LSU head coach Paul Mainieri is ready to lead his team tonight against UL-Lafayette. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 26, 2014 5:38 PM
Just in time for the first major test of the young baseball season, at least one poll thinks LSU is No. 1.
UL-Lafayette will have something to say about that after the Cajuns (7-1) earned their highest ranking since the 2000 College World Series team.
The two teams will square off tonight in a televised game inside Alex Box Stadium. It is a rematch of last year’s regional final in Baton Rouge, which LSU won 5-1.
“This is great, perfect timing,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, whose 7-0 team hasn’t faced anything close to a ranked foe yet. “It should be a packed house, great excitement.”
The Tigers moved into the nation’s No. 1 spot in the Collegiate Baseball poll Monday, although they were No. 3 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers poll and No. 7 in Baseball America.
Collegiate Baseball also named LSU’s Aaron Nola its national pitcher of the week Monday after the Tigers’ ace did not allow a hit or run in his seven innings of work against Virginia Tech Friday night before Mainieri pulled him due to a early-season pitch-count limitations. Nola hasn’t allowed a run in his first two starts.
LSU will pitch left-hander Cody Glenn (1-0, 1.50 ERA) tonight against UL-L.
UL-L, which since dropping its season opener has won seven straight, including a three-game sweep of Southern Miss last weekend, is No. 10 in Baseball America, No. 13 in Collegiate Baseball and No. 20 in the NCBWA poll.
“If this was an SEC game, the nation’s spotlight would be on this, and may still be for a midweek game,” Mainieri said. “It’s a real cool stage to set.
“I have the utmost respect for (UL-L coach) Tony Robichaux and his staff and the way their players play the game. They’re a very talented team and they play hard. It’s going to be an intense game.”
Mainieri has found little to complain about in the season’s first two weeks, although no team has seriously challenged the Tigers.
“I’m real high on our team in a lot of ways,” Mainieri said.
The Tigers pitching staff has a 1.00 ERA, with the weekend starting pitchers having allowed just three runs in 37 innings (0.73 ERA) with only one walk against 28 strikeouts.
“Obviously we’re not giving up a lot of runs and the starters have led the way,” Mainieri said. “I expected the starters to do what they’ve done, quite frankly, and they’ve been fantastic.”
“The bullpen, I wasn’t really sure what we were going to get out of them (and) all those guys have pitched really good out of the bullpen. That’s probably the thing that has pleased me the most.”
Mainieri is still sorting out the different roles for the bullpen.
The biggest surprise has been freshman Parker Bugg, who has pitched six scoreless innings in three appearances while allowing just one hit and striking out seven.
Mainieri said Bugg’s performance has been all the more impressive since he missed most of preseason work while recovering from mononucleosis.
“He didn’t get to pitch at all until right before the season started,” Mainieri said.