To illustrate how the hitter-friendly dimensions of Kentucky's Cliff Hagan Stadium played a part in LSU's stuggles last weekend, coach Paul Mainieri recalled an at-bat in the series opener.
In the third inning of Friday's first game, LSU left-hander Jared Poché was facing Wildcats second baseman Riley Mahan, who went 5 for 5 in Kentucky's 12-5 win. Mahan had already delivered an RBI single in his first at-bat of the game, which Mainieri said came on an 0-2 fastball by Poché.
So Poché spun a breaking ball to Mahan on a 1-1 count, which Mahan lifted to right field. Mainieri expected Tigers right fielder Greg Deichmann to take two steps in to haul in an easy flyout.
That's not what happened.
"(Deichmann) just kept drifting back and back and back," Mainieri said. "Next thing you know he's up against the wall, and the ball hits off that tall billboard for a double. I just took a deep breath and said, 'This is going to be hard this weekend.' "
The dimensions in right field at Cliff Hagan Stadium are 310 feet down the line and 350 feet in the right-center gap. Mainieri said he believes Kentucky recruits to the stadium's structure, loading up on left-handed hitters.
Conversely, Mainieri believes Alex Box Stadium is one of the more difficult parks in the SEC to hit home runs. He said his team is not built to take advantage of shorter dimensions, needing to manufacture runs and play solid defense to have success.
Because of all of this, Mainieri said, LSU's pitching struggles against the Wildcats were an aberration. Kentucky scored 25 runs on 42 hits for the weekend, including 21 runs and 33 hits by the top five hitters in the order.
Though Alex Lange made it to the sixth inning in the second game of Friday's doubleheader, a 4-3 LSU win, neither Poché nor Sunday starter Eric Walker made it past the third inning — the shortest outings for both pitchers this season.
Poché and Walker, who pitch to contact, had to actively avoid giving up the long ball to UK's talented hitters.
"When you strike a batter out, it's hard to have any bad luck," Mainieri said. "When your game is to force them to hit the ball and the conditions were so favorable to the hitter, it just made it really difficult for both of them."
Mainieri said freshman right-hander Matthew Beck will make his second career start against Tulane at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Turchin Stadium. But you may not see as many relievers behind Beck, as has been the case in other midweek games.
LSU (27-14) begins a road series against Alabama on Thursday, and Mainieri is uncertain how he'll handle his bullpen against the Green Wave (20-21). He doesn't want to burn up his staff on a short week.
"I don't think it's going to be situation where we need to run guys out there to get them work — except Hunter Newman, maybe Caleb Gilbert as well," Mainieri said.
Tigers slide in polls
Despite a road series loss to Kentucky, LSU remained in the top 15 in the four major rankings released Monday.
The Tigers are as high as No. 13 by D1Baseball.com and sit at No. 14 in the Collegiate Baseball poll. Baseball America and Perfect Game each have LSU at No. 15.
UL-Lafayette, winner of eight straight games, rejoined the rankings compiled by D1Baseball.com (No. 24) and Collegiate Baseball (No. 20).