The LSU Tigers (32-20, 11-16 SEC) head to College Station, Texas on Thursday to square off with the Texas A&M Aggies (28-25, 8-19 SEC) in one final SEC bout. This isn’t a normal end of May trip for the Tigers, however, as with just 11 conference wins a spot in the NCAA tournament is far from clinched. According to Baseball America’s latest Field of 64 projections, going into the last week of the regular season, they have LSU in the tourney as the “Last 4 Teams In,” with a caveat... work to be done against the Aggies, and in Hoover at the SEC Tournament. LSU does have the benefit of sporting the no. 2 strength of schedule in the country and a top 25 RPI (currently 22) per WarrenNolan.com, so the 14 possible SEC wins paired with that isn’t nearly as bad a resume as it would appear. But you’ve got to win ballgames this weekend, first.
1B Frizzell .344/.682/.444 12 2B, 18 HR, 47 RBI, 34 BB:41 K
OF Alejo .328/.438/.391 9 2B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 16 BB:46 K, 15-17 SB
UT Bost .302/.505/.342 10 2B, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 11 BB:34 K
The Aggies are lead by 1B Will Frizzell who not only leads the conference in total bases and slugging percentage, but has a whopping 18 homers on the year. The Aggies are hitting .263 as a team and have slugged a total of 64 homers. While that’s good for just 12th in the conference in batting, the Aggies are very successful on the basepaths, having stolen 61 bags in 72 attempts and will put pressure on the Tigers staff and Alex Milazzo when they get on base. The Aggies are 2nd in the league in strikeouts at the plate, so that bodes well for Marceaux, Labas, Hilliard and Co., as they desperately need not just the series victory, but ideally a sweep for resume purposes.
LH Saenz (5-6) 4.60 ERA, 76.1 IP, 21 BB, 96 K, .266 BAA
RH Dettmer (3-2) 4.36 ERA, 53.2 IP, 27 BB, 47 K, .268 BAA
LH Childress (3-4) 4.89 ERA, 49.2 IP, 23 BB, 62 K, .263 BAA
LH Jozwiak (2-3) 2.98 ERA, 7 SV, 57.1 IP, 14 BB, 75 K, .242 BAA
While Aggies skipper Rob Childress hasn’t set his starters aside from Thursday nights contest, it’s safe to say that LSU will see several lefties this weekend from A&M and they’ll be led by Dustin Saenz on Thursday. He’s no. 5 in the SEC in strikeouts with 96 and limits opponents to a .268 average against. He’ll be followed by a staff that pitches to the tune of 10.36 strikeouts per nine innings and an ERA of 4.53 which is good for 8th best in the SEC. Aggie closer, southpaw Chandler Jozwiak is second in the conference in saves and has struck out 75 batters in 57.1 innings of work. The Aggies pitching corps leads the league in batters struck out looking with 187, which is something to watch for this weekend with this Tigers lineup.
I’ve got no predictions or keys this week, because it’s no secret what’s riding on this weekend. LSU is comfortably in (though not yet clinched) the SEC tournament sitting at fifth in the west with three games to go and twelve teams making the cut. They cannot, however say the same about the NCAA tournament. The SEC is notorious for getting quite a few at-large bids, and this season figures to be no different. Strength of schedule (no. 2) and RPI (no. 22) for the Tigers are looking good for an at large bid, but that arbitrary conference win benchmark that everyone talks about of 14-16 on the resume is still very much questionable, as to get there the Tigers need to take all 3 this weekend. I’m definitely not saying 13-17 won’t get the Tigers in, but 14-16 takes an iota of pressure off the Tigers in Hoover.
Bottom line is each game is must win, everyone knows that. There’s no waving white flags or going to the bottom of the barrel and playing for tomorrow, because there’s not many tomorrows left. We’re 52 games into the season and have yet to see a complete 3 game series be put together by the Tigers, but they’ve been one out or one strike short on several occasions. If the Tigers can sweep the Ags and get into a regional, I wouldn’t want to match up with Landon Marceaux, AJ Labas and MaKhail Hilliard in my home regional, but 11 conference wins isn’t going to get you there. LSU has missed the NCAA tournament just twice in the last decade. There’s work to be done to avoid that for a third time, and the clock is running out. Its time for the young Tigers to earn their stripes, and that starts Thursday at 6 PM central and it will be broadcast on traditional ESPNU. It’ll be Landon Marceaux 6-4, 2.15 on the bump for the Tigers in what figures to be his last regular season start for the Purple and Gold, as the Tigers look to make a signature LSU late season run to keep their Omaha hopes alive.
Game 1 - 6pm, ESPNU
LSU – Jr. RH Landon Marceaux (6-4, 2.15 ERA, 79.2 IP, 16 BB, 97 SO)
TAMU – Sr. LH Dustin Saenz (5-6, 4.60 ERA, 76.1 IP, 21 BB, 96 SO)
Game 2 - 6:30pm, SECN+
LSU – TBA
TAMU – TBA
Game 3 - 2pm, SECN+
LSU – TBA
TAMU – TBA