The LSU baseball team has not been swept in any of its seven Southeastern Conference series, but perhaps an even better indication of the Tigers’ consistency is their 12-0 mark this season in midweek games.
In building a résumé that includes a top-five national ranking in all three major polls and a share of the overall SEC lead, LSU has taken care of its business against the list of Tuesday and Wednesday opponents dominated by in-state foes hoping to catch the Tigers off-guard.
“Like I’ve told the players from the first day I arrived here, when you pull that LSU jersey over your head, you have a responsibility to a university and to a state to go out there and represent it the right way,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I don’t care whether you’re playing a weekend series in the SEC or a midweek game against an in-state school, or if you’re playing in the College World Series, you should approach it the same way.”
Ranked fourth in two of the national polls and fifth in the other, LSU (35-10) awaits a visit by Tulane (29-15) looking to build on a 21-3 mark in nonconference action overall.
The Tigers beat the Green Wave behind Aaron Nola’s stellar pitching March 6 at Turchin Stadium. They go for the season sweep at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alex Box Stadium, having won seven of the past nine against their longtime rival.
It is in some ways the start of rivalry week for LSU, which visits Ole Miss this weekend for a three-game series.
Tulane will be without veteran coach Rick Jones, whose sister, Renee, died at her home in North Carolina over the weekend after a battle with brain cancer. Associate head coach Chad Sutter will fill in for Jones on Tuesday night.
“My condolences go out to Rick and his family. I’m sorry that he won’t be here,” Mainieri said. “Obviously there are things that take priority over a baseball game. So my thoughts and prayers are with Rick and his family.”
Tulane enters Alex Box Stadium fresh off taking two of three at East Carolina in Conference USA action.
Former Parkview Baptist standout Alex Byo, a junior right-hander, will get his latest shot at the hometown team when he starts against LSU for the third time in three years.
Byo went 7.2 innings in the 5-0 loss earlier this season, giving up four of the five runs on 10 hits and keeping Tulane in the game the best he could. But he was upstaged by Nola, who surrendered only three hits in eight innings before the third-largest crowd in Turchin Stadium history.
Byo (6-3, 3.59 ERA) leads Tulane with 10 starts and ranks second on the staff in innings pitched.
LSU counters this time with sophomore right-hander Joe Broussard, who got the start Wednesday against Southeastern Louisiana and picked up the win. Broussard (4-0, 4.03 ERA) is making his sixth start.
The Tigers took two of three against Georgia over the weekend, but missed a chance for the sweep Sunday when Raph Rhymes struck out with the bases loaded in the ninth.
Rhymes entered his final plate appearance of the weekend batting .503 and had fanned only seven times all season.
“I think the only thing Raph was guilty of yesterday is being overanxious,” Mainieri said. “He knew if he walked, we were still down by one run. He wanted to get a base hit.”
Mainieri said he isn’t concerned about the nation’s top hitter putting behind Sunday’s missed opportunity. Nor is he worried about his team putting behind its first loss at home since the opening weekend of SEC play.
“As we’re fighting for significant things here in the postseason, hopefully we can get a host site and maybe even a national seed,” Mainieri said. “These midweek games become very vital in that résumé.”
Byo is one of three former Parkview players on the Tulane roster, joining shortstop Brennan Middleton and pitcher Andrew Reeves. Alex Massey, D.J. Ponder and Alex Facundus, three more Tulane pitchers, are Catholic High alumni. ... LSU junior Mason Katz was recently selected the Greater New Orleans Amateur Athlete of the Month for March. He beat out Louisiana-Lafayette softball star Christi Orgeron and John Curtis girls’ basketball standout Derreyal Youngblood for the award. ... Tulane leads Conference USA with a .313 team batting average. Seven players who have started 33 or more games for Tulane are batting .306 or better.
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