LSU is off to one of the best starts in school history in 2013, with a 23-2 overall record, and a 5-1 conference record. They have also won 17 out of their last 18 games.
After sweeping Auburn during week two of SEC play and then defeating Tulane during the week, LSU will now travel to take on Missouri (9-12, 2-4) as the Bayou Bengals try to continue their run through the conference slate against a newcomer to the SEC.
Missouri has been off to a relatively slow start in 2013, mainly due to a string of bad weather that they have experienced. With several games already being postponed or cancelled on their schedule, Missouri will look to get back on the right track against LSU this weekend.
One of the biggest concerns for LSU heading into this weekend is the weather that they could potentially face in Columbia, Mo. Playing in cold weather is not something that LSU is used to and senior Raph Rhymes explained that it could be tough for the Tigers to adjust to it.
"I packed very warm for this weekend," said Rhymes. "We had good production in a cold game on Tuesday at Tulane. It is going to be cold up there and we may not be able to hit many homeruns, but we just have to keep our approach."
LSU's Paul Mainieri is very excited about the opportunity to take on another set of Tigers from the SEC. More than anything else, Mainieri is looking forward to going up against a very close friend of his in Missouri coach Tim Jamieson, someone Mainieri has known since college.
The chance to have a school on the schedule that hasn't played LSU in over two decades is also exciting for the Tigers.
"There are a lot of things to be excited about," said Mainieri. It's always fun to experience new things and this weekend will be no different. It is our first trip up there and it will be our first matchup with Missouri as an SEC member."
While their record may not show it, Missouri has a team that is loaded with talent. Mainieri is expecting a weekend full of close games in what should be a very competitive conference series.
"We are going up there to do a job," said Mainieri. "We are going to face a very underrated Missouri team, I can assure you. They have had an unprecedented streak of bad weather that has prevented them from getting on a roll."
On offense, Missouri is led by junior Dylan Kelly who is hitting .368 with six doubles and 13 RBI in 2013. Senior Dane Opel is the only other Missouri starter to be hitting over .300, as he has a .338 average with two homeruns and 11 RBI. As a team, Missouri is hitting .250 on the season.
Not much will change with regards to the LSU rotation this weekend. Sophomore Aaron Nola will face off against Missouri on Friday night, with junior Ryan Eades on Saturday and sophomore Cody Glenn on Sunday. Here are the full pitching matchups for the weekend.
LSU – So. Aaron Nola (3-0, 3.29 ERA, 38.1 IP, 45 SO)
MU – Jr. Rob Zastryzny(1-4, 4.05 ERA, 33.1 IP, 31 SO)
LSU – Jr. Ryan Eades (5-0, 1.63 ERA, 38.2 IP, 40 SO)
MU – So. Brett Graves (0-2, 2.64 ERA, 30.2 IP, 17 SO)
LSU – So. Cody Glenn (4-1, 2.27 ERA, 35.2 IP, 16 SO)
MU – Fr. Alec Rash (2-1, 0.53 ERA, 17 IP, 17 SO)
Even thought their statistics may not show it, the Missouri pitching staff has a lot of talent. Their starting rotation is one thing that has Mainieri concerned heading into the series.
"We are facing a very tough lefty on Friday night," said Mainieri. "On Sunday we are facing off against a freshman that was the highest drafted high school player not to sign with a professional team last year. We definitely have challenges this weekend."
The LSU lineup appears to be up for the challenge that they may face from the Missouri pitching staff this weekend. LSU is led at the plate by freshman Alex Bregman. The talented newcomer is hitting .443 on the season with 23 RBI. Bregman also collected his fifth straight three-hit game in LSU's midweek contest against Tulane.
Senior Mason Katz has also been on a tear recently. Katz now has his average up to .396 and has hit ten homeruns so far in 2013. He has also driven in an eye-popping 41 runs.
The rest of the LSU lineup has certainly proven that they can be dominant as LSU is hitting .313 as a team with 20 total homeruns. If anyone is up for the challenge that good pitching presents, it's the LSU offense.
There will be a couple of new faces in different spots of the LSU lineup this weekend. Mainieri told the media earlier this week that freshman Andrew Stevenson would be the new center fielder, a move he hopes will be permanent. LSU is also expected to see a new face in the leadoff position, as Sean McMullen will likely handle that role for most of the weekend as a designated hitter.
The first pitch of the series will happen on Friday night at 6 p.m. The two teams will also face off at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Series Primer: Missouri
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