Last Modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 2:32 PMA year after Vanderbilt and LSU ran away from the field in the Southeastern Conference, acute parity has reared its ugly head again.
You can’t count on anything in this league anymore. Taking anything for granted is a dicey proposition.
So, even with a four-game winning streak, including a sweep of Mississippi State last weekend, LSU coach Paul Mainieri isn’t feeling comfortable, certainly not complacent, as the Tigers (6-5-1, 25-8-1 SEC) host Arkansas (21-13, 6-6) for the weekend.
With a 14-school league, he noted that no team is more than three games out of first place.
“We’re four weeks in,” Mainieri said. “This is not like after one or two weeks. Four weeks into the season and that’s happened.
“This year the league could be won with 17 or 18 (SEC) wins. Might be won by a team barely over .500 (in the SEC). You just never know.
“You can never get down because the team that beat you this weekend is going to turn around and get beat by somebody next weekend.”
Mainieri went through a laundry list just from the last two weeks’ ups and downs.
“Florida swept us, went to Kentucky and lost two out of three. Ole Miss got swept at Bama and turns around and sweeps Auburn. We get swept at Florida and we turn around and sweep Mississippi State, and Mississippi State had won two out of three against Arkansas. Arkansas turns around and beats South Carolina two out of three.”
Who’s on first?
“Could go through the whole league like that,” Mainieri said. “There’s just never any letup in this league. You know every weekend you’re going to run up against great pitching.
“The teams are so evenly matched. The personnel from team to team is almost non-discernible. It really comes down to who plays better on a given day.”
Nevertheless, the Tigers, wary of success as the league can make you, will try to build on last week’s bounceback sweep.
“It’s nice to be back within striking distance,” Mainieri said. “We’ve just got to keep playing and see what happens.”
Don’t expect a lot of fireworks, even though LSU and Arkansas have won six of the last seven SEC West titles.
Two Arkansas pitchers who shared the SEC pitcher of the week honors with LSU ace Aaron Nola last will pitch the Saturday and Sunday games. Jalen Beeke (5-2, 1.05) will face LSU freshman Jared Poché (6-2, 2.26) on Saturday while Chris Oliver (3-3, 1.05) will get the Sunday start. Mainieri hasn’t name his Sunday starter but it is expected to be Kyle Bouman (3-1, 2.23).
“They always pitch well, they always play great,” Mainieri said. “It’s a team I’ve always loved coaching against because I like the way Arkansas plays, I like the way they’re coached. They’re just a solid team.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us. They’ve got arms, arms, arms.
“The West always seems to come down to us and Arkansas. I don’t know what is going to happen this year.”