Baton Rouge, La. — Alex Box Stadium
SERIES SCHEDULE (TELEVISION)
GAME 1: Thursday, April 23, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
GAME 2: Friday, April 24, 7 p.m. (SEC Network Alternate)
GAME 3: Saturday, April 25, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
RHP Ryan Hendrix (3-0, 1.40 ERA) vs. RHP Alex Lange (7-0, 1.40)
TBA vs. RHP Austin Bain (1-1, 3.07)
Sure this weekend’s showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Texas A&M doesn’t carry the same national hype that it did when the Tigers faced Alabama in 2011. But there’s plenty on the line when the top two college baseball teams face off in Alex Box Stadium.
LSU and Texas A&M enter the weekend in a tie for first place in the SEC, a half-game ahead of Florida, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Either team would love to add some cushion to the rest of the pack in the chase for the regular season title.
But LSU coach Paul Mainieri wants to make sure his team’s emotions stay in check. While these games may resemble a Super Regional, Mainieri said they’ll treat it just like every other time they take the field.
“Nothing changes,” he said. “We approach it all the same. Because of that, our players have a tendency to play very well in the biggest games. Our players don’t have to try any harder, because they try as hard as they can every day.”
Mainieri also wants to remind you LSU has nine SEC games left after this weekend, and those will be just as important in determining the champion of the league.
“We could have a good weekend and still not win the SEC, because we have to get the job done in the next nine games,” Mainieri said. “The bigger games are down the road, but how they perform in these kind of games during the season is indicative of how they’ll perform later on…
“When you get in the NCAA Tournament, you win or the season ends. That’s not the way it is this weekend. But at the same time, these games are important. We have a goal to win the SEC West and regular season title. The results of these games will go a long way in determining that.”
TEXAS A&M SCOUTING REPORT
Texas A&M has been one of the biggest stories this year. The Aggies won their first 24 games and have carried that momentum deep into the SEC schedule. Texas A&M has won all but one of its conference series, though that one lost came last weekend against Arkansas.
These two teams dominate most every statistical category in the SEC. LSU and A&M rank first and second in batting average, slugging percentage and team ERA. The Aggies also lead the conference in on-base percentage (.411), RBI (281) and home runs (47).
The Aggies have six players in the regular lineup batting better than .300. They’re led at the plate by outfielder Nick Banks, who has a conference-best .407 batting average. Cleanup man Taylor Logan has provided the power with 10 homers this year. The 2-3-4 hitters in the A&M lineup have accounted for 102 RBI.
There’s also a name familiar to LSU fans in that A&M batting order. Michael Barash began his career in Baton Rouge before transferring to a junior college to find better playing time. He’s since landed at A&M and has served as the starting catcher this season.
LSU will face Grayson Long on the mound in Game 1 of the series. He boasts a 2.97 ERA in SEC games this season, the winner in five of his six conference starts. He’s not an overpowering pitcher with a fastball that sits about 89-91 mph. He does stay low in the zone though and can consistently throw his changeup and slider for strikes.
The Aggies plan to pitch Ryan Hendrix in Game 2, which will be only his second start of the season. His first of the season came last week against Arkansas, and he allowed 3 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work. He’s made six other appearances out of the bullpen against SEC teams, boasting a 2.30 ERA in those games.
The Game 3 starter is still to be decided. The Aggies started Matt Kent in that role through most of the season, but he recorded only one out last week while surrendering six runs, so A&M appears to be turning in a different direction.
The Aggies may decide to rely heavily on their bullpen to close out the series. A&M has three relievers with at least 14 appearances this season and an ERA below 1.00. The reliever with the most outings — Ty Schlottmann — only has a 1.69 ERA.