Waiting in the wings

LSU junior utility man Alex Edward stands on call for whenever he's needed.

At some point before Alex Edward’s LSU baseball career winds down, he may well have a defined set role for the Tigers.

 

Until then – if it ever happens – the junior utility man has no qualms about letting things play out like they have for most of his two-plus seasons.

 

Edward and 8th-ranked LSU (16-4) are back on the diamond at 5 p.m. Tuesday when Southern comes across town to play at Alex Box Stadium for the first time since the 2009 NCAA Regional. The game was moved from Wednesday night in anticipation of bad weather.

LSU outfielder Alex Edward: After 2 hits against Mississippi State on Sunday, he's 3-for-9 this season

 

And Edward may or may not be penciled into the starting lineup when Paul Mainieri scrawls it out. Either way, the former Parkview Baptist star will take his spot wherever needed.

 

Since he first broke into the starting lineup as a third baseman in 2010, Edward has also played left, right field and first base – starting for stretches at all four spots. He ended last season on a hot streak, hitting .362 in the final 14 games, which mirrored how he wound up his freshman season when he batted .357 in seven postseason games.

 

Entering the season, Edward had a .294 career average in 77 games (60 starts). That didn’t guarantee him a spot coming into this season, though, because of some shifting of veterans – JaCoby Jones from second base to center field and Raph Rhymes from DH to the outfield.

 

Despite all those changes, Edward was slated to start the season opener in right field, but he aggravated a hamstring injury that had pestered him throughout pre-season camp as the Tigers warmed up in the outfield prior to playing Air Force on Feb. 17.

 

He was slated to start again 11 days later, but the hamstring wasn’t ready. Then when Edward was on deck for a start in the second game against Notre Dame last week, he was one of 16 players who contracted a stomach bug.

 

After recovering from the stomach bug, Edward finally got his first two starts of the season, in part because of his pre-season progress and in part because freshman Jared Foster has been mired in a long slump. Edward stepped in against Northwestern State and collected his first hit of the season and then went 2-for-4 against Mississippi State on Sunday in a 7-1 loss.

 

“Really it’s just all about coming out and working hard every,” Edward said. “The last few years, I’ve learned that you’re going to get opportunities, but if you press for it, you’re not going to be ready. So I just try to enjoy every game, whether I’m out there or I’m on the bench cheering for the other guys. Then once you get the opportunity, you’re relaxed and can try to make the most of it and have fun.”

 

Could Edward’s recent success lead to more time?

 

Mainieri wasn’t ready to commit to that Monday, saying the left field position Foster has held most of the last three weeks remains a work in progress.

 

But Mainieri praised Edward for his readiness and embracing a role that’s not an easy one for everyone to accept.

 

“That’s a good role for Alex,” Mainieri said. “He’s a veteran player that’s had a lot of experience, and when we put him in there he can provide a real spark for our team.”

 

Freshman Evan Powell, like Edward and Foster, a right-handed swinger, will get a start somewhere against Southern Tuesday to see what he can do.

 

“We’re going to turn every stone to give ourselves the best chance to create some offense,” Mainieri said.

 

Sooner or later, though, the odds are Edward will be in the lineup at some point and for a while if the past is an indicator. Unlike former LSU role players like Buzzy Haydel, Nick Pontiff and even current teammate Grant Dozar, Edward has shown a knack for stepping in and consistently contributing.

 

Likewise, Edward has shown the ability to step out of the lineup and not miss a beat if he sits for extended periods and then gets called back into action again.

 

“I feel like I’ve matured a lot since I’ve been here, and being around guys like Buzzy and Grant teaches you that you have to be ready to step in and make something whenever you get your chance,” Edward said.

 

“The tradition of LSU brings that out and it’s something we have to pass on to the younger guys because not all of them are going to be starters the whole time they’re here.”

 

For Edward to stay in the lineup, he will have to produce – likely from near the bottom of the batting order – and avoid strikeouts, which are one of Mainieri’s major pet peeves.

 

Though he’s not as athletic as Foster, Edward is a more experienced outfielder, and his defense will have to be steady.

 

And in a pinch, he also has to be ready to fill in at first base should or Mainieri feel like moving to Mason Katz out to right field would help the team.

 

In other words, Edward will have to do what he’s done for two seasons and 20 games.

 

‘I’m always going to stay ready because I know I can help the team whenever Coach needs me to,” Edward said.

 

‘Locked in’

LSU catcher Ty Ross was a defensive force in the Mississippi State series, throwing out three would-be base stealers in the first game.

 

Not only did that blunt the Bulldogs offense in a game the Tigers won 3-2 in 10 innings, it seemed to make State rethink its approach on the base paths the rest of the series. Instead of straight steals, Bulldogs’ coach John Cohen called for more hit-and-runs.

Ty Ross

 

“I was locked in that night,” said Ross, who has thrown 8-of-18 runners this season. “Kevin (Gausman) was giving me a chance to throw guys out because he was holding guys well and changing his tempo. And I know if I put the ball on the bag, my infielders are going to give me a chance.”

 

Ross also slid up the batting order to the five-hole in the last two games. He’s hitting .310 and has driven in 15 runs, which is tied for third on the team.

 

“That definitely motivates me because it means Coach has faith in me and feels like I can come through in RBI situations,” Ross said. “I like to be in those big situations.”

 

In the polls

Although the Tigers dropped the final game of the series against Mississippi State, they still moved up in all four major polls released Monday.

 

LSU is up to No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball, 11th by Baseball America, 12th by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and 13th by the USA Today/ESPN.

 

The Tigers’ RPI also got a boost. Boyd’s World has LSU at No. 21, while Warren Nolan pegs the Tigers 23rd.

 

Around the horn

  • LSU has replaced the rained-out game against Notre Dame from last Monday with a home game against Louisiana College on April 3. The Division III Wildcats are currently 9-8.
  • Southern snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 7-1 triumph against Prairie View A&M on Sunday. Before that, the Jaguars had scratched out only 11 runs in their five previous games, three times scoring only one.
  • Southern comes in hitting only. 253 as a team and only two regulars are above .257 – sophomore outfielder/first baseman Brian Rowry, who is batting at a .381 clip with a team-high 8 doubles, and infielder Derrick Hopkins is at .372 and leads the Jags with 14 RBIs.
  • SU has a Major League Baseball connection with Vince Coleman Jr. and Cameron McGriff on the roster. Coleman Jr.’s father is the longtime outfielder with the same name and McGriff’s father is Terry McGriff, who spent eight seasons in the big leagues. Fred McGriff is an uncle.

ON DECK: Southern at LSU

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