After a hushed discussion with his coach inside the LSU dugout, Kramer Robertson — the junior who’s now consistently hailed the leader of this young Tigers baseball team — emerged to bear the brunt of the Tigers’ 7-1 loss to Tulane on Tuesday where the team played the first two innings as poorly as Paul Mainieri could recall in his 10-year LSU tenure.
“I have to be better,” Robertson said. “I set the tone at the beginning of the game and I didn’t help out our struggling pitchers. I need to do that. I will do that and I’ll be better.”
The obligation, Mainieri said, falls to more than just Robertson.
Speaking Thursday before the team departed for its three-game series against Auburn at Plainsman Park, Mainieri said it’s imperative that other players — some of whom he said are putting undue pressure on themselves — play loose and carefree.
“It’s not a one-man team, but each player can only do what they’re capable of doing and they have to do it to the best of their abilities,” Mainieri said. “They can’t do that without confidence. Pressing and putting additional pressure on themselves to think they have to do something extraordinary, that doesn’t usually work. The more relaxed and confident you can make players, the better they perform in this sport.”
So the team embarked on its typical Wednesday workout, laughing and joking its way through an intense two-hour session.
“We didn’t stress, we weren’t uptight. It wasn’t a funeral,” Robertson said with a smile. “We’re not going to go up there (to Auburn) and press, not going to go and be nervous and feel like every game’s a must-win game.”
Still, a tone needs to be set by more than just one veteran.
Friday night starter Alex Lange is happy to oblige.
Lange, who was moved to the Friday night role prior to SEC play and scheduled to throw the team’s opening game last Thursday against Texas A&M before inclement weather shuffled the schedule, was scratched from his start last season against Auburn with forearm tightness.
He’ll face an Auburn lineup hovering near the top of the SEC in every offensive category, led by Anferenee Grier and Joshua Palacios at the top of its order, both batting over .400 on a team that’s hitting .326 — second in the conference behind Texas A&M.
Though Lange didn’t face Auburn last season, he’s quite familiar with Grier, with whom he crossed paths on the travel ball circuit. Robertson and Saturday starter Jared Poche also played with Grier — who leads the conference in hits, home runs, runs scored and total bases — on offseason teams and Mainieri coached him on Team USA.
“He’s a good dude,” Lange said of Grier, who had three doubles and a triple in last season’s series at Alex Box Stadium.
“The way we start out Friday, if we can get a W on Friday, it sets the tone on the entire weekend,” the righty added. “Just going to go out there, attack the zone, pound the strike zone, get early outs, try to go deep in the game and save the bullpen as much as possible.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome