Following a series win last weekend against SEC West foe Arkansas, No. 3 LSU (35-3, 13-2) will travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Crimson Tide of Alabama (23-16, 8-7). The history of rivalry between the two schools is very well known in other sports, however, things have been a little different in the past for baseball.
The series between the two has big implications for LSU this weekend. If the Tigers can win the series, it will put them securely in the lead of the SEC West. A series loss could open the door for a team like Arkansas to creep up on LSU in the standings. Coach Paul Mainieri is expecting a great challenge for LSU this weekend, not only because they are playing another SEC program, but also because of the atmosphere that the Tigers will have to deal with throughout the series.
"Anytime you put Alabama and LSU on the same field or court, I think the intensity will be pretty high," said Mainieri. "I have the greatest respect for Alabama. It's also spring football weekend over there. There's going to be a lot of enthusiasm on their campus and I'm sure some of that will carry into the baseball stadium."
"We have to be prepared for that. It's going to be a good challenge for us, just like when you play anyone in this league on the road. One thing that I know about my team is that they know how to handle themselves in this type of environment and they love the challenge."
Senor Mason Katz believes he knows what to expect out of the Alabama crowd, especially with football being in the air this weekend.
"It's a huge series for us with the back-to-back road trips," said Katz. "We are just looking to go in there and stay on the same streak that we have been on all season. There's going to be more of a football crowd there, which means the rivalry will be bigger."
While their record may not show it, Mainieri believes that Alabama is a very dangerous team that will pose some problems for LSU. One area of focus for Mainieri has been the offensive aspect of the Crimson Tide.
Alabama doesn't have great offensive statistical numbers, as they are hitting .250 as a team. They are led at the plate by freshman outfielder Georgie Salem who is hitting .289 with three doubles and 18 RBI in 2013.
"Statistically, their offensive numbers aren't stellar, but their best players are their young players," said Mainieri. "They have some outstanding freshmen. Salem is a very good player, as is their shortstop."
The Crimson Tide have struggled at scoring runs throughout the year, something that they will need to do this weekend against a potent LSU lineup. Entering the series, LSU is hitting .309 as a team.
The Tigers are led at the plate by freshman Alex Bregman with a .424 batting average, four homeruns, and 38 RBI. Senior Mason Katz is also having a season to remember so far in 2013 with a .420 average to go along with 13 homeruns and 60 RBI. Overall, offensive production will be key for both sides this weekend.
While their numbers may not show it, Mainieri believes that Alabama has a very productive starting rotation.
"Alabama has some very good athletes on their team, as well as a very good starting rotation and a solid closer," said Mainieri. "They also have a pretty stout bullpen. I think they legitimately have a good pitching staff."
As a whole, the Alabama pitching staff has compiled a 3.00 ERA, as compared to a 2.48 team ERA for LSU. Sunday starter Spencer Turnbull leads the starting rotation for the Crimson Tide. Turnbull, a sophomore, has compiled a record of 4-1 and an ERA of 2.30. The other two starters for the weekend are senior Charley Sullivan and sophomore Justin Kamplain. Here is the full breakdown of pitching matchups for the weekend.
LSU – So. RHP Aaron Nola (6-0, 2.47 ERA, 62.0 IP, 72 SO)
UA – Sr. RHP Charley Sullivan (3-3, 3.06 ERA, 53.0 IP, 48 SO)
LSU – Jr. RHP Ryan Eades (7-1, 1.97 ERA, 59.1 IP, 56 SO)
UA – So. LHP Justin Kamplain (0-0, 4.07 ERA, 24.1 IP, 20 SO)
LSU – TBA
UA – So. RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-1, 2.30 ERA, 54.2 IP, 29 SO)
It can be seen that LSU has not yet decided who will start the game for the Tigers on Sunday. This comes after Cody Glenn was injured last weekend at Arkansas. The left-hander suffered a knee bruise and the coaching staff is hoping to bring him along slowly. While Mainieri didn't rule Glenn out for this weekend, he explained that the coaching staff would take it one game at a time and decide after Saturday who will start the final game of the series.
"I think Cody Glenn has made a lot of progress, but he is still a little sore," said Mainieri. "I don't know what's going to happen when he tries to go several innings and it tightens up. He hasn't thrown a bullpen this week, but he will do that tonight at practice. We are going to see how he feels after that."
"I'm not sure what we are going to do yet. I am sure that it will be TBA until after Saturday. I can tell you that we aren't going to hold anyone back. We are going to play it one game at a time."
Series Primer: Alabama
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