LSU's strange baseball season took a turn for the better last weekend.
The Tigers won two of three games on the road against Mississippi State, which was a consensus top-five team in the major national polls. LSU (19-9, 6-3 Southeastern Conference) dropped the first game 6-5 on Thursday night, but then rallied to win 10-5 on Friday and 11-2 on Saturday.
"We haven't put it all together until this past weekend," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "I thought we did well in all three phases of the game - offense, defense and pitching. Because of that, we played good, competitive baseball."
LSU was considered one of the top teams in the nation coming into the season and got off to a good start in February with an eight-game winning streak. Then the Tigers were swept by Texas and had some head-scratching mid-week losses to Northwestern State and McNeese State.
Mainieri said some nagging injuries on the mound — especially to a trio of talented freshmen — have been a big reason for the inconsistent play. The veteran coach said the good news is none of the injuries appear serious and he hopes to have Jaden Hill, Landon Marceaux and Chase Costello back within the next three weeks.
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"We're batting through it," Mainieri said. "If you had told me at the beginning of the season that we'd be 6-3 through our first three SEC weekends, I'd have taken that."
LSU has a chance to build on that momentum with five consecutive home games, including a three-game SEC series against Texas A&M over the weekend.
Even with a thin pitching staff, LSU still has plenty of standout players.
Senior Antoine Duplantis is hitting .327 with a team-high seven homers and 32 RBIs. He earned his 300th career hit on Friday, becoming just the sixth LSU player to reach that mark. Senior Chris Reid is batting .370 in SEC games and has a team-high 11 RBIs in league play.
The Tigers also got an impressive performance against Mississippi State from sophomore Eric Walker on Sunday. The right-hander threw seven shutout innings while giving up just four hits and two walks.
"I definitely feel like our best baseball is ahead of us," Mainieri said. "That's kind of been the hallmark of our program. We don't ever peak too early at LSU. The whole goal is to be playing your best baseball in the second half of the season and in the postseason and I think we're on that track again."
At the season's halfway point, many of the nation's best teams appear to reside in the Pac-12. UCLA (20-5), Stanford (18-3), Oregon State (19-5-1) and Arizona State (25-1) all look like they have a chance to make the College World Series in June.
There's a big series this weekend when UCLA travels to face Stanford. The Bruins are the No. 1 team in the country, according to D1baseball.com, while the Cardinal are at No. 2.
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Arizona State's Hunter Bishop leads the nation with 16 homers. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound junior had two homers against Arizona over the weekend.
Staying at Zero
BYU pitcher Easton Walker has thrown 31 2/3 innings this season without giving up an earned run. He's allowed just 15 hits and six walks and opponents are hitting .139 against him.
The sophomore right-hander kept his 0.00 ERA going with six scoreless innings in an 11-0 win over Saint Mary's on Friday. He's the only qualifying pitcher in the NCAA who hasn't given up an earned run.
Texas swept Xavier over the weekend in a non-conference series and all three victories were by a 6-5 score.
The Longhorns were down to their final out in the ninth inning of the series finale trailing 5-4, but got a two-run walk-off double from Tate Shaw to complete the sweep.
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Texas (20-11, 3-3 Big 12) returns to conference play with a road series against Baylor this weekend.