Another SEC home baseball weekend for LSU means another top 5 opponent.
After the Tigers finally won their first SEC series of the year at Kentucky last weekend, the next step to keep digging out of a hole in league play is to win a home series.
But it won’t be any less challenging than losing a combined five of six games in a dropping a pair of earlier series in Alex Box Stadium to then-No. 2 Mississippi State and then-No. 1 Vanderbilt.
Weather permitting, the Tigers (20-12, 3-9 SEC West) open a three-game home series against No. 5 ranked South Carolina (22-9, 8-4 SEC East) Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
LSU’s bats finally came alive last week in a 14-1 non-conference win over McNeese State, followed by 15-2 and 8-6 wins at Kentucky before losing the series finale 13-4.
The Tigers batted .343 in last week’s four games with 41 runs on 49 hits, including six doubles, three triples and six homers. Freshman shortstop Jordan Thompson batted .600 (9-for-15) with one triple, three RBIs and six runs scored in four games last week, helping lead LSU to three victories.
“A lot of things me and (LSU batting coach) Eddie (Smith) are working on in the (batting) cages are starting to click,” Thompson said. “It helps me with my confidence knowing we’re on the right track doing the right thing.”
Landon Marceaux and AJ Labas, LSU game one and two starting pitchers respectively who combined for 13.2 innings with 14 strikeouts and one walk while allowing four earned runs last weekend at Kentucky, certainly have a challenge facing a power-filled Gamecocks’ batting order.
South Carolina has five players with 20 or more RBIs, led by Wes Clarke (.291, 15 home runs, 25 RBIs). Brady Allen (9 homers, 10 doubles, 28 RBIs) and Josiah Singler (5 homers, 6 doubles, 21 RBIs) lead the Gamecocks with a .317 batting average.
Also, Thomas Farr (4-2, 3.25 ERA, 44.1 innings, 61 strikeouts) and Brannon Jordan (4-2, 3.02 ERA, 41.2 innings pitched, 66 strikeouts), the Gamecocks’ Friday and Saturday starters, have almost identical stats.
“It (South Carolina) is built around power arms and power bats,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “That’s what we’re in store for – a team that can outslug you and strike a lot of batters out.”
Mainieri said Wednesday he’s shaking up his bullpen this weekend and giving some of his younger arms a chance. He said freshmen Theo Millas and Javen Coleman and sophomore Jacob Hasty will see action.
Also, Mainieri said center fielder Giovanni DiGiacomo, who was 4 for 10 with four runs scored in the first two games at Kentucky before sitting out game three with a sore leg, will start Thursday. DiGiacomo had missed 23 games with a hamstring pull.
Game 1 (Thursday, 6:30 p.m. ESPN 2)
LSU – Jr. RH Landon Marceaux (3-3, 1.89 ERA, 47.2 IP, 11 BB, 55 SO)
SC – Jr. RH Thomas Farr (2-2, 3.25 ERA, 44.1 IP, 22 BB, 61 SO)
Game 2 (Friday, 7 p.m. SEC Network+)
LSU – Jr. RH AJ Labas (2-0, 3.43 ERA, 44.2 IP, 8 BB, 46 SO)
SC – Sr. RH Brannon Jordan (4-2, 3.02 ERA, 41.2 IP, 24 BB, 66 SO)
Game 3 (Saturday, 2 p.m. SEC Network +)
LSU – TBA
SC – Fr. RH Will Sanders (5-1, 2.51 ERA, 32.1 IP, 5 BB, 36 SO)