Tigers host Lions Wednesday night at the Box
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Bryce Jordan and his teammates arrived at the locker room for Tuesday’s practice to a surprise. The white board typically depicting the day’s rundown was left blank, and shortly after the players were told to take the field in shorts and tee-shirts.
“Casual Thursday practice,” Jordan smiled. “The guys love it.”
Paul Mainieri decided to switch up his team’s practice regiment in hopes of carrying the momentum and energy of winning three successive Southeastern Conference series over to Wednesday’s meeting with Southeastern at Alex Box Stadium.
He pointed to flat midweek losses against Tulane and McNeese State following intense Monday practices. So, in lieu of the normally intense early-week practice, the Tigers instead went through a casual workout more akin to a football team’s Friday walkthrough.
“I think it’s more important to see them energetic on game day, not so much where they burn up everything at practice,” Mainieri explained. “We’ve had success through my career here where Thursday night practices are fun. It’s a loose, fun atmosphere.”
“We’re going to come out here and practice if we had pants on or not,” Jordan added.
LSU has gone 6-3 against a tough slate of midweek foes this season. Hardly problematic, but pedestrian when compared to the previous four-year stretch where Mainieri and Co. posted a sterling 59-3 midweek record that included a 34-game winning streak.
Following the most recent defeat, a 7-0 drubbing at the hands of McNeese State, hitting coach Andy Cannizaro quickly hurried his charges in for a closed-door meeting.
Without delving too deep into specifics, Cannizaro’s message was simple: bring the same intensity and focus to the field every day as they had to take two games from Vanderbilt the weekend prior.
“When this group brings that type of intensity and energy and focus, we’re a really good club and we can beat anybody in the country,” Cannizaro said. “And we’ve proven, when we don’t bring it, we can lose to a lot of people in the country as well.
“They can’t roll the balls out there and expect to beat people because their jerseys say LSU.”
Cannizaro characterized the last bit as a lesson every young team needs to learn at some point. Kramer Robertson, the team’s shortstop and leader, said the key is for the players to not repeat that mistake moving forward.
It won’t be easy against a Southeastern club that enters Wednesday at No. 62 in terms of RPI, comparable to Lamar (51), McNeese State (59) and Tulane (64).
The onus will be on Doug Norman to get LSU off to a good start. Mainieri said Norman will go two innings before giving way to a ‘number of pitchers’ that’ll include Jesse Stallings, Caleb Gilbert and Riley Smith, all of whom Mainieri remarked needed work.
Whoever is on the mound will have their hands full trying to retire Southeastern first baseman Jameson Fisher. The Zachary product leads the nation in hitting (.462) and on-base percentage (.587) with nine home runs, 41 RBI and a .769 slugging percentage.
Matt Riser and the Lions will counter with a Johnny Wholestaff style effort of their own led by Pat Cashman. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium.