Baseball Tigers ready for this weekend’s Oral exam

PHOTO BY JONATHAN MAILHES

There are two weeks and nine scheduled non-conference games for No. 8 LSU before sixth-ranked Mississippi State comes calling in the opening SEC series of the 2021 season.

While the starting lineup and pitching rotation seem in order after seven straight wins in which the Tigers have batted. 317 with 16 doubles, one triple and 19 home runs and allowed opponents to hit a mere .218, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri believes nothing yet is set in stone.

“Our lineup is still a bit influx,” Mainieri said. “Nine games into the season, there’s still some things up in the air.”

As the 8-1 Tigers prepare for a three-game series with Oral Roberts starting with a Friday afternoon 1 p.m. first pitch in Alex Box Stadium, it seems the only “things up in the air” are home runs flying off LSU’s bats.

After six home runs in wins over Nicholls State and Southern on Wednesday, the Tigers took over the Division 1 home runs lead with 21.

“I never had it as goal for us to be leading the nation in home runs,” Mainieri said. “Never really thought about it. It’s really not that important to us. I’m just happy to score runs. It increases your chance to win, whether they come via a home run, through clutch hitting or manufacturing runs. I just want to see us score runs.”

Freshmen outfielders Dylan Crews and Brody Drost are hitting .444 during the Tigers’ current seven-game win streak. They’ve combined for 20 hits, 16 runs, five doubles, six homers and 10 RBIs.

“We’re just going out and getting in our hacks every single day,” said Crews, who’s fifth in the SEC in batting average (.457), tied for the league lead in hits (16) and is second in homers (5) and total bases (34). “We want to be ready from the first pitch to the last. This team is coming together. We’ve got so much talent from the first guy to the last.”

So much so that the Tigers are missing two starters and a veteran reliever with injuries and haven’t missed a beat.

Sophomore starting second baseman Cade Doughty was sidelined for Wednesday’s wins over Nicholls and Southern after hurting his shoulder in last Saturday’s 14-0 win over Nicholls when a teammate accidently bumped him celebrating a Drew Bianco homer.

Junior center fielder Giovanni DiGiacomo strained a hamstring on Feb. 21 in a 6-5 loss to Air Force and has missed every game of LSU’s seven-game win streak.

Graduate student Matthew Beck, one of the Tigers’ most reliable leaders, hasn’t pitched in any of LSU’s last five games after his arm tightened in his one-inning appearance nine days ago at UL-Lafayette.

“Cade’s range of motion is improving and I’d love to have him back by the middle of next week or next weekend,” Mainieri said. “Every time I see Giovanni, he’s telling me he’s making progress. I don’t what the schedule is for him to begin jogging or running.

“There’s some reason for concern (about Beck). It’s not a complete tear of his UCL, but there is a little bit of damage there. We don’t know if it’s an old injury that has been aggravated or if it’s something new. He’ll be out for a few weeks and then we’ll see how it feels when he begins throwing again. The news could have better and it could have been worse.”

Though Oral Roberts is just 2-6, Mainieri said this weekend is important because it’s the first time this season the Tigers will play a three-game series against the same opponent all three days.

“We’ve had some unique weekends so far this season due to Covid and the scheduling issues it’s created, but this is the one weekend out of our four pre-SEC weekends that we’ll get to play the same opponent,” Mainieri said. “That’s important for us to learn how to deal mentally with facing the same opponent in three straight days.”

The Golden Eagles from Tulsa, Oklahoma are hitting .223 as a team with four home runs. ORU is led at the plate by infielders Ryan Cash (.323, 6 RBIs) and Caleb Denny (.290, 3 homers, 6 RBIs).

The ORU pitching staff has a 4.93 cumulative ERA and has allowed six homers in eight games.

PROJECTING PITCHING MATCHUPS

(All games televised on SEC Network +, accessible at Watch ESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app)

Game 1 Friday, 1 p.m.

LSU – Jr. RH Jaden Hill (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 10 IP, 0 BB, 9 SO)

ORU – Jr. RH James Notary (0-1, 4.76 ERA, 11.1 IP, 3 BB, 5 SO)

Game 2 Saturday, 3 p.m.

LSU – Jr. RH Landon Marceaux (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 11 IP, 0 BB, 14 SO)

ORU – So. RH Isaac Coffey (1-0, 1.54 ERA, 11.2 IP, 1 BB, 16 SO)

Game 3 Sunday, 2 p.m.

LSU – Jr. RH AJ Labas (0-0, 5.40 ERA, 8.1 IP, 3 BB, 14 SO)

ORU – Sr. RH Tanner Rogen (0-1, 3.37 ERA, 10.2 IP, 3 BB, 6 SO)

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