The game of baseball, more or less, ushered the word slump into the sports dictionary.
After the summer that sophomore Tiger Leon Landry had, the word slump would have been the last word that you would have used to describe what was expected from the Baton Rouge native in 2009.
It was a performance that will not soon be forgotten, named the No. 1 prospect in the Cal Ripken Sr. League by Baseball America Magazine. He earned MVP honors in the league’s championship series en route to leading the Youse’s Maryland Orioles to the title, hitting .304 (21-for-69) with four doubles, two triples, 16 RBI and 17 runs scored in 20 games.
Yet, here we are; 22 games into the season, Landry is hitting just .263 with 20 hits, nine home runs and 23 RBI.
Impressive is his early home run count, for Landry had homered just five times on 58 hits in his freshman campaign.
Yet, the Baton Rouge native's sophomore season has panned out much like that of Mainieri's preseason No. 1-ranked team.
With five losses in the books before the third series of conference play arrives, Landry's slump has been felt in a hard way for the Tigers.
His .263 average is second lowest of any Tiger with at least 18 at bats. Perhaps an equal concern is the lone Bayou Bengal with a lower average at the plate, 2008 First Team All-American Blake Dean.
After he moved from leadoff to second to eighth in the lineup, Landry is settled into the understanding that not all things will go as planned.
"I wish things could have started out better for me after the summer I had, because people expected me to come in here and do big things right away," said Landry, who went 3 for 9 with a homer and 5 RBI in the weekend series at South Carolina.
"I am staying focused, though. Baseball is a tough sport, and you are not always going to have everything go your way. You just have to stick your head in there and keep working."
Mainieri echoed his centerfielder's sentiments on the game.
"This is just a tough game," he said. "Leon will battle and get through it. I am going to sit him down and talk to him and make sure he is settled, because he is an outstanding baseball player when he is hitting well. His success is a big part of this team, so he will come around with time."
Though Landry's growing reputation for highlight reel plays was sparked during the Tigers’ postseason run to Omaha last season, the Tigers' headman said that the growth from his first year to the following will help Landry turn the tide at the plate.
“The difference between being a freshman and a second year guy who is physically stronger and has been through the battles, you just can’t measure that," Mainieri said. "And the strides Leon has made are just off the charts. He has come such a far way, and it is pretty remarkable to see."
With high praise like that, the 17-5 Tigers should rest assured that their centerfield slugger will regain his mojo sooner than later.
"I think it is going to just be a matter of staying in the game and not letting all that get me down," Landry said. "I played well early in the season, and since then I have struggled, but I still feel good at the plate.
“Kentucky had some strong left hand arms that gave us all trouble, but I had been hitting left handers well before that. So I don't think I am in the slump it looks like I am in, because the pitching has gotten ahead of us all lately."
With a team-high 21 strikeouts, Landry's performance headed forward should see the sophomore take a more relaxed approach to his plate appearances.
"I am not going to change anything except calming myself down in tense situations," he said. "My approach will all still be the same, but I have to make sure that I stay calm. The coaches here have all done a great job with me, and I am definitely the best hitter right now that I have ever been in my life. I just got to get in the box and keep swinging and things will start clicking for me again. Everything will be all good."
And when things are all good for LSU’s leading home run hitter, they will likely be better for an LSU team that is tied with Ole Miss for second place in the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 4-2 mark.