LSU earned a consensus No. 1 ranking in all six of the major polls Monday, setting the stage for a showdown this weekend between the nation’s top two teams. No. 2 Texas A&M comes to Baton Rouge for a three-game series starting Thursday, which could help decide the conference champion and seeding in the NCAA Tournament.
But with a game Tuesday night against Tulane, you won’t hear the Tigers talking about the weekend until the Green Wave have left the building.
“They’ll be focused,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We take it one game at a time. It’s such a cliché, but it’s truthfully the way we approach things…The game can be so humbling. The success can be so fleeting that you just have to take on the most immediate challenge.”
Good luck getting everyone else to do that. The hype was already in full effect Monday with no signs of slowing down.
“It does add a little bit of spice to the weekend series,” Mainieri said. “That’s for sure.”
LSU’s played a part in three other meetings between top two teams under Mainieri.
The No. 2 Tigers beat No. 1 Vanderbilt for the 2013 SEC Tournament title. In 2009, No. 2 LSU took a series on the road against No. 1 Georgia. Three years later, the No. 1 Tigers dropped two games against No. 2 Kentucky in Lexington.
But this will be the first time No. 1 has faced No. 2 in Alex Box Stadium since at least 2007.
“Everyone knows. Everyone’s excited about this weekend,” Alex Bregman said. “Baton Rouge is buzzing, but we can’t worry about it. We’re focused solely on Tulane.”
Tulane (24-15) at No. 1 LSU (34-6)
WHEN/WHERE: 6:30 p.m.; Alex Box Stadium
WATCH: SEC Network+
RHP Patrick Duester (4-3, 1.85 ERA) vs. RHP Austin Bain (0-1, 3.29)
LSU got the upper hand when these two teams met last month. The Tigers went to Turchin Stadium and came away with a 13-7 victory. LSU had a lot of success at the plate against Patrick Duester. The Tigers had 19 hits that night and scored five runs off the same starting pitcher they’ll face Tuesday.
“It was more indicative of us having good swings against him than him not being a good pitcher,” Mainieri said. “But there isn’t any carryover. Every game is an entity to its own.”
Tulane is 7-7 since losing to LSU and are coming off a series win against UCF this past weekend.
Austin Bain will start for LSU, but will only throw a maximum of two innings. He missed his scheduled start against Georgia because the series finale got rained out. So Mainieri wants to get him back on the mound for a tuneup.
Bain will be one of many pitchers to appear for the Tigers. LSU used only two relievers this past weekend, so a lot of guys need the work.
“We’ve got to make up for it by getting a lot of guys out there and making sure they’re sharp for the weekend,” Mainieri said.
CHINEA STITCHED UP, READY TO GO
Chris Chinea expects to start Tuesday despite taking a 93 mph fastball to the face Saturday.
He was actually in the starting lineup the following day, but the game got rained out. Chinea did receive four stitches on his chin and will wear a face guard attached to his helmet for added protection.
That’s a small price to pay for what could’ve been much worse.
“I was in shock,” Chinea said of his immediate reaction to getting hit. “I looked up and saw blood everywhere. So I was freaking out at the moment. I was just hoping for the best…I got lucky, and I’m happy for that.”
Chinea hasn’t faced live pitching since, but he doesn’t expect there to be any nerves the first time he does.
“I’m just going to put my nose in there,” he said. “I’ve got this guard now, so I’ll be ready to play. I was ready to play on Sunday, and I’ll be ready to play tomorrow.”