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LSU second baseman Cole Freeman (8) celebrates with LSU catcher Jordan Romero (28) after scoring in the first inning against Grambling, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

HOOVER, Ala. — One of the most critical hitters in the LSU lineup is catching fire at the right time.

Senior second baseman Cole Freeman enjoyed a 4-for-4 night night to increase his season batting average to a team-best .341, his best mark since April 28.

Going into Thursday’s game against Kentucky, Freeman had hits in his last eight official at bats and had gone 12-for-23 during a six-game hitting streak that raised his average 22 points.

He said Wednesday’s game — which included a sacrifice fly, a three-run home run and a bunt single — was due partially to focusing on what needed to be accomplished in each individual at-bat.

“Each at-bat I was trying to do something different today,” Freeman said after the Missouri win.

In his second at-bat, he had runners at the corners with nobody out, so he was trying to get something in the air and avoid a double play ball. He finished that at-bat with a productive sacrifice fly to right field.

His next at-bat was a sacrifice bunt that turned into a bunt single, his speed forcing pitcher T.J. Sikkema to rush a throw that sailed into foul territory, giving LSU runners at second and third with nobody out.

His final two at-bats resulted in a leadoff single and a three-run homer.

On his home run, his second of the year, Freeman said he was not trying to swing for the fences.

“I got up to a 3-1 count and I just wanted to put something in the air and drive a guy in,” said Freeman, who came to the plate in his final at-bat with runners at second and third with one out. “When you can simplify your approach in each at-bat, it slows the game down. Right now it’s just working for me.”

Mainieri gets 500th win at LSU

Paul Mainieri won his 500th game as LSU’s coach Wednesday night when the Tigers knocked off Missouri, becoming the second LSU coach to reach the milestone.

Skip Bertman holds the school record for wins at LSU with 870, a mark he accomplished in 18 seasons. Mainieri improved his overall record, including his time spent at St. Thomas, the Air Force Academy and Notre Dame, to 1,365-691-3.

Of Mainieri’s 500 wins, nearly half (225) have come against Southeastern Conference competition entering Thursday’s game against Kentucky, including wins in the conference tournament.

LSU also won its 40th game of the season Wednesday, giving Mainieri his ninth season with at least 40 wins in his 11-year tenure at LSU.

Watson in the outfield

Freshman center fielder Zach Watson chased down several hard hit balls in center field Wednesday, drawing some high praise from Mainieri.

“The ball was carrying so much; a couple of them I didn’t think were going to go that deep, but he got good reads and good jumps,” Mainieri said. “I thought he made a couple pretty difficult plays look routine.

“He’s growing every day. We’re watching a special player grow before our very eyes.”

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.