LSU baseball notes: ‘Challenging’ week ahead, Paul Mainieri says

Paul Mainieri is preparing for a long and abnormal week, but his rotation won’t change.

The LSU baseball team will spend more than seven hours in a bus Tuesday, visit sick children Wednesday and begin a three-game series Thursday at a consensus top-20 team, Ole Miss.

And that doesn’t count Tuesday’s opponent, Southern Miss, a program with a rich baseball tradition.

“Very challenging week,” Mainieri said Sunday.

The Tigers (27-9-1) play the Golden Eagles (21-16) in the Wally Pontiff Classic at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Zephyr Field in Metairie. The team then will drive through the night, on a bus, to Memphis, Tenn.

Players and coaches will visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital on Wednesday before driving to Oxford, about 80 miles away, that night to practice.

Ace Aaron Nola likely will pitch in Thursday’s game against the Rebels (29-9), a game set for an ESPNU broadcast. Freshman Jared Poché is set to start Friday’s game.

Nola will pitch on six days’ rest for a second straight week.

“He did it a couple of weeks ago, coming back on a short rest,” Mainieri said. “I was hesitant to do it, but I ended up doing it and he pitched great. I talked to him today, and he feels great, so I think that’s what we’re going to do.”

Mainieri said he hasn’t decided on a starter for Tuesday but noted it will be a “staff job.”

Top-of-the-order struggles

That two-week hitting skid last month is long gone, but the Tigers still struggled over the weekend to tally hits.

It came from the most unusual places, too: the top half of the lineup.

Sean McMullen, Mark Laird, Kade Scivicque, Alex Bregman and Conner Hale combined for a .115 average against Arkansas’ highly touted pitching staff.

Hale had the worst of it: He was 0-for-10. Bregman and Scivicque had two hits, and Laird and McMullen each had one.

LSU left seven on base in Sunday’s loss, including two apiece in the third, fifth and seventh innings.

Tightly bunched

Halfway through the SEC season, just four wins separate the league leader and the bottom team.

LSU is in fourth overall in the standings and is third in the SEC West.

Alabama leads the conference at 10-5, with Ole Miss and Florida at 9-6. Tennessee, Missouri and Auburn sit at the bottom of the league standings at 6-9.

“It’s hard to even predict how many wins is going to win the league this year,” Mainieri said. “Doesn’t seem like it’s going to get to 20.”

Pontiff Classic on TV

LSU’s game Tuesday against Southern Miss will be televised on CST, the school announced Sunday.

The telecast will feature Lyn Rollins handling play-by-play duties and former LSU pitcher Ronnie Rantz providing color commentary.

Attendance numbers

The cumulative attendance at Alex Box Stadium fell below 20,000 for a second straight three-game SEC series.

Against Arkansas, LSU drew 18,199 over three games. Last weekend’s series against Mississippi State drew 15,553.