By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
At times this season LSU has looked like a team simply going through the motions waiting for a mythical marsupial to spark another late-season run to a sixth consecutive national seed.
With just four Southeastern Conference weekends remaining in the regular season, LSU (27-15, 10-8 SEC) finds itself tied for fourth place in the SEC West, three games behind Mississippi State.
LSU closes out its seven-game road swing this weekend with a series against lowly Alabama (15-26, 2-16 SEC) set to begin Thursday night in Tuscaloosa. And with just 14 regular season games left, the Tigers’ veteran leaders called for a renewed sense of urgency.
“It’s getting to that crunch time,” Cole Freeman said. “If we’re going to host a regional and possibly be a national seed, we don’t have much room for error … We’re kind of at the end of the season now where it’s now or never.”
“I’m not going to sit here and sugarcoat anything,” Kramer Robertson said. “If there’s ever a time to turn it on, it’s now.”
Robertson didn’t sugarcoat much of anything when speaking to reporters Wednesday before the team departed via bus. He’d relayed a similar message to the team the night before following a 9-6 loss to Tulane, which dropped LSU to 1-3 on the road trip. He’s 2-for-15 during that stretch.
The senior shortstop has seen his batting average dip to .284. He’s hitting just .246 in SEC play, and while he’s continued to play excellent defensively, Robertson put the onus to lead a late-season surge squarely on his own shoulders.
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” Robertson said. “I haven’t performed in conference the way that I should. That has a lot to do with our struggles. I know it’s a team sport, but when you see your senior leader and he sucks, it resonates with the whole team.
“Put this on me. I need to play better and get my act together, and when I do that, I think it’s going to rub off on the whole team.”
He’s not wrong. Greg Deichmann is LSU’s most important hitter because he’s an immense power threat in a lineup light on home runs. He can change any game with one swing of his neon green bat.
But LSU is at its offensive best when Robertson and Freeman are getting on base and wreaking havoc ahead of the feared slugger. Paul Mainieri needs his table setters atop the lineup to kick it back into gear if it’s going to finish in the same torrid fashion it did last season.
At times its felt like LSU has leaned on the experience of that magical 12-game winning streak. Its evidence that this team can get hot again, since it’s so many of the same players off that team.
But as Freeman bluntly put it Wednesday, it’s not going to happen if LSU plays the way it has the past four games.
“We need to play with swagger and stop waiting for it to turn on and just expecting it to turn on,” Robertson said. “We need to make it happen. We need to get it out of cruise control. We need to put our foot on the gas and get things going. Now is the time to do that.”
“It’s time for the leaders on this team to get together and just have a reality check. It’s time to realize that it’s coming to an end and it’s not just going to happen. We need to make it happen. It starts with me.”
LSU – Jr. RHP Alex Lange (4-4, 3.41 ERA, 58.0 IP, 25 BB, 76 SO)
UA – So. LHP Dylan Duarte (2-4, 4.65 ERA, 50.1 IP, 16 BB, 38 SO)
LSU – Jr. LHP Jared Poche’ (6-3, 3.28 ERA, 60.1 IP, 15 BB, 44 SO
UA – Sr. RHP Nick Eicholtz (1-1, 5.49 ERA, 41.0 IP, 25 BB, 23 SO)
LSU – Fr. RHP Eric Walker (5-1, 3.49 ERA, 56.2 IP, 13 BB, 52 SO)
UA – TBA
Thursday, April 27 – 6:30 p.m. CT
Friday, April 28 – 6 p.m. CT
Saturday, April 29 – 2 p.m. CT
Sewell-Thomas Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
LSU – No. 11 USA Today; No. 14 Collegiate Baseball; No. 15 Baseball America
UA – unranked
LSU Sports Radio Network; in Baton Rouge on WDGL 98.1 FM
Radio broadcast and live stats for all LSU baseball games are available at www.LSUsports.net
Thursday – ESPN2
Friday and Saturday – SEC Network +, accessible at WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app
Alabama leads the all-time series with LSU,196-167-3, and the first meeting between the squads occurred in 1906. Alabama won two of three games in last season’s SEC series meeting in Baton Rouge. LSU a 43-16 mark against Alabama over the past 17 seasons (2000-16). LSU has won 12 of its last 17 and nine of its last 12 SEC regular-season series versus the Tide, and the Tigers have won 12 of the 16 games played between the schools over the past five seasons.