Baton Rouge --- The hole is deep enough.
The LSU baseball team (22-12, 3-9) welcomes Auburn to Alex Box Stadium this weekend for a series between two teams seeking to climb up the Southeastern Conference standings – and in a hurry.
Auburn (18-14, 5-7) lost seven of their first nine conference games before getting a sweep against Kentucky last weekend in Lexington.
LSU, who was swept at the hands of Arkansas last weekend, split a pair of midweek home games against sub-.500 teams.
This weekend’s set appears most important for LSU, citing their recent record on the road - 1-16 dating back to last season.
“Obviously we’ve dug ourselves a huge hole, so every series is big,” said junior Mikie Mahtook. “We got walked off twice [at Arkansas]. Coming back [home], we get to bat last. We get the last say on how the game is going to go.”
Kurt McCune (5-1, 1.80 ERA) gets the first say on how Friday’s game will go. The freshman has been outstanding in every start during his rookie campaign.
“The last thing you want to do is have expectations of a kid being perfect,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “I certainly realize that there is a chance that Kurt McCune is going to have an off game. I just pray it isn’t any time soon.”
McCune suffered his first collegiate loss last Friday, a 2-0 decision against Arkansas.
LSU’s clutch hitting shortcomings in the first three innings against the Razorbacks set the tone for a weekend where they left 21 men on base.
“We can’t give away at bats this weekend,” said junior Tyler Hanover. “Our pitchers are doing a great job, and we definitely could have helped them out a little more than we have.”
Hanover and the Tiger bats will see left hander Zach Blatt on Friday night in his first career start. The Auburn southpaw tossed five and one-third innings of relief on Friday against Kentucky, allowing six hits and three runs.
Led by Casey McElroy, the Auburn bats rank third in the SEC (.318). The Tiger shortstop is hitting at a .381 clip and has belted five homeruns. Slugger Tony Caldwell blasted three home runs in a single game against Kentucky last weekend.
Following his strongest outing of the year, freshman Kevin Gausman gets the ball on Saturday. The fireballer hurled eight shutout innings in LSU’s 4-3 loss in Fayetteville on Saturday.
Sunday’s starter will be senior Ben Alsup.
On the contrary, Auburn’s Saturday and Sunday pitchers have not been determined.
Right hander Derek Varnadore (4-1, 3.75 ERA) , who leads the team in innings pitched, strikeouts, and batting average against, will not be traveling with the team this weekend.
Friday’s game is a 7 p.m. start. Saturday’s game will begin at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday’s series finale begins at 1 p.m.