The Tigers came in as the No. 2 national seed in the latest projections released Wednesday by D1Baseball.com. LSU has risen in each weekly update, falling outside the top eight in the first release, but four consecutive SEC series wins have the Tigers in contention for the No. 1 spot.
“We’re in perfect position,” said LSU shortstop Alex Bregman. “We’ve set ourselves up pretty well. We just have to finish strong, and it starts Thursday.”
LSU heads to Starkville, Miss., for a three-game series starting Thursday against Mississippi State, currently the last place team in the SEC West. The Tigers enter the weekend No. 1 in all six major human polls and No. 5 according to the NCAA RPI.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri will be sure to remind his team how quickly that can change though.
“Where we are right now, we’re in great shape,” Mainieri said. “But if we go to Starkville and don’t play well and do the same thing against Missouri and South Carolina, those predictions are all out the window.”
With three weekends left in the SEC schedule, there are plenty of traps remaining that could cost LSU valuable positioning for postseason play. But LSU’s success to this point has them in an enviable position.
The Tigers are looking down on their competition, and that means they’re in control.
“I’d rather be on top instead of trying to fight our way in and worry about what other teams are doing,” Bregman said. “We’re controlling our own destiny.”
ZARDON MAKES THE TRIP
Danny Zardon doesn’t have to spend this weekend away from his teammates.
Two weeks after not making the trip to Georgia, Zardon will travel with LSU to Mississippi State. Part of that has to do with Kramer Robertson being sidelined with an arm injury.
But Zardon has also earned more playing time, and the backup infielder may even start a game this weekend.
Zardon had the game-winning hit last Thursday against Texas A&M after coming off the bench as a pinch-hitter. He started Tuesday’s game against Alcorn State and drove in three runs.
Mississippi State’s scheduled to start a left-handed pitcher on the mound Thursday, and that may mean right-handed Zardon gets the nod as LSU’s designated hitter.
“He becomes an option,” Mainieri said. “I’m not 100 percent sure if that’s what we’ll do tomorrow night, but it’s a consideration right now.”
In addition to Robertson, these players are not on LSU’s travel roster this weekend: Greg Deichmann, Jake Latz, Ryan May, Brady Domangue and Kyle Bouman.
LATZ STILL RUSTY
Freshman pitcher Jake Latz threw his first bullpen session in more than two months Tuesday. He’s still working his way back from a preseason arm injury that’s sidelined him this entire season.
Latz said earlier this week he’s hopeful to still make his debut this year and have a role for the postseason. But Mainieri said Wednesday the former 11th-round draft pick has room for improvement.
“While he was throwing, he felt good,” Mainieri said. “But he was rusty. You could see his command wasn’t great. So he’s got a ways to go before you’d have confidence in him to pitch in a game.”
Mainieri said Latz might throw another bullpen session Saturday while the team is still in Starkville.