Moved to the No. 3 hole, LSU’s shortstop is comfortable bouncing around in the lineup
Nothing has changed for Alex Bregman. He is still pitched the same.
For the first time in his college career, the LSU shortstop spent back-to-back games batting below the No. 3 hole, but he’s seeing the same pitches.
Bregman batted fifth in Tuesday’s win over Tulane and sixth in the Saturday win at Ole Miss. He had never batted below third in his LSU career.
“I don’t care. I know I can hit,” Bregman said. “And if I hit ninth or if I hit first or if I hit second, if I hit fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, I’m still going to get pitched the same way. Teams know they don’t want me to beat them.”
Bregman is batting .286 this season and says he’s “had to adjust” to being pitched around.
LSU (31-10-1, 10-7-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts Tennessee (25-14, 7-11 SEC) in a three-game series beginning Friday, and coach Paul Mainieri has decided on just one spot in his batting order: Andrew Stevenson will remain in the leadoff spot.
Stevenson, normally batting in the 6-8 hole, batted leadoff the last two games. Sean McMullen, who’s hit leadoff 31 times this season, was moved to the No. 4 hole and is likely to remain there.
The Tigers have used three different No. 3 hitters the last three games: Bregman, Jake Fraley and Conner Hale.
“I don’t really like doing that. Wish we had one three-hole hitter,” Mainieri said. “Going into this year thought this would be the least of my concerns.”
Bregman dipped into a skid in mid-to-late March. At one point, he was 4 for 41. He hasn’t come out of it completely. In three games at Ole Miss, he went 3 for 13 with four strikeouts and no RBIs.
He had two hits in the win over Tulane.
“Alex has shown some good signs,” Mainieri said. “I don’t know if I’ll put him back there or continue to try something else. See what feeling moves me.”
Even in the No. 5 hole in the win Tuesday, Bregman was pitched around, he said. He was walked to load the bases in the third inning to bring up Fraley, who singled to drive in a pair.
“I don’t care. They can pitch me however they want to pitch me,” Bregman said. “I knew I wasn’t going to see a single (pitch). It was an unintentional intentional walk from the get-go. I’m not worried about. I’m going to stick to my approach and go from there.”
Fraley will continue to see time in LSU’s lineup. And that could cause issues.
Fraley, a left-handed batter, has started six of the last 13 games and, Mainieri suggested this week that his starts could increase.
“I think Jake deserves to play on a pretty regular basis,” Mainieri said.
What does that mean for the Tigers’ everyday lineup? In an ordinate amount of left-handed batters.
Starters Mark Laird, Stevenson and Sean McMullen are lefty batters. Tennessee is set to start a lefty Saturday.
“That’s what I’ve got to come to grips with — am I willing to bat four left-handed batters against a left-handed pitcher?” Mainieri said. “I’m going to go back and look at (Fraley’s) at-bats against left-handed pitchers.”
Demi Mainieri, Mainieri’s father and a former long-time junior college coach, is in town for three weeks staying with the LSU coach. ... LSU and Tennessee haven’t met on the baseball field since the Tigers swept the Vols in 2011 under then-coach Todd Raleigh. Dave Serrano, the former Cal State Fullerton coach, is in his third year at UT. The Vols have gone 23-51 in the SEC under him and have not advanced to an NCAA regional.