Road to recovery

With an SEC showdown on the horizon at South Carolina, the 4th-ranked Tigers seek a return to form after disappointing weekend against Vanderbilt.

A fresh start wasn’t expected to be on the menu for the LSU baseball team as the final week of the regular season arrived, but that’s exactly where the Tigers find themselves.

 

Coming off an unexpected series loss to Vanderbilt, 4th-ranked LSU (39-13) closes out the mid-week slate at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when Nicholls State (25-25) visits Alex Box Stadium.

 

And while a stumble against the Commodores is more of a wakeup call than erasure of a successful season, it was troublesome enough for the Tigers to take a step back Monday and refocus on what lies ahead.

 

And that road begins with the goal of doing something no LSU team has ever done: Going through the mid-week schedule with a loss.

 

More important than that, though, is the aim at simply getting back on track for a weekend showdown against South Carolina with at least a share of the SEC championship on the line.

 

Two players typify the Tigers’ focus Tuesday: Starting pitcher Kurt McCune and left fielder Raph Rhymes.

 

McCune will make his first start since April 5 at Florida when he got the nod after Aaron Nola’s right shoulder became sore in a start against Arkansas. McCune won that game vs. the Gators, allowing 3 hits and 2 runs in 5 innings.

 

Since then, though, he has logged 8.2 innings in eight appearances. The former weekend starter has given up a run in three of his last four outings and has struggled to distinguish himself in a key role out of a bullpen that has been a strength.

 

Understandably, getting a start Tuesday with the possibility of logging at least 3 innings appeals to McCune.

 

“I’m super excited,” McCune said Monday. “I just want to go out there and throw innings and want to see if I can get my offspeed stuff over the plate and do things that are going to help us in the postseason.

 

“It’s exciting to know I’m going to go a few innings instead of just a few batters.”

 

LSU coach Paul Mainieri didn’t necessarily deem the start an audition, saying he wants McCune and Joe Broussard each to log three innings against the Colonels.

 

“(McCune) didn’t get a chance to pitch this past weekend, so I want to get him back out there on the mound,” Mainieri said. “I want to get him a good three of innings work and get us off to a good start hopefully and be ready for the weekend.”

 

While that’s true for Tuesday and the weekend ahead, with the postseason looming – and a need for a fourth starter in extended tournament play – McCune knows what Tuesday’s outing could mean.

 

Winning the SEC Tournament requires at least four victories and a regional could also require a fourth game. The math is easy.

 

“This is a big game for me to show (Mainieri) I’ve still got it and I can help out,” McCune said.

 

Raph Rhymes: Average dipped to .472 after a 2-for-12 weekend against Vandy

Nobody will question whether Rhymes still has it, despite his first real slump of the season.

 

The nation’s top hitter, Rhymes was 2-for-12 against Vanderbilt with a pair of infield singles the only damage he inflicted. He was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, twice grounding into double plays.

 

The only real victim of Rhymes’ struggles was his flowing mane, which got a trim after he went 0-for-4 in Saturday’s 6-3 setback.

 

“It had to go,” Rhymes said with a smile Monday. “I was tired of it. I was looking for one reason to cut it and we lost and I was like it’s gone.”

 

What isn’t gone is Rhymes’ sense of humor – or reason.

 

Though he was above .500 for a two-week stretch, Rhymes (still hitting .478) fully grasps how unforgiving baseball can be.

 

What isn’t gone is Rhymes’ sense of humor – or reason.

 

That’s the game; that’s baseball,” he said of his struggles vs. Vandy. “I can’t expect to come out here every weekend and hit 500. It’s funny how humbling this game can be. I’m keeping a positive attitude. That stuff is going to happen.”


Whether hitting .500 is attainable or not this season, Rhymes said he won’t change his approach or start pressing.

 

And there’s no reason to with the junior poised to win a national batting championship.

 

“I was seeing the ball well, I had good BP all weekend and I felt good at the plate,” he said. “A few balls I hit got up in the wind and their defense made some great plays. All that stuff evens out.”

 

Rhymes and the LSU offense will get their shot against Nicholls senior left-hander Mike Wisecarver, who also started the first game between the teams last season.

 

No matter who the Colonels throw, there’s a sense of urgency for the Tigers to revive their offense after managing only 21 hits and 9 runs against Vanderbilt.

 

“We have to learn from what happened and be better with situational hitting and hitting in the clutch,” Mason Katz said. “We’ve been pretty good at it all season, but we weren’t against Vandy.”


ON DECK: Nicholls State at LSU

Ross returns, but has to wait

VIDEO: McCune excited to see the mound

VIDEO: Mainieri on series loss

Snikeris is in the spotlight now


Tiger Blitz Top Stories

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