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LSU centerfielder Will Safford (17) celebrates after getting on base in the first inning against Vanderbilt, Thursday, April 1, 2021, at Alex Box Stadium on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, La.

AUBURN, Ala. — When the SEC Network launched in August 2014, it gave the Southeastern Conference more television scheduling flexibility across the league. The SEC had its own platform to air games, and the conference added a weekly Thursday game to its college baseball schedule.

As a result, the number of series lasting from Thursday to Saturday instead of the traditional Friday to Sunday format rose for the 2015 season. Every year since, LSU has played at least four Thursday games.

Now, LSU is playing its fourth Thursday-Saturday series of the season this weekend against Auburn. LSU will participate in five such series by the end of the year, tied for the most in one season over the last two decades with 2017 and 2015.

“It's become pretty regular,” coach Paul Mainieri said.

The league began playing more Thursday games in the mid-2000s. LSU didn’t play on Thursday from 2002-2005, then it played one Thursday game per season the rest of the decade, always the final weekend of the regular season to accommodate the SEC tournament beginning a few days later.

Then ESPNU began airing a Thursday night SEC game in 2011. Two teams every week started their series a day earlier than normal for a national television audience. The games became even more prevalent when the league allowed schools to avoid playing on Easter.

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“Since that option has been available,” Mainieri said, “we've always taken advantage of it.”

The Thursday games doubled with the creation of the SEC Network. In addition to the weekly ESPNU game, the league scheduled a second Thursday-Saturday series. Every week, four teams played a day earlier than the rest of the conference.

“I think it gives us more exposure because now we have four days of SEC baseball,” said Herb Vincent, the SEC’s baseball administrator and associate commissioner for communications. “There's more highlights on your nightly news. There's more social media activity. There's more general discussion about SEC baseball.”

This season, LSU has played Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Ole Miss on Thursdays — all three in April. It will also begin its final series of the regular season, against Texas A&M, on a Thursday.

Mainieri and LSU’s players said the shorter weeks created by the games don’t change anything about the team’s preparation. Position players don’t need much time off between series, and starting pitchers only lose one day of rest, something Mainieri said doesn’t affect college players on a six-day routine. 

“Sometimes we'll maybe limit practice because we have a short turnaround,” sophomore third baseman Cade Doughty said, “but it's usually the same thing, just trying to get better every day.”

Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com