It’s now or never for LSU as it heads to Texas A&M for a three-game SEC series to close the regular season

The best thing about LSU’s 7-3 loss to Northwestern State on Tuesday night in the Tigers’ final regular season game of the year is the clock eventually turned to midnight.

“You think about it until 12 o’ clock that night and you get rid of it,” said LSU left fielder Gavin Dugas, the SEC’s co-Player of the Week after batting .429 (6-for-14) in four games last week with one double, two homers, eight RBIs and five runs scored. “There’s been a lot of games this year when we didn’t meet our expectations and we’ve done a great job of moving forward.”

The problem for LSU (32-20, 11-16) is time’s up on its expectations because there’s just a handful of chances to move forward.

LSU opens its final regular season league series at Texas A&M (28-25, 8-19) Thursday night at 6. It’s thought by most bracketologists that two of three LSU wins over the Aggies and at least one win in next week’s SEC tournament in Hoover would get Tigers an NCAA tourney bid.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he doesn’t know if there isn’t any certain formula that will qualify the Tigers for a slot in the 64-team NCAA field other than his team’s No. 22 RPI and strength of schedule.

“I don’t know how many teams in our league are going to get a bid,” Mainieri said. “I think there’s seven pretty secure teams and we’ve had as many as 10 in the past. I don’t know exactly what we need to do, but I think our resume is in pretty good shape if we can get the job done (at Texas A&M).

“Still, at the end of the day, there’s a committee that will decide our fate. The experts say that if we get two wins, with our RPI and our strength of schedule, that we should be in. Who knows?

“I wish we would have done more to make it a no-doubter. Our teams (have) had their heart broken before. It’s all a matter of how the committee looks at things.”

LSU junior pitcher Landon Marceaux, who will be on the mound in game one, said the Tigers need to focus on what’s in front of them and nothing else.

“From now on, it’s like we’re playing in the finals,” Marceaux said. “We have to keep our head above water. The only thing we can control is what we do. We can’t control the standings, we can’t control any other team, we’re not going to be scoreboard watching.

“If we can control what we can control, we should be right where want to be.”

Marceaux has a deceiving 6-4 record, because in seven of his nine SEC starts the Tigers have scored two runs or less when he’s on the mound including no runs three times and one run twice.

Yet he’s No. 2 in the SEC in innings pitched (79.2), No. 3 in strikeouts (97), No. 4 in ERA (2.15) and No. 10 in opponent batting average (.223).

Marceaux needs better offensive support and he’s hoping LSU leadoff hitter Tre’ Morgan’s hot hitting of late becomes contagious.

The freshman first baseman from New Orleans is No. 3 in the SEC in cumulative batting average (.370), No. 1 in hits (74), No. 1 in runs scored (56), No. 4 in triples (4), No. 4 in doubles (14), No. 4 in on-base percentage (.464) and No. 5 in stolen bases (14).

In his last 10 games, Morgan is hitting .452 (19-for-42) with two doubles, one triple, one homer, six RBIs, 14 runs and four stolen bases. He has reached base safely in 11 consecutive games.

LSU has won four of its last six SEC series, including road series victories at Kentucky, at Ole Miss and at Auburn.

Texas A&M has captured the last three series vs. LSU at Blue Bell Park (2014, 2016, 2018).

The top 12 teams in the league qualify for the conference tournament and Texas A&M is currently 13th in the standings. The Aggies and Auburn are tied with 8-19 league records, but Auburn currently holds the No. 12 seed by virtue of its series win over Texas A&M.

The Aggies are No. 12 in the SEC in team batting average (.263) and their pitching staff is No. 8 in the league with a 4.35 ERA.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 Thursday, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)

LSU – Jr. RH Landon Marceaux (6-4, 2.15 ERA, 79.2 IP, 16 BB, 97 SO)

TAMU – Sr. LH Dustin Saenz (5-6, 4.60 ERA, 76.1 IP, 21 BB, 96 SO)

Game 2 Friday, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network +)

LSU – TBA

TAMU – TBA

Game 3 Saturday, 2 p.m. (SEC Network +)

LSU – TBA

TAMU – TBA

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