Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU second baseman Conner Hale scoops up a grounder during the game between LSU and Texas Southern on Sunday at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Coach Paul Mainieri is, for now, sticking with second baseman Conner Hale as his cleanup hitter.

So, Hale is sticking to that curveball machine.

Hale’s new spot in the lineup — he batted No. 9 the first three games — is taking some adjustment. Hale sees more off-speed pitches while batting fourth than ninth.

He’s been spending practice time on the machine that spits out curveballs.

“Being doing that a lot,” said Hale, a junior college freshman from Florida. “I try to just look for the fastball and when I get it, I try not to miss it.”

The cleanup spot — one manned last year by stars Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes — is somewhat of a sore spot through seven games.

LSU has used four different starters at the No. 4 spot in the batting lineup.

They’ve gone a combined 6 for 29 (.206). Jared Foster, Hale, Christian Ibarra and Chris Chinea have all started there.

“He’s been shuffling us around. I think we’re going to figure it out soon,” Ibarra said. “Conner Hale has been doing a decent job there.”

Hale went 3-for-5 in his first game batting fourth. He’s since 1 for 8 with no RBIs.

That’s no reason for any rash decisions, though. He’s set to bat No. 4 Tuesday when LSU (7-0) hosts Louisiana-Lafayette (7-1) at 6:30.

“I think Conner Hale’s going to drive in some runs,” Mainieri said. “I think Conner is going to settle into that four hole spot.”

Being No. 1

It’s not even March and LSU has accomplished one of its preseason goals — be No. 1.

Collegiate Baseball’s newest rankings released Monday has the Tigers as the top-ranked team in the nation.

“I’m really proud of it. It’s one of our goals to get a mid-season No. 1 ranking,” Mainieri said. “Obviously, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s not something you’re going to carry around for the rest of your life. I like our players to have the feeling of being the best team in the country. When you’re at LSU, that’s what you aspire to be.”

It’s the fifth time in Mainieri’s eight seasons that LSU has earned a No. 1 ranking.

The 2013 team was ranked No. 1 for one week in April and again in late May as the Tigers entered the NCAA Tournament. In 2012, the squad held a No. 1 ranking twice. The 2009 team, which won the national championship, was ranked No. 1 in seven different weeks, and the 2010 Tigers held a No. 1 ranking for three weeks.

In the other polls released Monday, the Tigers are No. 3 (National Baseball Writers), No. 7 (Baseball America) and No. 9 (Perfect Game).

Aware of the rain

The rain’s on its way.

There is a 40-50 percent chance of rain Tuesday evening at about the time of first pitch. Those chances increase the later it gets. According to, there is a 100 percent chance of rain at midnight.

By Monday afternoon, Mainieri had already spoken to UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux about makeup dates if Tuesday’s game were to get rained out.

LSU scheduled this game Tuesday to avoid conflicts with the men’s basketball game Wednesday.

Mainieri joked that a makeup game could be played Thursday, a match that might include LSU ace Aaron Nola throwing against Austin Robichaux.

“I think it’d be kind of fun to see Nola against Robichaux’s son,” a smiling Mainieri said.