Weekend was huge success for LSU

Fresh off an impressive sweep of No. 12 South Carolina, the LSU baseball team enters the last leg of the season on a five-game winning streak with hopes of making the post-season for the first time in three years.

In addition to the Gamecocks, the Tigers defeated in-state rivals McNeese State and Tulane for their longest winning streak since conference play began in mid-March. The streak is also currently the longest among SEC programs.

“That’s huge for us,” said LSU pitcher Ryan Verdugo. “It really helps the morale of this team because we all know we can do this now. We’ve been close and everyone knew we were just waiting for it to click.”

The win streak came after a heartbreaking series against Georgia. In games one and two against the Bulldogs, the Tigers suffered close losses when they missed out on chances to take a lead in the late innings.

Game three was even more painful, as the team squandered a seven-run lead and settled for a 10-10 tie.

“More breaks went our way this weekend than last weekend,” Verdugo said. “That’s baseball. You can’t let it get to you. You’ve got to keep coming to the park and every day is a new day.”

A big difference between the two series was left fielder Jared Mitchell.

Mitchell entered this past weekend with just 17 starts in 42 games, and did not appear in the Georgia series.

In his three starts against the Gamecocks, Mitchell batted in four runs, hitting two solo home runs and a two-RBI single to finish the series at a .364 clip.

“It feels good to get back in the groove and swing the bat well,” Mitchell said. “It feels great [to get a sweep] at this point in the season when we needed it.”

After such a strong weekend, it will be interesting to see if LSU coach Paul Mainieri keeps Mitchell in the lineup.

Verdugo is another player who may have earned a bigger role after this weekend’s series because after Sunday’s win against South Carolina the left hander improved his record to 7-2 on the season.

That schedule does not get any easier if LSU is to make the SEC tournament. The Tigers currently sit at third in the SEC West standings, but is ranked behind all six teams from the SEC East.

With three SEC series left in the regular season, the Tigers have their work cut out for them.

“If you win the last three series of the year you finish .500 in the league,” Mainieri said. “Finishing .500 typically gets you into the tournament. If we had split the series [against South Carolina] we’re still in the same position we started in a week ago.”

The fight for a berth in the SEC tournament starts again this weekend against Kentucky.

The Wildcats started 2008 with a 19-0 record, and are an impressive 22-1 in nonconference play. However, their 11-10 SEC record has them tied for fourth in the SEC East despite owning the best overall winning percentage in the conference.

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