Lately, LSU baseball has been a lot like Louisiana weather this time of year: Don’t like the current state of things? Wait a week or three.
One more: It’s hot.
Just three Mondays ago, LSU was coming off a difficult series loss in Lexington, Kentucky, that left it a middling 10-8 in league play. Questions were being raised about the likelihood of LSU having to travel in the postseason.
Fast-forward to today, and LSU is in sole possession of first place in the Southeastern Conference’s Western Division with a chance to take the overall league crown if the appropriate stars align.
The questions now are about the likelihood of national seeds, not No. 2 seeds.
LSU has won eight of its past nine SEC games to surge into consideration for a coveted top eight seed in the NCAA tournament. To keep that level of play going, LSU is going to put any thoughts of national seeds or SEC championships out of its mind entirely.
The mantra: Win the day.
That begins Tuesday against Northwestern State.
“The mindset is take them one at a time,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Try to win today and we’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”
Mainieri said he briefed his team about what is at stake this week in a meeting Monday, then instructed them not to answer questions about Mississippi State or its coach, former LSU hitting coach Andy Cannizaro, or the SEC race. The idea was to keep LSU focused on winning the day in front of it.
“It’s a really big week, we know that, I can say that,” senior shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “We want to carry over this past weekend’s momentum into tomorrow against Northwestern State. It’s important that we get that win.”
Momentum is a funny concept in baseball, and Mainieri doesn’t put too much stock in it. He pointed out the weekend before Auburn went on a seven-game losing skid, it had just taken two of three against Mississippi State to take the overall SEC lead.
So it’s not momentum from a week-to-week basis that Mainieri hopes to maintain, it’s the confidence that comes with playing well.
“Confidence is a big thing, and I think that’s a better word than momentum,” Mainieri said. “Your confidence can carry over. But the reality is your starting pitcher will determine whether you truly have confidence and momentum in the next game.”
LSU is in the stretch run of the season, which has magnified the intensity of every outcome.
For senior second baseman Cole Freeman, that’s only added emphasis to the importance of prioritizing the individual day over big-picture thinking.
“Now, honestly more than ever, it’s one game at a time,” Freeman said. “We realize how close we are to our goal. If now we start looking at the bigger picture or start looking at other teams and what they do, we’ll get away from our game.
“But if we can go out and take care of business (Tuesday), we can look at this weekend.”
That isn’t to say that LSU isn’t aware of the situation.
The Tigers know that a sweep could result in an SEC title with a little help from Kentucky. Two wins will secure an outright SEC west crown. One win could result in a shared division title — though LSU could also finish in a tie for third in the west in that scenario.
“We know everything that’s going on, for sure,” Robertson said. “We know what happened last weekend and we know the opportunities that we have.”
But, Robertson said, before that can happen LSU needs to take care of Northwestern State Tuesday, a game that is not as meaningless as it appears to be in light of everything else on the Tigers’ plate this week.
“The mindset is ‘win,’ ” Robertson said. “It’s real simple. Win this week, and we’ll put ourselves in a better situation than we’re in right now.”