After LSU baseball's new fuzzy friend 'helps' clinch series with Auburn, he just may stick around for a while _lowres

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK -- LSU head coach Paul Mainieri meets with game officials at home plate before the start of LSU's game against Auburn, Sunday, Apr. 12, 2015, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in Baton Rouge, La.

Paul Mainieri’s team is right where he wants it — in position to win the Southeastern Conference baseball championship.

“I feel like we’re on target,” the coach said.

LSU (31-6, 10-5), ranked in the top three in all of the major polls, is tied for third in the SEC halfway through the conference season — within striking distance to claim the SEC regular-season title, SEC Western Division crown and a top-eight national seed for the NCAA tournament.

All of that may be a long ways off, but the Tigers have positioned themselves well by dropping just one of their first five SEC series, sweeping one of those. It’s the fifth time in Mainieri’s nine seasons that LSU has won at least four of its first five league series.

In three of those four previous years, the Tigers have claimed national seeds and won the SEC West. In two of those years, they won the regular-season championship.

The path is clear.

“We’re at the midway point now and won 10 out of the 15 games. You go into the year believing that, if you can win two out of every three, you’ve got a shot at winning the SEC championship and certainly the SEC West,” Mainieri said. “I’m not saying we’re going to win 10 in the second half. Who knows what’s going to happen in the second half? Three of the five series are on the road.”

And the two remaining home series are against ranked foes Missouri (24-12, 10-5) and Texas A&M (33-3, 11-3).

The SEC West seems to be a two-horse race between A&M and LSU, squads ranked Nos. 1-2 in multiple polls. LSU is 11/2 games behind A&M and three clear of third-place teams Ole Miss and Arkansas. Vanderbilt (28-9, 11-4) is second in the overall standings.

Bouman to start

Senior lefthander Kyle Bouman (0-1, 7.53 ERA) will get his fourth start of the season Wednesday against Lamar (17-18) and starter Billy Love (0-0, 2.25)

The Tigers and Cardinals meet at 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium before LSU travels to Athens, Georgia, for a three-game series against the Bulldogs (20-17, 6-9). Love, a junior righty, has pitched just four innings this season.

Bouman’s previous three starts have resulted in six earned runs over 9.2 innings with a 12-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

In the polls

LSU moved up in each major poll and remained No. 1 in Perfect Game’s rankings.

The Tigers are ranked No. 2 in four polls and No. 3 in Collegiate Baseball. LSU remained the same, No. 14, in the NCAA’s official RPI.

Lamar has an RPI of 229, and Georgia is 91.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.