Finals week: LSU players head into ‘critical’ series against Missouri balancing studies _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN OUBRE -- LSU coach Paul Mainieri says he has a 'good feeling' about Andrew Stevenson's chances of playing this weekend against Missouri. Stevenson injured his hamstring Friday against Mississippi State.

Twelve hours before he throws the first pitch in top-ranked LSU’s baseball game against Missouri on Saturday, pitcher Alex Lange will be in an LSU classroom taking a final exam.

Catcher Kade Scivicque will be in another classroom doing the same thing.

Such is the life for a college player during finals week.

“When it’s finals week, it just adds to the hype of the week,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “From an academic standpoint, it’s the biggest week of the year.”

On the field, too.

Ranked as the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, LSU (40-8, 16-7 Southeastern Conference) hosts Missouri (28-21, 14-10) starting Friday in what Mainieri calls a “critical” series. The Tigers are within reach of SEC West and overall championships, jockeying for SEC tournament seeding, and on the cusp of completely securing a top-eight NCAA national seed.

This weekend, the second-to-last of the regular season, could go far in deciding much of that. Missouri, despite a 4-7 midweek record and an RPI of 59, has lost just two of eight SEC series.

Taking two of the three from the midwestern Tigers might be enough to see LSU secure a fourth straight national seed — no matter what plays out at South Carolina next week and at the SEC tournament.

LSU players will have to do it with English, science and math on the mind.

“Alex Lange has an exam Saturday morning at 7:30, and he’ll be pitching that night in the biggest game of the year,” Mainieri said. “Kade Scivicque has an exam at 7:30 in the morning Saturday, and he’ll be catching in the biggest game of the year that night. You can’t ever forget that these guy are student athletes.”

LSU will not practice as a complete squad until Thursday afternoon’s drills, Mainieri said. The Tigers were missing starting infielders Jared Foster and Chris Chinea during Wednesday’s practice.

Stevenson ‘really progressing’

Mainieri said he has a “good feeling” about center fielder Andrew Stevenson, who is recovering from a hamstring injury, playing in Friday’s series opener against Missouri.

Stevenson, third on the team in average and capable of some outfield gems, ran and hit for a second straight day Wednesday. He hasn’t yet pushed his hamstring to 100 percent, though, something that will happen Thursday.

“Stevenson is really progressing well,” Mainieri said. “Hopefully there won’t be any issues. I have a good feeling we’re going to be OK with him on Friday.”

Stevenson injured the hamstring while running the bases in Game 2 against Mississippi State on Friday.

Kramer rehab extended

Infielder Kramer Robertson will be shut down two more weeks as he recovers from an elbow injury, Mainieri said. But the coach said Robertson could still return for the postseason if the team needs him.

Robertson, LSU’s No. 2 middle infielder, was expected to be shut down for three weeks, but that was extended by a week. Robertson injured the elbow during infield drills before the series opener against Texas A&M on April 23.

He won’t begin throwing until late during the week of the SEC tournament.

Hawthorne singing anthem

LSU play-by-play man Jim Hawthorne will sing the national anthem before the Tigers’ game against Missouri on Saturday — a 7:30 p.m. first pitch on SEC Network.

Hawthorne is calling his final baseball season. He’ll retire after 32 years following the 2015-16 basketball season. He’ll call his final baseball regular-season home game Sunday.

New poles

New foul poles are being installed at Alex Box Stadium on Thursday, Maineri said.

A severe thunderstorm downed the two foul poles last week. Both were cleanly snapped about 2 feet above the top of the wall. One was sent tumbling onto Skip Bertman Field, and another took a small gash in the team’s indoor hitting facility.

The team played with shorter temporary poles for the game last week against Alcorn State.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.