Schedule will tell if they’re paper Tigers

Published 1:00 pm Friday, May 6, 2022

At the moment, the respected website has LSU projected to host an NCAA Tournament regional.

That’s on paper.

The Tigers’ schedule for the remaining three weekends of the regular season also looks promising.

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But that’s also on paper.

The bulk of it is within the Southeastern Conference, and although the Tigers’ final three opponents all are below .500 in league play, it’s not wise to trust them to play to form.

“Anybody can beat anybody,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said.

But the Tigers (30-14, 12-9 SEC) travel to Alabama (25-20, 9-12) tonight for the weekend. They’ll be at home next week against Ole Miss — 24-19, 7-14 despite being ranked No. 1 in the nation in the first six weeks of the season — before finishing on the road against perennial power Vanderbilt (29-14, 10-11).

Not that it really matters on the who, however.

“In the SEC, every game is literally the same,” Johnson said, “because everybody can beat you.

“You’re always facing good pitching and defense, and a strong lineup of hitters. We’ll just focus on our play, get out there and be ready to go.”

The Crimson Tide are no different.

“Alabama has a very good team, (head coach) Brad Bohannon has done a really good job in recruiting. The longer he’s been there, the more talented their roster has become.”

The Crimson Tide were in the thick of things in the SEC until getting swept in three games at South Carolina last weekend.

“They’ve survived some tough injuries and some tough luck,” Johnson said. “But they have a good pitching rotation and competitive position players with speed and power. They’re going to fight, I know that, and we have to be prepared.”

Johnson said he’s not certain about his pitching rotation for the three games, although graduate senior Ma’Khail Hilliard (5-0, 3.57 ERA) will start tonight’s opener.

Freshman Samuel Dutton (0-1, 2.40) is a clear choice, most likely for Sunday’s final game, but Johnson has a decision to make for Saturday’s middle game.

Sophomore Blake Money (2-3, 4.86) has struggled in recent outings. Johnson has not decided whether to stick with him or give another pitcher a shot, possibly moving Dutton in for Saturday’s game.