Streaking LSU Tigers open busy week

The LSU baseball team has an unusually busy week this week, and given the way the Tigers have been playing, they’re just fine with that.

LSU has won eight in a row to improve to 26-2 for just the second time in school history. The Tigers are coming off their second consecutive sweep of a Southeastern Conference series, having won three straight at Missouri last weekend after doing the same at home against Auburn a week earlier.

But for the next two days, LSU will be focused on back-to-back nonconference games as it plays Alcorn State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Alex Box Stadium and Southern Mississippi in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Zephyr Field in Metairie.

“The more games, the better for us,” shortstop Alex Bregman said before practice Monday. “We’re excited. We just want to keep playing and keep jelling as a team. We’re really happy that we get to go out and play a few games this week.”

This is the second and final time this season that the Tigers play back-to-back midweek games. They beat Stephen F. Austin and Sacred Heart on March 5 and 6, respectively.

The game against Alcorn State marks the start of the second half of the 56-game regular season.

“(Monday was) Opening day for Major League Baseball,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “And we’re approaching it that this is opening day for the second half of our season.”

Mainieri said he told his players Monday that he’s never seen anything like LSU’s record-tying start.

“The nature of baseball doesn’t normally allow for a team to lose only two games out of 28,” Mainieri said. “It’s the breaks of the game. You’re naturally going to have some bad luck that’s going to make you lose some games. But we’ve overcome the bad breaks.”

First baseman Mason Katz, who was named Collegiate Baseball National and SEC Player of the Week after hitting four home runs and driving in 12 in four games last week, said the Tigers are more focused on the day-to-day results, but have taken notice of the big picture.

The only Tigers team to start better than 26-2 was the 1986 team, which went 28-2 before losing its third game. That team was the first one that former coach Skip Bertman took to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.

“Now that we’re close, it’s pretty interesting when you consider how long baseball has been played here, and all of Skip’s teams and coach Mainieri’s teams and (Smoke Laval’s) teams,” Katz said. “It’s a pretty cool thing we’re on right now, and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.”

The schedule will keep the Tigers pitchers busy. Freshman right-hander Russell Reynolds of Parkview Baptist has made three consecutive solid starts to grab the midweek role, and he’ll start against Alcorn.

Mainieri said he’s considering bringing back Cody Glenn, Sunday’s starter who didn’t get out of the second inning, to start and make a brief appearance Wednesday. Mainieri said he’s unsure who will start against Kentucky on Sunday, and how Reynolds and Glenn do between now and then will help determine that.

Katz, who’s hitting .419 for the season, hit .611 (11-for-18) last week and was named Player of the Week by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association. He had three homers and eight RBIs against Missouri. He leads the SEC with 13 homers — tying his team-leading total from last season — and 49 RBIs.

Katz is hitting .352 this season with four doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 32 RBIs. He leads the SEC in home runs, RBIs and total bases (58).

Bregman has a 16-game hit streak and has a hit in 21 of the past 22 games. He leads the team with a .442 batting average. He had a .556 on-base percentage against Missouri.

Sean McMullen went 3-for-7 with a walk in the leadoff position for the last two games against Missouri and seems to have taken over that position against right-handers. Mainieri said he’s still figuring out who will lead off against left-handers.

Mainieri said he will give some reserve players an opportunity to play the whole game against Alcorn State (6-26).

Note

LSU sophomore right-hander Aaron Nola (4-0) was named LSWA Pitcher of the Week after throwing 7.2 scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory at Missouri on Friday. Nola, who is second in the SEC with 55 strikeouts, held Missouri to five singles, walked one and struck out 10 — his most in an SEC game.