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Third-ranked Tigers host Cowboys tonight

Last Modified: Monday, April 29, 2013 7:29 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

Normally tonight’s LSU game against McNeese State in Baton Rouge would be just another mid-week game for the Tigers, of which LSU has won 32 straight, 25 in a row against in-state foes.

But after losing their final two games of two against South Carolina to drop their first series of the season, the now No. 3-ranked Tigers were teetering on the verge of panic.

Or, at the least, a sudden sense of urgency, although they only dropped one spot in the major polls.

“It’s an important game for us to get back on that horse, get ready to go,” head coach Paul Mainieri said.

How important?

The day after a weekend series is normally LSU’s mandated one day off, but Mainieri worked the Tigers out Monday to get ready for the Cowboys. Instead, he will give them Wednesday off, the day before a three-game, Thursday-Saturday home series with Florida begins.

“Our team is facing some adversity for the first time this year,” Mainieri said. “But we’ve got great kids who give everything they have. I’m confident we’ll play well this week.”

“We definitely have to get back to playing with the fire and cockiness we need to be playing with,” said LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, the Tigers’ leading hitter at .398.

“We need to get fired up to play and have that urge to win rather than just come out to play the game,” said first baseman Mason Katz, who was leading the nation in RBIs three weeks ago with 60, but hasn’t driven in a run since.

LSU was already planning to use usual Sunday starter Cody Glenn against the Cowboys (20-21) after Kurt McCune took his place in last weekend’s rotation. But after McCune was roughed up a bit and didn’t get out of the third inning in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to South Carolina, Mainieri said Glenn will now only throw an inning or two in his start against the Cowboys.

That’s to keep the Tigers’ starting options open for this week’s SEC series against Florida Thursday through Saturday.

McNeese will counter with left-hander Trey McGee (2-4, 3.89).

True, a lot of teams would like to have LSU’s “problems.” The Tigers are still 39-6, 16-5 in the SEC and lead the West Division by 2 1/2 games, although they fell three games behind Vanderbilt (19-2) for the overall conference lead.

LSU had solid pitching for the most part against South Carolina. But otherwise it didn’t look like the same team that had been rolling, particularly in the field. They also struggled at the plate, especially with runners in scoring position.

In Saturday’s 4-2 loss, the Tigers had 14 hits and got the leadoff man on base in eight of nine innings, but managed only the pair of runs, neither on base hits. In Sunday’s 4-0 loss — the first shutout suffered in over a year — LSU managed just six hits and never got a runner past second base.

“You can’t expect them to be perfect,” Mainieri finally said after complaining for several minutes about his team’s weekend play. “It’s a long season.

“Our record is still stellar, we’re in a good position. We’ve got nine (SEC) games remaining ... We can’t hang our heads and pout. We need to get back to playing good baseball, the way we have most of the season.

“We’ve got to be tough, be confident and play like we can. I feel confident that will happen.”

“Yeah, you have to fight through it,” Katz said. “No teams wins them all. It’s hard to go through and win every single weekend. The good teams just take it and flush it, and move forward.”

Bregman leads the SEC with a .414 average, as well as in hits (72), runs (45) and triples (7).

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