One and in for LSU, but the goal is larger

Scooter Hobbs

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

All LSU has to do is win one game at Texas A&M — or have Auburn lose one game in its series against Missouri — and the Tigers clinch a spot in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

But it’s more complicated than that. The Tigers’ sights are set a little higher.

LSU’s main focus is still on polishing up its résumé for the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers (32-20, 11-16 SEC) didn’t do themselves any favors by going through the motions in their final midweek game in a 7-3 loss to Northwestern State Tuesday night.

“I don’t think losing that game cripples us as much as I thought it might,” head coach Paul Mainieri said.

In fact, LSU’s Rating Percentage Index — an important but not be-all, end-all measurement — fell four spots, from No. 18 to No. 22.

“I thought we might drop into the 30s to be honest,” Mainieri said. “I was kind of pleasantly surprised. I don’t think we hurt ourselves in a dramatic way. We didn’t drop out of sight, that’s for sure.”

But the Tigers remain squarely on the “bubble” for their ultimate goal. Wednesday’s updated projections on the website D1 Baseball.com had the Tigers among the “last five in,” headed to the Ruston regional hosted by Louisiana Tech as a No. 3 seed.

That’s fluid, of course.

“I don’t know exactly what we have to do,” Mainieri said. “At the end of the day there’s going to be a committee that will decide our fate.

“I wish we would have done more to make it a no-doubter.”

The mark against LSU is its 11-16 conference record, even though it would surprise no one if this year the SEC sent double-digit teams into NCAA Tournament.

“We need people to do extraordinary things,” Mainieri said. “LSU is not a place for ordinary people. LSU is a place where you come to do extraordinary stuff. That’s what’s expected out of you. If you just want to be average, if you just want to be good, pick another school. LSU is a place to be great.”

Maybe it’s not quite extraordinary, but after starting conference play 1-8, the Tigers are 10-8 since and, even with the egg they deposited Tuesday, playing their best ball of the season, in Mainieri’s view.

Pitching Matchups

6 p.m. Today (ESPNU)

LSU, RH Landon Marceaux (6-4, 2.15 ERA, 79.2 IP, 16 BB, 97 SO) vs. Texas A&M, LH Dustin Saenz (5-6, 4.60 ERA, 76.1 IP, 21 BB, 96 SO).

6:30 p.m. Friday

LSU, RH A.J. Labas (3-2, 4.89 ERA, 73.2 IP, 13 BB, 65 SO) vs. Texas A&M, TBA.

2 p.m. Sunday

LSU, Ma’Khail Hilliard (5-0, 4.34 ERA, 37.1 IP, 9 BB, 40 SO) vs. Texas A&M, TBA.””LSU baseball

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