LSU’s 15 inning affair ended sometime around 11:40 p.m. Wednesday night, but despite the drawn out 7-4 loss to New Orleans, LSU and head coach Paul Mainieri were already locked ahead to Friday night’s opponents: the Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia’s (8-10) arrival to Baton Rouge for a three game weekend series marks the beginning of Southeastern Conference play for the Tigers (13-5), a slate that Mainieri called a “30-game grind”.
Before the grind even starts, seventh-ranked LSU is already feeling the effects.
Thursday it was announced that senior closer Hunter Newman will miss at least two, possibly up to six weeks with an undisclosed back injury, meaning he will miss this week’s series against Georgia and next week’s big series on the road against #5 Florida. While Newman is out with the injury, his set-up man Caleb Gilbert will slide to the closer role, a role he is comfortable with.
The news of Newman’s back injury comes three weeks after reliever Doug Norman went down with an elbow injury that would require season-ending Tommy John surgery. Down two key relievers, the LSU bullpen is starting to run thin in terms of experience.
The silver lining for LSU is that while the bullpen may be depleted due to attrition, the front end of the starting rotation is more than capable of picking up the pitching workload and saving the bullpen for Sunday’s game.
With the exception of his one bad start against then top-ranked TCU, LSU ace Alex Lange has been dominant. The junior All-American has posted yet another absurd strikeout to walk ratio, striking out 29 batters on the season while walking just five in 20 innings of work. For every batter he walks, he strikes out nearly five batters. Against Wichita State last week he only allowed two hits in eight scoreless innings. When his command is on he is absolutely sensational.
Friday night he’ll get the ball for the Tigers with an added goal in mind, even though it goes mostly unsaid: go as long in the game as possible to relieve the pressure on the thinly stretched bullpen.
LSU leads the series with Georgia all-time 64-22-3, with the two schools last meeting in 2015 when LSU won both games in the series held in Athens. LSU has won nine of the last 11 against the Bulldogs, but the most memorable meeting between the two ended in a tie.
Due to travel restrictions, 2008’s finale against Georgia ended in a tie after 12 innings and LSU was unable to salvage a game in the series to the Bulldogs. The tie served as the lowpoint for the middling Tigers, and from there they turned the season around, winning 23 straight games all the way to Omaha.
First pitch Friday night will be at 7:00 p.m., while Saturday’s game will start at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday’s finale will begin at 1 p.m. All three games will be broadcast online via SEC Network+ and over the radio on 98.1 FM.