The questions have been the same before every Southeastern Conference road trip, particularly as the losses mounted during a particularly rough stretch late last month.
It’s the answers that’ve changed as LSU prepared to embark on a trip to Auburn that’ll go a long way toward determining if there will be a trip to an NCAA Regional in their future.
Gone are the platitudes about improving play away from the friendly confines of Alex Box Stadium or hand-waving LSU’s 3-13 record away from home as the product of a small sample size. This time, the sense of urgency was palpable.
“It’s like I told our guys yesterday, it’s now or never,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s time to put the big boy pants on, go into a tough environment and get the job done. There’s no time for excuses. There’s no time for ‘Oh, we’re going to keep improving.’ It’s time for us to get the job done.”
“At this point in the season, we’re fighting for our lives in every game we play,” LSU ace Zack Hess added. “What better time to get a road series win than right now?”
LSU (32-21, 14-13 SEC) knows it needs to come home from Auburn (35-18, 13-14 SEC) with at least one win to feel good about its NCAA Tournament prospects heading into the NCAA Tournament.
Winning the series, meaning LSU would finish the season 16-14 in league play, might be enough to get off the bubble entirely. It’s unlikely the selection committee would leave a team out that finishes above .500 in SEC play, and two road wins against Auburn would be a significant boost to LSU’s RPI.
LSU is seemingly catching Auburn at the right time, with the Plainsmen losing their last four games, but it turns out the two teams have more in common than a nickname.
All four of those losses came on the road, where Auburn is 7-13, but they now return to Plainsmen Park, where they’ve won seven games in a row and are 27-5 on the season.
“If there’s a time to start (winning road series), it’s now,” first baseman/reliever Austin Bain said. “We really need this road series. It’s going to be a big statement for our season and get us ready for the SEC Tournament.”
Mainieri felt that LSU is playing its best baseball of the season dating back to the Ole Miss series. LSU lost two out of three, coming up 90 feet short of trying things up in a wild rubber match, and they hit the road again having completing a 6-2 homestand to keep their postseason dreams afloat.
“If it isn’t now, we don’t have any weekends left,” right fielder Antoine Duplantis added. “We know how big this weekend is for us, and we’re going up there on a mission.”
LSU – So. RH Zack Hess (6-4, 4.24 ERA, 76.1 IP, 36 BB, 91 SO)
AU – Fr. RH Tanner Burns (4-4, 3.36 ERA, 61.2 IP, 28 BB, 65 SO)
LSU – Fr. RH Ma’Khail Hilliard (8-4, 3.66 ERA, 64.0 IP, 26 BB, 59 SO)
AU – Jr. RH Casey Mize (9-3, 2.73 ERA, 89.0 IP, 8 BB, 124 SO)
LSU – TBA
AU – TBA
Thursday, May 17 – 6 p.m. CT
Friday, May 18 – 6 p.m. CT
Saturday, May 19 – 1 p.m. CT
Plainsman Park in Auburn, Ala.
LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates, including WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge
SEC Network + – accessible at WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app
Thursday’s game will be televised on ESPNU and Friday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network
LSU leads the series with Auburn, 102-72, in a series that began in 1907. LSU has won 14 of its last 17 and 24 of its last 32 games versus Auburn. Last season, LSU sweep three games from AU in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field. LSU has captured 13 of the last 19 SEC regular-season series between the clubs, dating back to 1999. LSU has five straight series wins over Auburn – AU’s last SEC series win over LSU came in 2012, when it captured two of three games at Plainsman Park. LSU coach Paul Mainieri has a 24-10 career mark against Auburn.