Baum Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.
Game 1: Thursday, 6 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 2: Friday, 8 p.m. (SEC Network)
Game 3: Saturday, 2 p.m. (SEC Network+)
LHP Jared Poché (5-0, 2.32 ERA) vs. RHP Dominic Taccolini (3-2, 3.58 ERA)
RHP Alex Lange (4-0, 1.45 ERA) vs. TBA
LSU leaves the friendly confines of Alex Box this weekend for its first true road series of the season. Crowds of more than 10,000 people are expected to fill Baum Stadium for the three games this weekend, and the Tigers will have their mettle tested in Fayetteville.
LSU has won three consecutive series against the Razorbacks, not dropping one since they were swept in 2011. Arkansas had a disappointing start to its conference schedule, losing all three to No. 5 Vanderbilt last weekend.
But the Razorbacks had a four-run lead entering the ninth inning of the first game before ultimately losing in 12. And Arkansas had a perfect game through seven innings in the finale, but dropped a 1-0 decision.
“That doesn’t mean they’re not a good club,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Their record is not indicative of their talent level. I can assure you of that.”
Arkansas is typically known for its depth of big-time arms on the pitching staff. That hasn’t necessarily been the case this year, as the Razorbacks support a team 4.11 ERA through 18 games.
Araknsas is happy to have Trey Killian back in action though. He sat out most of the non-conference season while struggling with tendonitis in his throwing elbow. He’s made two starts this season, going seven perfect innings against Vanderbilt last weekend.
He’ll pitch Saturday against LSU’s No. 3 starter.
“He’s one of the top pitchers in the country,” Mainieri said. “That’ll be a tough challenge for Jake Godfrey.”
Elsewhere on the staff, Dominic Taccolini will battle Jared Poché in the opener. Taccolini has 29 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings, allowing opponents to hit .228 against him. The Friday night starter is to be determined.
Mainieri cited Zach Jackson as the Razorbacks best arm in the bullpen with a 95-96 mph fastball and a hard curve. He has 24 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings but has also walked 17 batters.
The staff as a whole has issued 92 free passes in 157 2/3 innings.
“That’s very unusual for them. They’re usually strike zone pounders. We don’t take a lot of pitches, so I’m not sure that plays into our favor. We’ll go in there and hack away, hopefully drive some balls into the gap and out of the ball park.”
At the plate, Arkansas is led by 3B Bobby Wernes (.367, seven extra-base hits) and 2B Rick Nomura (.317). CF Andrew Benintendi, RF Tyler Spoon and LF Joe Serrano are all veteran players LSU fans should recognize.
HALE READY TO GO
Mainieri expects third baseman Conner Hale to be 100 percent healthy for this weekend. He sat out Tuesday’s game against Southern to rest a sore shoulder.
Mainieri said he’ll do some light throwing Wednesday night and will be ready to go for the weekend.
“The soreness is gone from his shoulder in everyday life,” Mainieri said. “It was bothering him just turning doorknobs. Now it’s feeling better from that standpoint.”
LSU would certainly like to have Hale’s bat back in the lineup. He had nine hits this past weekend and ranks second amongst regular starters with a .378 batting average and 19 RBI.
STICKING WITH FOSTER
Mainieri said he’ll stick with Jared Foster at second base this weekend. The converted outfielder committed a pair of errors against Southern on Tuesday, leading to a run.
He took over for Kramer Robertson at 2B starting last week, and Mainieri’s willing to give him more time to solidify himself at that position.
“I feel good about it,” Mainieri said. “Obviously he has room for improvement. All of his errors are correctable things. He just needs more reps, more practice, more coaching…He still made good plays. He’s a winner, and I think it’s right thing to do. I still do.”
Highly touted freshman Greg Deichmann made his collegiate debut Tuesday, but he won’t be with the team this weekend.
The SEC limits travel rosters to 27 players, so Deichmann will be one of six Tigers that stays home. The others are Jake Latz, Beau Jordan, Brady Domangue, Ryan May and Russell Reynolds.
But Deichmann could work his way into the mix now that he’s recovered from a stress fracture in his foot that sidelined him to this point. He pinch-hit against Southern but ground out in his lone plate appearance.
Mainieri said he’ll do some live hitting when the team returns Sunday, and the coaches will evaluate him further as time goes on.
“He had an unbelievable batting practice yesterday,” Mainieri said. “I just thought it was the right situation [to put him in]. I thought me might run into one and hit a solo homer for us. After he gets some live looks, we’ll see how ready he is and look at that option for next week.”