STARKVILLE, Miss. — LSU outfielder Andrew Stevenson’s tweaked hamstring has plenty of time to heal, and coach Paul Mainieri has several days to dwell on that final play in Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State.
Second baseman Jared Foster has nearly a full week to shake off his mini-skid, and pitcher Alex Lange may get as much as seven days of rest between starts.
The point? LSU, the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, won’t be playing again for a while.
The Tigers (40-8, 16-7 Southeastern Conference) have five days off between games — an eternity in the college baseball world. LSU hasn’t had that many days between games this season. The Tigers don’t have a midweek game because of final exams.
So that provides more than enough time for the hype machine to begin roaring again. LSU hosts Top-25 squad Missouri starting Friday in a critical three-game series and the last regular-season home set.
This series isn’t critical to LSU getting a national seed; that seems secure barring a complete collapse. It’s critical to winning championships: the overall SEC regular-season title and the SEC Western Division crown.
After Sunday’s games, the Tigers are a half-game behind SEC overall leader Vanderbilt and are tied with Texas A&M atop the SEC West.
“You can’t win them all,” Mainieri said Saturday after an 8-7, 12-inning loss to Mississippi State. “You try like crazy to win them all, but in this game so many things could happen.”
Like that final play, for instance.
Video of the play at the plate shows Jake Vickerson’s hand may have never touched home plate or touched it after catcher Mike Papierski’s tag — all of this after Seth Heck’s single up the middle to Mark Laird, playing center field. Papierski appeared to make the tag as Vickerson’s outstretched hand darted toward the plate. Mainieri and shortstop Alex Bregman questioned the call after Saturday’s game.
“Did he touch home?” Bregman asked.
“I didn’t know if he touched the plate,” Mainieri said. “I wasn’t sure his hand got in there.”
Aside from that final play, LSU has much more to get over before hosting a Missouri team that beat Ole Miss 18-1 on Saturday to secure a sixth SEC series in their first eight this year.
Stevenson, third on the team in batting average and stolen bases, missed Saturday’s game while resting a hamstring injury he suffered in Friday night’s win. Mainieri sounded hopeful Saturday that he could return for Friday’s series opener against Missouri.
Foster has nine hits in his past 45 plate appearances — an unsettling mark for a guy Mainieri thrust into the lineup for his offensive skills. Foster had eight home runs in a 21-game span midseason; he hasn’t had a long ball in 13 games.
The final issue is Lange, the Tigers’ hard-throwing freshman starter whose past four starts have paled in comparison with the stunning first seven weeks of his rookie year. It’s nothing to be concerned about, Mainieri and Lange both said. The pitcher is fine.
Either way, he’ll have plenty of rest — just like everyone else.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.