LSU has won three straight games, including a pair of midweek wins over Southern and Centenary. The Tigers blanked the Gents, 6-0, on Wednesday night, marking the first shutout recorded by LSU since a 12-0 win over Northwestern State on April 11, 2006.
LSU is 3-6 in conference play after dropping two of three games at Florida last weekend. The Tigers are just one game out of first place in the SEC Western Division. Alabama, Auburn and Ole Miss are tied for first in the West with a 4-5 league mark.
“This is obviously a big series for us; it’s a home series and an opportunity to get ourselves back in the hunt,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Fortunately for us, the Western Division is very balanced, and we’re only one game out of first place.
“We’re feeling pretty good about ourselves right now. We’re extremely excited about this weekend’s series, and we’re looking forward to some great baseball at Alex Box Stadium. I have a sense that we’re ready to advance to the next level.”
Mainieri said junior left-hander Blake Martin (1-1, 3.90 ERA) will start Friday’s game on the mound for LSU. Martin had a strong outing last Friday at Florida, limiting the Gators to two runs on four hits in six innings with no walks and five strikeouts.
Mainieri said he would announce the Tigers’ Saturday and Sunday starting pitchers as the series progresses.
Alabama coach Jim Wells will counter this weekend with right-hander Austin Hyatt (2-2, 4.12 ERA) on Friday, right-hander Austin Graham (2-1, 4.15 ERA) on Saturday and right-hander Robert Phares (1-2, 4.30 ERA) on Sunday.
LSU junior first baseman Matt Clark leads the Tigers with a .378 (37-for-98) average, 13 homers and 28 RBI. Junior Derek Helenihi, who is starting at third base while Michael Hollander recovers from a hamstring injury, is hitting .359 (28-for-78) with six doubles, three triples, 13 RBI and 15 runs.
Freshman centerfielder Leon Landry is the Tigers’ hottest hitter, batting .520 (13-for-25) in the Tigers’ last seven games with one double, three triples, one homer, four RBI and eight runs. Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu is batting .478 (11-for-23) over the last seven games with three RBI and six runs.
LSU is hitting .301 as a team with 35 home runs on the year. The Tigers’ pitching staff has a 4.02 ERA with 221 strikeouts and 89 walks in 246.1 innings.
Alabama is led at the plate by freshman infielder Josh Rutledge, who is hitting .370 (44-for-19) with three doubles, one triple, 10 RBI, 28 runs and seven stolen bases. Sophomore infielder Brandon May is batting .340 (35-for-103) with six doubles, two homers and 21 RBI.
Junior catcher Alex Avila has team-highs of eight homers and 27 RBI for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama is hitting .293 as a team with 31 homers. The Tide’s pitching staff has a 4.65 ERA and has recorded 220 strikeouts and 133 walks in 253.1 innings.
LSU has won six of the eight SEC regular-season series with Alabama this decade, including a 2-1 series victory last year in Tuscaloosa. The Tigers have a 20-8 overall mark against Alabama over the past eight seasons (2000-07).