went on, I’ve been getting more at bats and I knew that even if I wasn’t in the starting lineup I just had to stay ready. “
“His head and his heart are right. That’s how freshmen have success. He’s a great hitter, has great feel and not surprised he’s pushing his way in there,” Johnson said. “It’s time for him to be a big part of what we’re doing.”
Getting to play in front of those raucous away crowds is nothing but a positive if you ask Johnson or any of the players. The mentality and approach really shifted on the road after the Houston series and the team has really never looked back since in those kind of environments.
“It fires me up, I think it’s awesome and I think the guys responded outstanding,” Johnson said. “For them it’s a different kind of response and away from here they’ve done a good job.”