As LSU boarded a bus bound for Auburn, its representatives all took a crack at finding an answer that has consistently evaded LSU this season.
The questions took varying forms, but they essentially boiled down to this: Why have the Tigers struggled so mightily on the road this season?
If only there were one way to answer that. Where to start with the reasons for LSU’s 3-13 record away from Alex Box Stadium? How about the basics.
The lineup in those 16 road games has hit .230, 89 points worse than it has hit at home.
The pitching staff in those 16 road games has compiled an unsightly 6.48 ERA, much more difficult to stomach than the 3.73 mark it has put together in 37 home games.
It has been a slog with no one thing to pinpoint as the cause. It started with a couple of hard-fought losses to in-state schools then morphed into some truly ugly losses before closing, most recently, with a tough series loss to a top-five Ole Miss team.
LSU packed 10 days worth of clothing for a trip it hopes lasts three days.
Winning on the road is never an easy task. Everything is different, from the daily routine to the pregame schedule to the music played during warmups, not to mention the usually hostile environment.
That is why Paul Mainieri had this to say about playing and winning on the road, in general: “You can’t play as good as the other team and expect to win on the road, you have to play better than them, you have to do something extraordinary.”
Extraordinary has been missing from LSU’s road résumé this season. But, it is never too late to start mixing some in.
“If there’s a time to start, it’s now,” said senior first baseman Austin Bain. “We really need this road series.”
LSU’s NCAA tournament hopes may actually depend on how it fares in this one series.
When it takes the field for Thursday’s game against Auburn, LSU will do so with the No. 46 RPI — a number that has been harmed by its poor play on the road — and a 14-13 record in Southeastern Conference play.
A series win on the road should significantly improve LSU’s RPI standing and would give the Tigers a winning record in the league.
Sixteen SEC wins should be enough to vault LSU into the NCAA tournament, regardless of what happens in next week’s SEC tournament.
Getting in, it appears, is all that is on LSU’s mind at this time.
“At this point of the season, we’re just fighting for our lives every game we play,” said sophomore right-hander Zack Hess. “We’re taking that mindset into this weekend.”
LSU’s players and coaches did their best to offer a reason for the struggles. The team is young, they said. As poor as the record is, they reminded the reporters with recording devices and cameras that they have been close to breaking through.
But they also did not seem interested in dredging up the past, as tough as it has been on them this season. After all, LSU was energized by winning six games of an eight-game home stand, including a series against a top-five Arkansas club.
The players and coaches, essentially, responded to the question everyone was asking with a question of their own: What better time than now?
“I think everyone is pretty excited to get back on the road and prove ourselves, show that we are a contender on the road and solidify ourselves as a postseason contender,” Hess said.
The time for pointing out reasons or excuses has passed. Mainieri said it takes a special attitude to get the job done on the road, and that is not part of it.
“Like I told our guys (Wednesday), it’s now or never,” Mainieri said. “It’s time to put the big boy pants on.”