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GAMETHREAD: Baseball v Lamar, 6:30pm, SECN+

After watching LSU get thoroughly demolished by Florida on Thursday, then come back to exact revenge on Friday and Saturday, it’s become very clear just how close to the razor’s edge this team lives on. And even though LSU is hovering around 11 available position players, the pitching staff is where injuries have hit this team the hardest.

It’s impossible to say if having Hess start on Thursday would have led to a win, and no one could have expected Hilliard to have one of the work starts of his career, but it was nice to see a genuine example of what coaches describe as “competitive in a blowout.” LSU was never down by less than 6 runs in the game, and Florida constantly added to their lead, but the Tigers kept their composure and, I think, gained a huge amount of confidence at the plate that powered them through the rest of the weekend. That kind of effort will be needed as the Tigers now navigate the meat of the western division schedule. Mainieri isn’t being glib when he calls this weekend’s series at near-hapless Alabama “...the most important week of the year right here...” With Ole Miss, Auburn, and Arkansas to close out the season, LSU needs take advantage of every opportunity, and sweeping Bama will be crucial to staying in the division fight and the race for one of the SEC Tournament first round byes.

But before that, LSU needs to beat Lamar. LSU is 7-4 in midweek games this season, but the losses have felt even more brutal lately, dropping an ultra-rare loss to Southern and the Pontiff Classic to hated USL in successive weeks. When the topic of tonight’s game came up in the postgame radio interview on Saturday, Mainieri said, in a slightly frustrated tone, that he would be happy to see Will Davis again “but we NEED a midweek win.” Personally, I’m firmly in the camp that we fans care way too much about these midweek games that ultimately don’t make that much of an impact on the post season resume. It is the curse of LSU baseball that so many people are willing to watch a 3 hour slugfest against a Southland team, you can’t hide an embarrassing loss as well as other programs do. And given that LSU is still so banged up, the last thing you want to see is good pitching used tonight instead of on the weekend. But still, a win would be nice. After a rough start at Southern two weeks ago, Landon Marceaux is getting another shot tonight. Watson, Reid, and Hughes will still be out tonight, but some of them may return to the lineup this weekend.

Lamar (14-26, 6-15 Southland) is having a rough go of it in former LSU catcher and assistant coach Will Davis’ 3rd season, currently next-to-last in the Southland and with only 1 conference series win on the year. From LSU and Lamar’s game notes:

Lamar is hitting .279 as a team with 30 home runs and 29 stolen bases in 38 attempts … the Lamar pitching staff has a 5.03 cumulative ERA

Logan Berlof has been Lamar’s best bat in the last 10 games. He has 15 of his 34 hits on the year in the last 10 games and is hitting at a .429 clip. He’s scored 10 runs and driven in another eight during that time with three walks, two hits-by-pitch, two homers, and five strikeouts.

Robin Adames needs just 17 more hits to capture the LU career record. He has 240 entering Tuesday’s game. He also needs just 44 RBIs for the career RBI record and 14 more homers for the career home run record.

JC Correa has wowed at short and at the plate. The junior transfer from Alvin Community College has a .315 batting average, third on the team among qualifying batters, and leads the team in RBIs with 29. In his last 10 games he has seven RBIs with 17 hits. He’s homered five times this year and has reached base 18 games in a row.

Avery George is fourth in the Southland Conference and 66th in the NCAA this year with 55 hits so far. He was riding a 20-game hit streak from Feb. 16 through March 22 and tied the school record for the reached-base streak at 32 games, and had a 13-game hitting streak snapped at Texas on April 16 and has reached base 17 games in a row.

Jason Blanchard has been lights out in his last three starts. He’s held a 3.20 ERA through 19.2 innings with just 18 hits allowed and has struck out 18 while walking five. One of his best performances of the year came at ACU on April 19 when he threw 107 pitches in seven innings, tying his career-best with eight strikeouts. He allowed just three hits while walking two and his lone earned run came on a fly ball that rode the wind and turned into a solo homer.

Tonight LSU will be having Prostate Cancer Awareness Night, wearing blue batting helmets and with a first pitch by LSU SID Bill Franques, who is still recovering from his own battle with prostate cancer earlier this year.

Pitching Matchup

LSU – Fr. RH Landon Marceaux (1-2, 8.41 ERA, 20.1 IP, 11 BB, 18 SO)

Lamar – So. RH Jack Dallas (0-4, 6.04 ERA, 25.1 IP, 17 BB, 20 SO)