The LSU baseball team is concluding the regular season with the most wins in school history with a series against Ole Miss that begins Thursday night.
On Friday night, the 1993 Tigers team that won the College World Series will be honored before the game, and Skip Bertman Field will formally be dedicated in honor of LSU’s legendary coach.
On Saturday, this year’s seniors will be honored before their final regular-season home game.
In other words, there’s a whole lot of stuff going on in addition to the baseball series.
“Our players are really good at being able to focus on playing baseball at the appropriate time,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said before practice Wednesday. “They don’t get distracted very easily.”
That’s evidenced by the 46-7 record and 21-7 Southeastern Conference record. If LSU wins two out of three in this series, it will break the school record for a 30-game SEC mark.
The Tigers clinched the SEC West at Texas A&M last weekend, and they’re locked in as the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament next week.
“A goal of ours was to win the West, and we were able to do that. And being able to do that with a weekend to go is really nice,” first baseman Mason Katz said. “We get to come out here and have fun without having to worry about seedings and standings and things like that.
“We know where we are, and we get to come out here and have fun. But then again, nobody on this team likes to lose. We’re going to come out here and try to win every game. We seniors don’t want to have anything happen to where we don’t win on our last regular-season weekend in The Box ever.”
The seniors won’t have to say goodbye to The Box on Saturday. The Tigers will almost certainly be a national seed for the NCAA Tournament, meaning they will play a regional at home, and if they advance, play a super regional at home.
Nonetheless, the clock is ticking for Katz; outfielder Raph Rhymes; infielders Alex Edward and Casey Yocom; and pitchers Chris Cotton, Joey Bourgeois, Brent Bonvillain and Kevin Berry.
“It’s really sad that it’s coming to end,” Katz said. “It’s flying by. I wish I could go back and start again. I don’t know how many more games I have here, and for sure, I’m going to make them count.”
Freshman shortstop Alex Bregman seems to be as determined to see the seniors have a successful final weekend.
An hour after the Tigers broke the regular-season wins record with an 11-2 victory against UNO on Tuesday night, Bregman was at his position fielding grounders from an equipment manager.
“I just wanted to take some ground balls and get better at shortstop,” Bregman said. “Down the stretch run, we can’t have a shortstop that’s making errors. I want to keep getting better.”
Sophomore Cody Glenn will make his third consecutive series-opening start for LSU. Against Texas A&M and Florida, he allowed just one earned run in 6.2 innings in each start.
Tigers ace Aaron Nola will not pitch this weekend as he rests for his start in LSU’s SEC tournament opener next Wednesday.
“Cody’s going to start Game 2 at the SEC Tournament,” Mainieri said. “If Nola gets beat it, will be Cody’s responsibility to keep us alive. That’s a lot of confidence we’re showing in him.
“We have lot of confidence in him, and he continues to improve. He has become a legitimate pitcher in SEC. And if he continues to win in the SEC, he can beat anybody in the country.”
Kurt McCune will start in Nola’s place Friday night before Ryan Eades takes his normal turn Saturday.
“I’m not expecting Kurt to go out there and pitch seven innings,” Mainieri said. “I’ll be happy if Kurt gives us three good ones and then we use the rest of the bullpen. If he’s pitching very effectively, I may extend him beyond three. I’m not going with a plan on restricting him, and I’m not going in with some expectations either.”
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco has connections to the weekend festivities, having played for Bertman and coached under him, being a part of the ’93 staff.
“The best thing for us to do is look at the game we’re playing and try to win as many pitches as we can and have a good result,” Bianco said. “We’ve been really good at times, and at times we haven’t been as good as we should be.
“We’ve been inconsistent. This is an important series for us against arguably the best team in the country at their ballpark with everything that’s going. That’s a lot for us to handle as the road team.”