Big series at the box

LSU (23-14, 6-9 SEC) resumes Southeastern Conference action at 7 p.m. tonight when the Tigers play host to Georgia (25-12, 12-3) in Alex Box Stadium.

LSU has split a pair of non-conference games this week, as the Tigers defeated Nicholls State 11-2 on Tuesday before dropping a 6-5 decision at New Orleans on Wednesday.


The Tigers are tied for second place in the SEC West with Auburn and Alabama, three games behind first-place Ole Miss. Georgia, which has won eight straight league games, is in first place in both the SEC East and in the overall conference standings.


“This is obviously a very big series for us here in Baton Rouge, “said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We’ve played three of our first five SEC series on the road, and now we’ll play two in a row at home. This is the crossroads of our season in the SEC -- we need to go out there and play well and match up with an outstanding Georgia ball club.


“When I look at Georgia, I see a team that is strong in every aspect of the game. We know we have a tremendous challenge in front of us, but our kids will be ready to play and it should be an exciting weekend.”


Mainieri said junior left-hander Blake Martin (1-2, 4.91 ERA) will start Friday’s game on the mound for LSU. Junior right-hander Jordan Brown (3-0, 4.28 ERA) will be the Tigers’ starter on Saturday, and Mainieri will announce his Sunday starter as the series progresses.


Georgia coach David Perno will counter this weekend with junior right-hander Trevor Holder (4-2, 2.06 ERA) on Friday, junior right-hander Stephen Dodson (5-1, 3.97 ERA) on Saturday and junior left-hander Nathan Moreau (1-1, 4.03 ERA) on Sunday.


LSU junior rightfielder Derek Helenihi leads the Tigers with a .359 (42-for-117) batting average, and he has collected nine doubles, three triples, one homer and 20 RBI. Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu is hitting .331 (43-for-130) with three doubles, four homers and 24 RBI.


Junior first baseman Matt Clark is batting .317 (39-for-123), and he leads the Tigers in home runs (13). Clark is tied with leftfielder Blake Dean in the team lead for RBI with 29.


Georgia is led at the plate by junior shortstop Gordon Beckham, who is hitting .430 (64-for-149) with 12 doubles, one triple, 43 RBI and an SEC-best 17 home runs. Sophomore first baseman Rich Poythress is batting .394 (54-for-137) with 10 doubles, nine homers and 37 RBI.


Georgia is hitting .297 as a team with 49 homers, the third-highest HR total in the SEC. The Bulldogs’ pitching staff has a 3.65 ERA – third-best in the SEC -- and has recorded 291 strikeouts and 128 walks in 330 innings.


The series this weekend marks the first meeting between LSU and Georgia since 2005, when the Tigers swept three games from the Bulldogs in Athens.


LSU, which leads the overall series, 51-15-1, has won four straight SEC series over Georgia. The Bulldogs’ last series victory over the Tigers came in 2001, when UGA won two of three games in Athens.

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