LSU has made a habit of running through the SEC recently, only losing one series last year (due to Jared Foster trying to make a play by diving when he should have just allowed a single against Kentucky), but even still they were forced to take a bow out of the LSU Invitational SEC Tournament due to it's silly format. That likely won't happen again this year, because LSU's schedule is absolutely loaded.
I love opening with Cincinnati. A northern group of five conference team who should provide a healthy challenge for the Tigers without putting too much pressure for an opening series. Last year, the Bearcats went a dismal 15-41 that featured a 4-22 road record and three separate losing streaks of seven games of more, including an 11 game streak to end the year. As if that wasn't bad enough, their one good player in Ian Happ was drafted by the Cubs.
@ Lamar (24)
This is going to be the most awkward game on the schedule, and it's not as awkward as it was before. As you hopefully know, LSU alum and assistant coach Will Davis was named Lamar's head coach for 2017, and previously was going to remain on staff at LSU this season, but has since agreed to go to Beaumont immediately. Lamar is already a good baseball program and I'm personally glad Davis is getting his shot to be a head coach. Davis really is an all-around great guy and absolute joy to be around and no matter who you are, he treated you as if you were a player. It won't take long for the players to respond to that.
I won't chalk it up as win now, but I like this to start off the midweek slate the same way I like Cincinnati to start off weekends.
Sacramento State (26-28)
A rare non-conference team from the west, Sacramento State plays in the remnants of the WAC and has a respectable enough program, but often gets out-shined by Cal State Fullerton, Irvine, Bakersfield, San Diego, Stanford, UCLA, USC and the ilk along the west coast. Last year they made a run deep into the WAC tournament, but missed on the postseason with a 33-27 mark.
@ Nicholls (2)
Nicholls took the first midweek of the year from LSU in 2015, the Tigers' only midweek loss of the season. This year the Tigers hit the road on to play at Didier Field. Nicholls didn't exactly steal the game, the Colonels had a good year in 2015, going 34-19-1 before going two and Q in Sugar Land at the Southland tournament.
Fordham makes the trip from the Bronx to Baton Rouge for a two day series where they'll play a doubleheader on Saturday. The Rams had a rough 2015, going 22-32 including an 0-2 show in the A-10 tournament. Also, fun fact, Fordham played in the first nine-man baseball game in college history, against St. Francis Xavier College, which has since become defunct.
Louisiana Tech (8)
LSU's first home midweek game is against a team I'm honestly surprised we don't plat more, Louisiana Tech. More notable for having good vested uniforms, Tech has been largely dormant baseball wise since 1987, and last year was more of the same with the Bulldogs posting a 25-27 record, missing out on the C-USA tournament altogether
McNeese State (9)
LSU turns around and plays McNeese State the next day, a much more familiar opponent. LSU will carry an 11 game win streak over the Cowboys into this season after blanking them 7-0 last year. By their standards 2015 was tough for the Pokes, with a 32-25 record where their season ended with a winless showing in the Southland tournament.
Ball State (11-13)
Ball State seeks reprieve from the last bastions of cold weather by coming down to Baton Rouge for the weekend. A program that historically has never really done anything of note (they won one conference title in 2006, which was also their only NCAA tournament appearance), but made it all to the way to the MAC championship game last season, where they lost to Ohio, giving them a 33-25 record on the season.
New Orleans (16)
LSU's yearly matchup with the Privateers continues a bit earlier than normal (with the exception being 2013's weird half-weekend series), only this time against former LSU standout (and cult hero) Blake Dean instead of legendary coach Ron Maestri. Dean inherits a team that went 14-40 and hasn't posted a winning season since 2007, where they went 43-21. There's been a lot of turmoil at that program and things that go beyond the scope of baseball, but Dean has his work cut out for him if he wants to get the UNO program to the proud status it once had.
LSU opens conference play at home against the Crimson Tide, which has been the opposite of the football series between the two teams recently, with LSU taking 14 of the last 18 from the Tide and winning the last 11 series and posting a 42-14 mark against Bama in this century. For all intents and purposes, Paul Mainieri owns Mitch Gaspard. Last year LSU swept Alabama in
Alex Box East The Hoover Met while the new Sewell Thomas Stadium was constructed. The Tide posted another disappointing season last year, going 32-28 and missing the NCAAs, causing Gaspard's seat to warm. Alabama plays Maryland, Oregon, Notre Dame, and Houston in the non-con, so Gaspard could be fighting for his job by the time he takes his team to Baton Rouge.
vs. #18 ULL (22) (Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic)
LSU reunites with 2015 Baton Rouge Super Regional foe and in-state rival ULL at Zephyr Field for the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic. Despite UL-Laf going 42-23, LSU took four games from the Cajuns last year (including a WPJC game), improving their record over USL to 52-24 all time. With Tulane stumbling around, SLI has really assumed the role as the little brother in Louisiana who has built up the courage to take swings at LSU, and quite a few of those punches have landed. A natural rivalry has really evolved out of just proximity and a sheer quantity of games, and it's been really fun to see.
@ #4 Texas A&M (24-26)
The follow up to last year's BASEBALLAMANIA that featured the #1 vs. #2 teams and saw LSU win the series in two games, the Tigers return to College Station for the 3rd time in four years. Last year A&M awoke from a lull of mediocrity that hit when the Aggies joined the SEC to roar to a 50 win season that was stopped short of Omaha by TCU in a three game Super Regional. Featuring LSU transfer catcher Michael Barash, Rob Childress seems to have finally righted the ship to correspond to the SEC's rough currents and build a roster reliant on pitching to stifle opponents. If you can make one road trip a year, I suggest it be this one based on the possibility of seeing one of the most tantalizing pitching matchups in the regular season across all of baseball.
It's LSU and Tulane, I'm not sure what else really needs to be said here. ULL may be the more interesting rivalry, but Tulane will always be special. I mean, they were the opponents in LSU's first ever intercollegiate sporting event, a baseball game in which LSU won 10-8 way back in 1893. After a 35-25 finish in 2015 that ended at the hands of UNC-Wilmington in a regional at The Box, 2nd year head coach David Pierce and the Greenies were picked to finish 2nd in the not-bad-at-the-top American Conference 2016 coaches' preseason poll.