Ole Miss not kind to teams needing road wins

<p>LSU pitcher Nick Bush (29) throws in the fifth inning of Game 1 of the NCAA College World Series baseball finals against Florida in Omaha, Neb., Monday, June 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)</p>Nati Harnik

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<p class="p1">If LSU is ever going to solve the road-game puzzle that has mystified the Tigers this year, the next couple of games might be a good time to start.

<p class="p3">You just might pick a different location than Ole Miss’ Swayze, one of the Southeastern Conference’s toughest on visitors.

<p class="p3">But the Tigers (25-17, 9-9 SEC), who fell out of the major polls for the first time in seven years this week, didn’t get a say in the matter and will travel to take on the Rebels in a three-game conference series beginning tonight.

<p class="p3">Ole Miss (32-10, 10-8) is ranked no worse than No. 8 in the polls.

<p class="p3">The Tigers are one game behind the first-place tie in the SEC West between Ole Miss and Arkansas.

<p class="p3">But they eventually are going to have to win some road games.

<p class="p3">LSU is 2-11 on the road, 2-7 in conference away games, after being swept at South Carolina last week.

<p class="p3">Swayze Field is known as one of the rowdier SEC environments, most notably the tradition of students in the outfield seats showering themselves by throwing their cups of beer toward the sky after a Rebels home run.

<p class="p3">“Your team has to be poised and confident to handle that type of environment,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I don’t think Ole Miss people like LSU much. There are no issues between the teams. I think it’s just the fan bases that don’t care for each other all that much. They’re pretty vocal.”

<p class="p3">LSU needs to get it going with an eye on the NCAA Tournament.

<p class="p3">The latest NCAA regional projections, by the D1 Baseball website, had the Tigers as the No. 3 seed in Chapel Hill regional, so they have a lot of work to do if they’re going to think about hosting their own regional, as has become quite the custom in Baton Rouge.

<p class="p3">Mainieri says the Tigers are taking it one game at a time, which is one of the reasons he’s not locked in on his third-day pitcher.

<p class="p3">Most likely it will be Nick Bush, whose career-best outing last Sunday — five shutout innings — was wasted when the Tigers bullpen couldn’t hold a 6-0 lead over South Carolina over the final four innings. If Mainieri needs Bush to win a game out of the bullpen in the second game this weekend, he suggested he might do it and worry about the third game when the time comes.

<p class="p3">The Tigers broke a four-game losing streak with an impressive 8-0 victory over Lamar (13-28) on Tuesday night.

<p class="p3">AJ Labas (5-1) threw the Tigers’ first complete-game shutout of the season, but isn’t even on the travel roster for the weekend after throwing 102 pitches.

<p class="p3">But the LSU offense should get a boost.

<p class="p3">Josh Smith was back in the lineup against Lamar after a back injury and, despite not seeing any live pitching since the season’s opening weekend, went 2-for-3 wth a home run.

<p class="p3">“He just went out there cold turkey,” Mainieri said.

<p class="p3">Smith started the season at shorstop, but was at third base when he returned — his position last year — and Mainieri said he expects that to continue.

<p class="p3">“You can’t imagine that one player can make that kind of difference for a team, but Josh is one of those kinds of players,” Mainieri said.

<hr /><p class="p4"><strong>Team Comparisons</strong>

<p class="p6">LSU (25-17 / 9-9 SEC): .296 BA; 3.92 ERA; .981 FA.

<p class="p6">Ole Miss (32-10 / 10-8 SEC): .302 BA; 3.34 ERA; .980 FA.

<hr /><p class="p5"> 

<p class="p5"><strong>Pitching Matchups</strong>

<p class="p5"><strong>7 p.m. Today, SECN</strong>

<p class="p6">LSU, RH Zack Hess (6-4, 3.79 ERA, 59.1.1 IP, 25 BB, 73 SO) vs. OM, LH Ryan Rolison (5-3, 3.19, 59.1 IP, 24 BB, 77 SO).

<p class="p5"><strong>6:30 p.m. Friday</strong>

<p class="p6">LSU, RH Ma’Khail Hilliard (7-3, 3.12 ERA, 49 IP, 17 BB, 48 SO) vs. OM, RH Brady Feigl (7-2, 3.30 ERA, 57.1 IP, 18 BB, 49 SO).

<p class="p5"><strong>3 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU</strong>

<p class="p6">LSU, Nick Bush (0-0, 2.60, 27.2 IP, 10 BB, 31 SO) vs. OM, RH James McArthur (5-0, 3.17, 48.1 IP, 24 BB, 40 SO).

<p class="p1"><span class="s1"><strong>LSU at Ole Miss, </strong></span><strong>7 p.m., SECN</strong>

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