NOTEBOOK: Optimism rewarded with perfect week

Paul Mainieri never lost faith in his team and that was rewarded this past week as LSU reeled off four consecutive wins, including a sweep of Mississippi State. TSD has a loaded notebook as the Tigers look to ride this momentum, Aaron Nola receives an honor and Kyle Bouman continues to recover from injury.

Many may have marveled at Paul Mainieri's ability to stay optimistic during the team's recent stretch of poor play.

The more pessimistic fans scoffed at the idea of their being brighter days ahead. But even as his team lost four consecutive games and was mired in a hitting slump that brought the team average dangerously close to the Mendoza Line, Mainieri kept promising that things would turn around.

"My job is not to beat the players down," Mainieri said. "My job is to get the best out of the players. And you do that by building up their confidence. You have to challenge them of course, but when the kids are down in the dumps, that's when they need the most encouragement."

Sticking up for his players finally paid off this past week as the Tigers reeled off four consecutive wins including a weekend sweep of Mississippi State, capped off by a 17-run outburst on Sunday.

Now it's not so hard for Mainieri to pump the sunshine.

"Everybody's feeling a lot better today," Mainieri said. "But we'll caution the players that what we did this weekend has no effect on this Wednesday or playing Arkansas next weekend."

After a midweek tilt with Lamar on Wednesday, LSU plays host to a Razorbacks team coming off an impressive series victory against South Carolina in which they surrendered just three runs the entire weekend. For that reason, Mainieri's making sure his team approaches the coming week with a reasonable sense of caution.

"There's never any let up in this league," Mainieri said. "If you think your victories are going to carry into the next weekend, you're sadly mistaken."


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NOLA CAN ‘KNOCK A GNAT OFF A BULL'


LSU ace Aaron Nola was named SEC Pitcher of the Week on Monday for the third this season, splitting the honor with Arkansas' Jalen Beeks and Chris Oliver.

Nola earned his sixth win of the season Friday against Mississippi State, tossing eight scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts on only two hits. When asked Monday what makes Nola so clutch, Mainieri took on the role of proud parent, heaping praise on his junior pitcher.

Mainieri rattled off names of big league pitchers he's coached in the past — Louis Coleman, Brad Lidge, Aaron Heilman, Kevin Gausman among others. Then he said Nola's "right up there with any pitcher" he's ever been associated with. He said Nola's command is so impeccable he could "knock a gnat off a bull" from the pitcher's mound.

Mainieri encouraged everyone to relish these last few months of Nola's LSU career.

"Honestly I thank God everyday I got to have this kid for three years, and I'm going to enjoy every minute the rest of this year," Mainieri said. "He's enriched my life having the opportunity to have this kid on my team."


Kyle Bouman's still dealing with the effects of a sprained ankle

BOUMAN ON THE MEND


Kyle Bouman made his first start Sunday in more than three weeks, working three scoreless innings before allowing a run in the fourth. Mainieri said Bouman's sprained ankle was feeling sore Monday, still making him questionable for this coming weekend.

"His ankle's much more sore today than it was yesterday," Mainieri said. "But not so sore that we're overly concerned about it. It's not like he's back to square one."

Mainieri hopes Bouman will be able to throw a bullpen session this week in preparation for a weekend start. Mainieri isn't going to pencil him back into the rotation though until they know for sure that he's back to full health.

"We'll have to see," Mainieri said. "I won't announce him as the [Sunday] pitcher because we'll have to see how the week goes and how he recovers."

LAGNIAPPE


---Henri Faucheux will get the start for LSU on Wednesday when the Tigers face Lamar. This will mark the first start of his LSU career since transferring from Shelton State Community College. He has a 2.51 ERA in 14 1/3 innings this season with 11 strikeouts and nine walks.

"Our feeling is that he probably gives us the best chance to get off to a good start," Mainieri said. "I wouldn't expect him to go a long distance. If he's doing well enough, we'd be happy to get three innings out of him."

---How's this for an offensive turnaround? A week after going 1-for-17 in a four-game stretch, Sean McMullen batted at a .583 clip this week with five RBI and four extra-base hits. As a team, LSU hit .309 in the last four games with five different players batting at least .375.

"Sometimes you do well and sometimes you don't," Mainieri said. "It's just the nature of the game."

---LSU received a boost in the polls after a 4-0 week. The Tigers moved up four spots in Baseball America to No. 16 and three spots to No. 11 in Perfect Game. LSU moved up one spot in each of the Collegiate Baseball (No. 15) and USA Today Coaches' (No. 8) polls. LSU moved up two spots to No. 8 in the NCBWA rankings.

The Tigers now have a streak of 43 consecutive weeks being ranked in the Top 10 of at least one major poll.

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