Laird’s move to leadoff sparks Tigers’ offensive run _lowres

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU outfielder Mark Laird has been steady at leadoff recently even as the Tigers batting orader shuffles.

The LSU baseball team’s batting order this season has been put on shuffle.

No one player has been relegated to one spot — except Mark Laird — and even that’s changing.

Laird has batted leadoff for LSU over the past eight games, sliding up from the No. 2 to spark the Tigers (44-14-1) to their recent winning streak.

The sophomore right fielder made what appears to be a permanent move in the order when this wild run began with a 27-0 win over Northwestern State. LSU enters the Baton Rouge regional on a hitting tear, rolling up 110 hits in the past eight games.

Laird has led off every one. Since the move, he’s batting .342, has driven in seven runs and scored nine. Laird said he feels comfortable hitting first, a spot nestled in front of All-American shortstop Alex Bregman.

His goals in hitting No. 1: “Try to work the pitcher,” he said. “See every pitch he has so everybody in the dugout can see what all he has early in the game. Find any way to get on base, really.”

Laird’s move was unexpected. He batted second in 57 of 59 starts last season. Before the move, he had batted all but two times (both leadoff) in the No. 2 hole this season.

It was somewhat of a joke earlier in the year: While everyone else shuffled in the order, Laird rarely moved.

Eight of coach Paul Mainieri’s 10 everyday starters have batted in at least five different positions this year. Conner Hale and Jake Fraley have batted in seven different spots.

Lights out

Just a few weeks ago, it appeared that LSU and Louisiana-Lafayette would be paired together in a regional in Lafayette.

Just a week ago, it appeared that the two would be paired together in a super regional hosted by the Ragin’ Cajuns.

And now? The two teams won’t meet until the national championship series in Omaha, Nebraska, should both make it that far.

“Guess that would be great,” Mainieri said this week. “If we both make it Omaha the last person leaving Louisiana needs to turn off the lights because I’m afraid the entire state might be in Omaha that week.”

On an eight-game winning streak, LSU surged from a border NCAA regional host to the No. 8 national seed. UL-Lafayette got the No. 6 national seed in the tournament.

In Omaha, the Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 8 seeds are in one pod while the No. 2, 3, 6 and 7 are in another.

Aaron Fitt, a reporter for Baseball America, on Monday picked LSU and the Cajuns to both advance to the College World Series.

“For a long time, I was hoping we’d be hosting a regional, and I’d figure we’d be going to Lafayette for a super,” Mainieri admitted. “I was looking forward to that. Oh man, what an event that was going to be. Listen, I’d much prefer us be a national seed as well.”

Practice times

Each of the four teams involved in the Baton Rouge regional will practice Thursday in drills that are open to the public.

LSU will practice at 10-11:15 a.m. followed by Houston (11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.), Bryant (1-2:15 p.m.) and Southeastern Louisiana (2:30-3:45 p.m.).

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