Great taste of SEC ball in less filling season

Scooter Hobbs

This weekend will be, as the cliché goes, what LSU baseball players signed up for with the Tigers.

Unfortunately for the Tigers they’ll have to go to Oxford, Mississippi, to get the full experience, with a three-game Southeastern Conference series against Ole Miss beginning tonight.

LSU’s third SEC road series will be many of the Tigers’ first to a roaring, full-house SEC stadium as there are no COVID-19 attendance restrictions in place for the Rebels’ Swayze Field.

It’s already considered one of the SEC’s most rollicking venues, particularly for the traditional “beer showers” in the right-field stands where the students celebrate Ole Miss home runs by tossing their cups full of suds high into the air.

“The goal is to not let them have too many beer showers over the weekend,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Hate to see them waste all that beer.”

LSU was boarding buses for Ole Miss a little more than a year ago for its 2020 SEC-opening series when the Tigers got word that the rest of the season had been canceled due to the pandemic.

Thus only a handful of current Tigers have been through anything like what is “on tap,” so to speak, for them in Oxford.

“It’s always one of the most enthusiastic crowds we play in front of,” Mainieri said. “They love their Rebels. We’re going to anticipate a very raucous crowd.

“Ole Miss is as hostile as it gets, especially out there in the right field where the students are. It’s a great environment with fans.”

The No. 10-ranked Rebels’ team (27-10, 9-6 SEC) isn’t bad either — but what else is new for the Tigers (22-17, 4-11)?

It will be the fifth top-10 team the Tigers have faced in SEC play, and it won’t get any easier next week with No. 1-ranked Arkansas set to visit Baton Rouge.

It’s the kind of company that LSU is used to being included.

But while LSU used eight pitchers to shut out Louisiana-Monroe 5-0 Tuesday night, it didn’t change its spot still mired near the bottom of the SEC standings, tied with Texas A&M for fifth in the West Division.

“I think our team has really gotten better,” Mainieri said. “We’ve made improvement in a lot of areas with a really young team.

“But this is not the LSU way, to talk about losing. There are no moral victories here. We’re here to win, that’s what we’ve done for years and what we’re supposed to do.

“You’ve got to play some young players. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time for them to become what you want them to be. It’s hard to be patient.”

Ole Miss leads the SEC in hitting with .306 average, also in hits, runs and RBIs, and features another typical 1-2 SEC punch to open the series on the mound.

Gunner Hogland, tonight’s starter against LSU’s Landon Marceaux, is No. 2 in the SEC with 87 strikeouts, almost 14 per nine innings. Friday starter Doug Nikhazy missed some time early in the season, but last week threw a one-hit shutout with 12 strikeouts against Mississippi State.

“That’s what makes the SEC exciting,” Mainieri said.

Pitching Matchups

7 p.m. Today

LSU, RH Landon Marceaux (4-3, 1.65 ERA, 54.2 IP, 12 BB, 67 SO) vs. OM, RH Doug Hoglund (3-2, 2.73 ERA, 56 IP, 16 BB, 87 SO).

6:30 p.m. Friday

LSU, RH A.J. Labas (2-0, 3.35 ERA, 51 IP, 9 BB, 55 SO) vs. OM, LH Doug Nikhazy (4-1, 1.86 ERA, 38.2 IP, 16 BB, 59 SO).

Noon Saturday

LSU, TBA vs. OM, RH Drew McDaniel (4-0, 2.97 ERA, 36.1 IP, 12 BB, 42 SO).””LSU baseball

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