Skenes wins battle of the aces against Dollander

Pipeline's No. 4 Draft prospect tops No. 2 as strikeouts reign supreme

March 31st, 2023

Chase Dollander for Tennessee. Paul Skenes for LSU. Does it really get better than that?

Apparently not, as a record-breaking crowd of 13,068 flocked to Baton Rouge on Thursday night.

In a highly-anticipated pitcher's duel between MLB Pipeline’s second- and fourth-ranked 2023 Draft prospects, it was Skenes and the No. 1 Tigers who came out on top, 5-2, behind the righty’s 12-strikeout effort.

“It’s probably the coolest environment I’ve ever pitched in,” Skenes said in the postgame press conference, trying to suppress a smile. “It was cool to do what we did.”

The flamethrowing Skenes was downright dominant against the Vols, using 107 pitches to post yet another double-digit K performance across seven innings of five-hit, one-run ball. The 6-foot-6 hurler retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced, with six of those outs coming via swinging punchouts.

“Adrenaline does a lot,” Skenes said. “If there was nobody in the stands, I probably wouldn’t have been throwing that hard.”

While Skenes stood out, Dollander more than held his own without all of his best stuff working. The right-hander worked around a leadoff double and worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the third. LSU’s Gavin Dugas, who had given Dollander trouble all game, cranked a two-run homer in the fifth for the lone blemish on the Tennessee ace’s day.

“[Dollander’s] fastball just has such good ride and run, if you’re not on it as far as your timing and what you’re trying to do with your direction, he is going to eat everyone alive,” said LSU head coach Jay Johnson. “We were on it, and it was still hard.”

Also in the Tigers’ lineup was Pipeline’s top-ranked Draft prospect Dylan Crews, and Dollander was able to work around his dangerous bat by retiring him in two RBI situations. The outfielder finished the contest 1-for-4 with a single and a stolen base.

As advertised, it was a tight game until the very end. LSU clung to a 2-1 lead after seven frames, and Tennessee tied things up in the top of the eighth as soon as Skenes was relieved. The relentless Tigers mounted a two-out rally in the bottom half, punctuated by a bases-clearing double from shortstop Jordan Thompson to ultimately seal the victory.

LSU is 23-3, and Skenes has been a huge part of that. He lowered his ERA to 0.81 and has punched out double-digit batters in all seven of his starts this season. It’s his second straight start of seven innings, and he’s gone at least six frames in every contest thus far.

“Our whole staff has such an emphasis on preparation and consistency and the stuff we do throughout the week,” Skenes said. “It’s showing up a lot on the field. More than anything, I think my process has just become greater and I’ve gotten a greater feel for what I need to do to prepare.”