Tigers welcome Tide to Alex Box Stadium
Rhymes practices Thursday and could go this weekend
The LSU baseball team won a regionally televised game over Southern Miss in Metairie Wednesday night, 8-3.
Injured Tiger outfielder Raph Rhymes was left behind in Baton Rouge, and he didn’t watch the game. He wasn’t allowed to.
“I haven’t watched any of the games. I’ve been limited to no TV,” said the junior.
Rhymes took a pitch to the head versus Florida this past Friday and has missed LSU’s three games since. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion.
Thursday, Rhymes was back out on the field for the first time since the scare. He went though indoor hitting drills, baserunning drills as well as an extended batting practice session.
“I felt better than I expected,” Rhymes said following the BP session but before the official start of the team’s practice. “[My head] feels good now. The past couple days I had some headaches, but today is a lot better. It’s gotten better every day.”
When asked if he felt 100 percent, Rhyes responded, “Yeah I believe so. You just have to be cautious. These things are pretty serious. We’re just going to go out there [at practice today] and see how it goes.”
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri personally threw batting practice to Rhymes before practice Thursday.
“Everything I’ve seen today has been very positive at this point,” said Mainieri following the session.
The coach wasn’t ready to say if Rhymes will be available to play this weekend versus Alabama, but he indicated that if Rhymes is available, he would likely put him at DH to ease him back into the lineup.
The potential return of Rhymes would be a welcomed sight after the Tigers mustered just four hits last night against Southern Miss. However, 10 walks and two hit batsmen pushed across more than enough runs for a Tiger victory.
Aaron Nola started the contest for LSU, who has also been fighting an injury of his own. Nola missed his scheduled weekend start versus Florida last week with a fatigued shoulder. Upon his return against USM, Nola allowed two runs to score. Then he settled down to get consecutive outs and stop the bleeding.
“I just didn’t feel like Aaron’s stuff was really overpowering,” Mainieri said. “Then I feel like he kicked it into another gear after that. His fastball had more velocity. It had more life. Honestly, I think he got a little angry, starting cutting it loose, and I think it was a positive thing that he ended up throwing  pitches as opposed to 15 pitches because his best pitches were his last 10.”
Nola will slide back into his Sunday role and get the start in Game Three versus the Tide.
The Tide will start Trey Pikington Friday (3.51 ERA), Justin Kamplain Saturday (3.23 ERA) and John Keller Sunday (3.47 ERA).
That trio contributed to a sweep of Auburn this past weekend. Despite the sweep, Alabama is still tied for last in the SEC at 4-8 and has an abysmal 13-20 overall record.
But even though the Tigers are welcoming arguably the SEC’s worst team this weekend, Mainieri will make sure that there’s no chance the Tigers will take them lightly - espicially after the way LSU was humbled with consecutive shutouts in Tuscaloosa a year ago.
“Those two games that we lost virtually ruined our season,” he said. ”We didn’t get an SEC Tournament qualification. We didn’t get an NCAA Tournament bid. So we remember that Alabama basically ruined our season for us. But secondly, we see a team that beat [Auburn] three times that beat us two out of three, so if that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what does.”
As expected, Kevin Gausman will go Friday night and Ryan Eades will take the ball Saturday. Neither submitted a dominant performance last week at Florida, although shoddy defense hindered them both. Gausman still fought through 6.1 innings, while Eades only went three. Mainieri said Eades suffered from muscle tightness in Gainesville.
“It kept him from being able to keep the ball down in the zone, and he just didn’t have a good game,” said the skipper. “There’s no question in my mind that Ryan Eades is a tremendous competitor, and he can’t wait to get back on the mound, and he’ll pitch well.”
Alabama’s offense has been sparse this season with the worst team batting average in the league (.255), but the Tide feature the current SEC Co-Player of the Week Taylor Dugas. The Lafayette native hit 6-for-13 last week including a walkoff home run to beat rival Auburn.
Finally, Alex Edward has been ruled out of this weekend’s series (hamstring).
Friday’s first pitch is at 7 p.m. Then, Saturday (6:30 p.m., CST) and Sunday (noon, ESPN2) are televised. You can find live game blogs off all three right here at TigerRag.com and BayouBengalsInsider.com.