LSU baseball cranks up for SEC play with Kentucky first on the list
With SEC play now no longer on the horizon, LSU baseball is ready for the meat of the schedule to kick in, starting with a three game home series against Kentucky this weekend.
The Wildcats (13-4) come to Alex Box with a reputation of using their speed around the bases as well as a much improved pitching staff and defense than in years past. Kentucky has stolen 46 bases on 55 attempts this season while LSU has allowed opponents to steal 32 of 33 attempts while successfully stealing 17 bases on 201 attempts.
Coach Paul Mainieri said that the main key to not letting teams run all over the Tigers is to try more pitchouts while also trying to get the pitchers to release the ball a little quicker to the plate.
“I think everybody contributes to the fact that we’ve struggled with it,” Maineiri said. “It’s not something that I’m going to give up hope on. I think we have the ability to stop the other team’s running games.”
Mainieri referenced a series against Auburn a few years ago, where Auburn had stolen a “ridiculous” amount of bases heading into the LSU series but that LSU didn’t allow them to steal base one time.
“We still ended up losing two of the three games that weekend so there’s going to be more to the games than just that aspect,” Mainieri said.
One problem LSU (12-5) will have to figure out on Friday is how to stop Kentucky ace Zack Thompson, who has a 2.78 ERA in four outings this season including 37 strikeouts. The LSU bats have been up and down in recent games, being held to one run on five hits in a mid-week loss to Northwestern State on Tuesday but followed that up with a 16 run, 18 hit performance against Texas Southern on Wednesday.
Junior shortstop Josh Smith said despite the offensive struggles at times he has faith that some of the young guys in the lineup will get it turned around in the near future.
“We have a lot of young guys still learning about themselves, learning about themselves and just how to face this kind of pitching,” Smith said. “Nobody’s panicked right now, the year we went to Omaha we were 13-5 at this point so there’s no need to panic. We just come here everyday to work and get after it and we’ll be fine.”
One veteran player who seemed to snap out of a funk on Wednesday was outfielder Daniel Cabrera, who went 3-for-4 on Wednesday night after a stretch of going 5-for-29 over a nine game stretch.
There are no changes to the pitching rotation this week as Zack Hess will get the nod on Friday, Cole Henry on Saturday and followed by Eric Walker on Sunday. Walker is still working himself back to last longer in games so don’t expect him to be on the mound for more than four or five innings.
Mainieri said freshman pitcher Landon Marceaux is available to pitch this weekend so look for him to possibly go three or four innings after Walker’s day is finished on Sunday.