A break for LSU before Arkansas

<p class="p1">LSU baseball hasn’t caught many breaks the last two weeks.</p><p class="p1">But the Tigers (26-19, 10-11 SEC), who went 1-5 in a pair of back-to-back SEC weekend road trips to South Carolina and Ole Miss, will get one this week.</p><p class="p1">Blame it on academics.</p><p class="p1">The SEC mandates that teams have no midweek games during finals week, so LSU won’t play again before  a really big baseball test for the weekend when they host Arkansas (32-13, 13-8) which is three games ahead of LSU and leads the SEC West.</p><p class="p1">“I think it’s coming at the right time,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Monday. “Two weeks on the road, it taxes you. I proposed a long time ago that no team should have to play on the road two weekends in a row in the SEC. It’s almost inhumane.”</p><p class="p1">There’s a trade-off.</p><p class="p1">After a trying two weekends away from home, it will be the first of consecutive home conference series as the Tigers will host Alabama the following the weekend before finishing the regular season on the road at Auburn.</p><p class="p1">They will likely need to make the most of it as their postseason prospects are growing more and more tenous — they’ll enter the weekend unranked in any poll for the second straight week with an RPI of 59 that probably won’t impress the NCAA tournament selection committee.</p><p class="p1">LSU is currently tied for fourth place in the West with Auburn, also behind Ole Miss and Texas A&amp;M.</p><p class="p1">As opposed to getting swept at South Carolina, Mainieri thought his team played pretty well at Ole Miss — with the notable exception of an 11-run Rebel seventh inning in Ole Miss’ 14-3 win  the first game.</p><p class="p1">LSU won the second game 5-2.</p><p class="p1">The final game, a 9-8 loss,  had enough extenuating circumstances that Mainieri was tossed from the game in the ninth — his first ejection since 2013 — for arguing ball and strikes.</p><p class="p1">Both and he and Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco spent a lot of time bickering with home plate umpire Morris Hodges before Mainieri finally got the heave-ho after Nick Coomes was called out on strikes with the based loaded and one out in the bottom of the ninth.</p><p class="p1">“I’m not proud of being ejected,” said Mainieri, who was tossed after Coomes took a called third strike with  said. “It’s not something that I do. I don’t like to show that side of myself to the public, but at that moment I just felt like it was all I could take … I thought the ball was clearly low.”</p><p class="p1">It means that if Mainieri is ejected from another game, he will be suspended for the following game.</p><p class="p1">Meanwhile, Mainieri is still waiting for an update on third baseman Josh Smith’s situation. Smith, who was recovering from a stress reaction in his back, played in just his third game since the season’s opening weekend at Ole Miss.</p><p class="p1">But he had to leave midway through the second game of the series on Friday and did not play the final game when the back flared up again.</p><p class="p1">Smith was scheduled to see a back specialist either late Monday or today.</p><p class="p1">Mainieri also said that the Tigers not might get some help for its beleagured bullpen — but not this week.</p><p class="p1">Highly touted freshman pitcher Nick Storz, who’s pitched in only one game this season, threw a bullpen session while at Ole Miss and was set to do another sometime this week.</p><p class="p1">If it goes well, he might throw a simulated game and possible rejoin the team next week.</p>

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