NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -
As players wrap up final exams and we move into the all-important month of May, there's plenty of optimism around LSU, even if the path travelled to this point of the season and a 13-8 conference record got pretty rocky along the way.
"It doesn't matter how you got here," says head coach Paul Mainieri. "You are where you are, and with 11 games, if we finish strong, plus an SEC tournament, our goals are all within reach."
Those goals start with winning the SEC West and conference overall. The Tigers are currently three games behind Arkansas and Vanderbilt, who they'll need to climb past to finish at the top. And you better believe Mainieri's analyzed what needs to happen for them over the coming weeks.
"I've got everybody's schedule," says Mainieri, holding up a sheet of notebook paper with handwritten SEC schedules. "I'm a fan too. I'm watching what everybody's doing. There's still a lot of baseball to be played."
And there are a lot of Tigers that can still help this team. Mainieri says freshman pitcher Jaden Hill's health is improving, and should he return in any capacity, even if it's just out of the bullpen, it would be a huge help. All eyes are also on another freshman, Cole Henry, who missed last weekend's series at Alabama with arm soreness. The hope is that he's back sooner than later as well, likely as the Tigers new Friday night starter.
But until then, they'll need more performances like they got this weekend from Sunday's starter Landon Marceaux and redshirt sophomore Eric Walker, who looked as good as ever on Saturday as the Tigers bounced back from a disappointing loss the night before.
"Jared Poche did that so many times in his career," says Mainieri. "If we didn't win on Friday night, Jared pitched in that game two and would come up with a marvelous performance, and that's what Eric Walker did. I think he struck out nine batters if I'm not mistaken."
Those nine batters made a career-high for Walker. But as much as we analyze all kinds of statistics in baseball, LSU's success this season really comes down to just one: how they perform in clutch situations. It's what has them ranked 13th or better in every poll and will lead them to hosting a regional if they continue to grind out SEC victories.
"11-3 in one-run games this year," says Mainieri. "Some years we haven't done 11-3, and the year hasn't been to the level we wanted. Other years, we've won the one-run games and gone on to do great things."
After all, “great things” remain the expectation, especially to close the regular season. And with SEC West opponents like Ole Miss, Arkansas and Auburn ahead of the tournament, there should be no shortage of exciting baseball.