LSU and the rest of the SEC enters the final weekend of conference play Thursday, three games remaining to decide the final pecking order in the overall standings. The Tigers enter their three-game series with Auburn sixth in the SEC, but depending on how the weekend goes, they could finish as high as second or as low as 10th.
Paul Mainieri and his crew would prefer the higher end of that spectrum.
"They know what's at stake," Mainieri said. "There's pressure, but there's always pressure at LSU. This is nothing new to me or our kids...We can still accomplish all these significant goals."
Pitching Matchups/Start Times
Thursday: 6 p.m. (No TV)
Jared Poché (7-3, 2.55 ERA) vs. Dillon Ortman (9-3, 2.01)
Friday: 6 p.m. (No TV)
Aaron Nola (8-1, 1.43) vs. Michael O'Neal (3-5, 3.82)
Saturday: 1 p.m. (Fox Sports Network)
TBA vs. TBA
For that to happen, they'll need a positive result against the 13th place Plainsmen. Two of LSU's biggest goals — a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament and hosting an NCAA Regional — remain within reach. The Tigers could even win the SEC West if the cards fall right.
LSU currently stands third in the division behind Ole Miss and Mississippi State, two teams LSU went a combined 5-1 against this season. The Tigers will need to win at least two more games this weekend than the Rebels (who play at Texas A&M) and at least one more than the Bulldogs (who play at Alabama).
LSU must also win at least as many games as the Tide, who sit 0.5 game behind LSU after their canceled finale last Sunday, in order to stay above them in the standings.
Click here for more on LSU's postseason scenarios.
"We're just going to go there, play one game at a time and try to win every game," Mainieri said. "If we do, you've got to feel that other things will happen in the league that will be advantageous to us."
But LSU won't be the only team on the field at Plainsman Park this weekend with something to play for. Auburn is still fighting for a place in the SEC Tournament, currently sitting 0.5 game behind 12th place Georgia and a full game behind 11th place Tennessee.
But Mainieri said Auburn's place in the standings doesn't tell the whole story behind Sunny Golloway's first year at the helm of that program. The rival Tigers aren't terrible statistically. Their team batting average is only four points lower than that of LSU's, and their team ERA of 3.09 ranks them seventh in the SEC.
Auburn is just 3-6 though in one-run SEC games, and therein lies the problem.
"I tell you every year that the one-run games will define your season," Mainieri said. "And they've got an under-.500 record in one-run games. But that doesn't mean their talent's not good."
BREAKING DOWN THE AUBURN TIGERS
Auburn actually got off to a hot start in conference play, winning its first two series at home against Texas A&M and on the road at Tennessee. But things went downhill from there. Auburn lost each of its next four series to Missouri, Ole Miss, Alabama and South Carolina, losing nine games over that 12-game stretch.
The Tigers did rebound with a series win against Arkansas, but they've dropped each of their last two series, including a sweep at home by Mississippi State, heading into this weekend's showdown with LSU.
Auburn received bad news earlier this week when the coaches learned one of their best pitchers was done for the season. Freshman sensation Keegan Thompson suffered a fractured bone in his right foot after a line drive ricocheted off his ankle last weekend against Kentucky. Thompson led the team with 73 strikeouts and a 2.01 ERA, and he'd also thrown two complete games this year.
Auburn still does have Dillon Ortman (9-3, 2.01 ERA) to pitch the series opener Thursday. Michael O'Neal (3-5, 3.82) will battle Aaron Nola on Friday, and both teams will have TBA for Saturday's finale.
Auburn has three everyday players in its starting lineup hitting over .300. They're paced by 2B Jordan Ebert, whose .356 batting average ranks him second in the conference. Also keep an eye on 3B Damek Tomscha. He's ranks second on the team with a .325 batting average and leads the everyday starters with a .464 slugging percentage and .452 on-base percentage.