LSU is very familiar with the position it's in. The purple and gold faced it last weekend when they dropped the first game of the Eugene regional to Gonzaga and proceeded to answer the bell four times in a row to advance to Knoxville.
The Tigers have never won a super regional on the road and this 2021 team is looking to change that narrative but faces an uphill climb against a well balanced Volunteer club. With the 4-2 loss to Tennessee on Saturday evening, LSU must now win two straight on the road to extend its 2021 season and Paul Mainieri's career.
There was a rare kind of confidence that helped this team play its best ball of the season against Central Connecticut, Gonzaga and Oregon according to veteran Drew Bianco.
"We've been here before and I think that's when we started playing our best baseball all year," Bianco said. "Hopefully we can do that tomorrow and Monday but we're just gonna take it one game at a time. Hopefully we can come out swinging against a good arm, Marceaux's gonna do his thing."
Game one of the super regional played out very much like game one of the regular season series went against the Volunteers earlier this season. The offense struggled to hit Chad Dallas' slider as he punched out 12 LSU batters on strikeouts after 11 the first go around.
One crooked number inning in the sixth of Saturday evening's loss proved to be the difference maker, much like the two run third inning in game one back on March 26. That three spot sixth inning is what the team could ultimately look back on if things don't go their way and potentially be where the series was lost.
In four games against the Volunteers this year, the Tigers have lost by a combined six runs including two walkoffs. It's a situation that's come down to a play here or a pitch there that has decided to keep LSU winless against the Volunteers.
Yet in the same breath, all four games have been extremely competitive and down to the wire, which gives Paul Mainieri the confidence and knowledge this team just needs a few more things to go the Tigers' way against Tennessee to pull out a win.
"The difference in the game was very slim again. We've played these guys four times and the by the slimmest of margins they've come out on top so we've gotta reverse that tomorrow," Mainieri said.
Mainieri whole heartedly believes his team didn't succomb to the pressures of a hostile environment. The Tigers came out loose and battled for nine innings in another tight loss to a very good Volunteers team. But that can't be enough moving into this afternoon's outing.
With ace Landon Marceaux on the mound and their backs against the walls, LSU is in need of a complete team effort to keep its season alive.
"It's a typical SEC environment, we've seen it before," Mainieri said. "Our players are used to it and I don't think we're uptight or anything. I think we're trying to beat a really good ball club with really good players. We're trying to compete and I thought our guys really competed hard."
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.