By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Depending on who you ask, LSU can wrap up a sixth consecutive national seed with just a win or two at this week’s Southeastern Conference Tournament.
A case can be made that the Tigers have done enough already to ensure the road to Omaha runs through Alex Box Stadium once again, asserting that an outright SEC West title and a share of the overall SEC crown render whatever happens in Hoover this weekend moot.
That’s a chance neither LSU coach Paul Mainieri nor his players want to take.
“I think we’re in pretty good position to be a national seed,” Mainieri said. “You never know, however, what a committee is thinking or what they’re going to decide. So you’d like to take any question out of it, and a good run in the SEC Tournament could solidify a national seed.”
In fact, the Tigers will begin their SEC Tournament Wednesday afternoon with loftier goals on their mind than simply locking up a top-eight seed.
“We have an opportunity to win our third championship,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “You want to rack up as many of those as you can.”
There’s a reason spectators have jokingly referred to the event as the “LSU Invitational” in years past. No team has enjoyed as much success at the Hoover Met as Mainieri’s Tigers.
LSU has won the SEC Tournament five times in his 11 years at the helm. Dating back to 2008, LSU is 27-6, outscoring opponents by a total margin of 199-94 in the process. LSU has hit .297 in that span while pitching to a cumulative ERA of 2.51, according to data shared by LSU stat guru Todd Politz.
As for the secret to all that success, Mainieri says there isn’t one. More so it’s a combination of factors.
For one, LSU plays loose in the SEC Tournament. Unlike the NCAA Tournament, which begins next week, losing the last game in Hoover doesn’t mean the season ends. Playing home games at Alex Box Stadium also makes LSU uniquely comfortable with the spacious confines and large crowds of the Hoover Met.
However, more than any of that, LSU has success in Hoover because Mainieri treats it like a reward after the meat grinder that is a 30-game SEC schedule. And unlike many prominent programs that already have their NCAA credentials validated, he goes there playing to win it all.
“We’re in the business of winning championships at LSU,” the coach added.
LSU won back-to-back SEC Tournaments in 2013 and 2014. The past two runs have ended in semi-final losses to Florida, each coming by a single run.
What will this year’s pilgrimage to Hoover have in store? It’ll begin with LSU taking on seed Missouri at approximately 4:30 p.m. due to rain that’s pushed back every game by one time slot.
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