Contagious? Whatever, LSU bats alive

Everyone wants a reason for the LSU baseball team’s recent hot-hitting ways during this eight-game win streak.

Is it the warm weather? Is it because school is out? Is it the relaxing way coach Paul Mainieri handles the postseason?

Maybe there’s no right answer. Maybe it’s just that old cliché, the baseball myth that’s been around as long as bat and ball.

Hitting is contagious.

“I always somewhat believed it,” catcher Tyler Moore said. “But it’s starting to be set in stone now after these couple of weeks. It might be a real thing.”

The myth proven? Not quite yet.

But the Tigers have caught the hitting bug, and no player is worried about why.

LSU (44-14-1) enters the four-team Baton Rouge Regional on an offensive outburst that hasn’t been seen in the program in more than four years. The Tigers have had 110 hits and scored 87 runs in eight games, a streak that includes double-digit hit outings in seven of the eight.

An LSU team hasn’t had so many hits in eight games since the 2010 team had 114 in April of that year.

Why, oh why, is this happening now?

After all, this is the same LSU team that earlier this season had the second-worst hitting skid — get this — over eight games in Mainieri’s tenure.

From March 12-March 25, LSU had 53 hits and scored 29 runs. That seems like a long way off now.

“We’ve made a pretty big jump here the last couple of weeks,” Mainieri said.

“I think we’re picking out good pitches to hit, and people have been comfortable at the plate,” right fielder Mark Laird said.

The reasons aren’t as important as the results.

The Tigers swept Auburn, winning the three games by a combined 25 runs, the most in a road SEC series in Mainieri’s previous seven years. And they won via the run rule twice at the SEC tournament, a first at the event since Vanderbilt did it in 2006.

It all resulted in a No. 8 national seed. The path to Omaha, Nebraska, will go through Alex Box Stadium — and LSU’s sizzling bats.

They’ll get a test early from Southeastern Louisiana ace Andro Cutura (10-2, 1.72), who is expected to start at 2 p.m. Friday against the Tigers.

But this team has battered solid pitchers recently.

They beat Auburn’s ace. They scorched Jay Miller of Vanderbilt, the Commodores’ one-time No. 2 hurler, and they did enough against Florida’s Karsten Whitson, a top-10 selection in the MLB draft a few years ago.

When LSU was mired in that eight-game hitting skid in March, players were asked about their lack of hitting so much that Mainieri banned shortstop Alex Bregman from speaking with reporters.

Now, they’re asked the opposite: How are you hitting so well?

The answer just might lie in that age-old cliché.

LSU’s surge began after pelting 23 hits and winning by the largest margin in school history in a 27-0 win over Northwestern State on May 13.

Maybe that’s when LSU players caught the hitting bug.

So is hitting really contagious?

Is there a different feeling when a player steps up to the plate after teammates knocked around the ball?

In one word, yes.

“It’s just this unknown confidence booster,” said Moore, who has 19 RBIs in the eight-game stretch. “The guy before you just did it so, hey, I can do it too. You don’t really know what it is, but it kind of gives you this good feeling, and you go up there more confident than you would have.”

“It kind of makes you more relaxed to see somebody have success off somebody,” Laird said. “You’re like, ‘All right, if he has success than why can’t everybody else have success?’”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/linedrives/.