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May 2, 2013

More relaxed approach by Tigers hitters

A different tone was set early in LSU's non-conference game against McNeese State on Tuesday night at The Box.

In the bottom of the first inning, Mason Katz delivered a run-scoring single. That RBI hit ended a long dry spell for Katz, who had not brought home a run since the April 10 game against Southern.

But, it was not the single which defined the night for the Tigers who banged out 15 hits in posting a 7-3 victory. It was the comment from coach Paul Mainieri after Katz came through with his RBI hit.

"I asked (Katz) if he wanted us to stop the game and get the ball for him since it was his first RBI in 12 games," Mainieri joked. "I know Mason has been frustrated. But, this has not been a stretch where he has not been hitting the ball hard.

"It was nice for him to break that barrier and get that 61st RBI. Mason is kind of a streaky guy. Hopefully, he'll explode again."

Every LSU player talked about being looser at the plate against McNeese. That approached certainly paid off, particularly for the No. 2 through No. 6 hitters in the lineup - Mark Laird, Alex Bregman, Katz, Raph Rhymes and Christian Ibarra.

Those five players were a combined 8-for-20 against the Cowboys. Each one drove in a run. In the previous three weeks, their offensive production had taken a dip. Only Ibarra has raised his batting average - up 13 points to .349 thanks to his three-hit game Tuesday.

The other four players have watched their averages fall from as few as 18 points for Rhymes to as many as 68 points for Katz.

"We swung the bats really good," Mainieri said. "We were much more aggressive and confident at the plate. We laid off some bad pitches.

"I thought Bregman was fighting himself too much last weekend. You just have to fight the other guy. Alex was worrying too much about the mechanics of his swing rather than just having confidence when going up to the plate."

The Tigers scored twice in losing the last two games of their series against South Carolina. Now, Florida comes to The Box for a series beginning Thursday. LSU has fallen three games behind Vanderbilt in the overall Southeastern Conference standings. The Tigers are 2 games ahead of Arkansas in the West.

"We have to take advantage of our opportunities this weekend," Katz said. "We have to find a way of getting runners over and then getting them in. I left a runner on third (Tuesday) and that is unacceptable.

"We have to stick to what we do best. Win the first game and then move on to the second game. Florida had a rough beginning. But, with the athletes they've got, they are very good. They have been to the (College) World Series three years in a row. They have been hot recently. We can't take them lightly."

One LSU player who has been more productive at the plate in the past week is JaCoby Jones. After being benched for lackadaisical effort against Alabama, Jones is 8-for-13 in the past four games. He had three hits against McNeese.

"I really have been feeling good at the plate all year," said Jones, whose averaged jumped nearly 100 points to .275 during April. "Lately, the balls have fallen for me. I am just staying loose and confident at the plate."

Jones acknowledged that LSU must do a better job of scoring runs this weekend against the Gators.

"We have to find a way to manufacture runs when we get runners on base," Jones said. "We have to hit-and-run or we have to bunt. We have to get runs across the plate.

"We had two runs in 18 innings last week. We had a lot of hits, but we have to manufacture runs. We must be aggressive and attack the fast ball. We need to lay off bad pitches."


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