With LSU Baseball on Outside Looking In of Postseason, Alabama Series Becomes Most Important of Season

Tigers need series win to keep postseason hopes alive
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Every weekend from here on out is the most important for LSU baseball. The Tigers are in the midst of digging themselves out of a gargantuan SEC hole by winning two of the last three series and most recently, picking up a top 25 win over Louisiana Tech. 

But the work is far from over and with two weekends in conference play remaining, the purple and gold need to rack up as many wins as possible to secure a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Even though it's just one metric, DI Baseball has LSU (30-18, 9-15) on the outside looking in on the field of 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers are designated as the "Next Four Out" while the Crimson Tide (28-17, 11-12) hold a "Last Four In" ranking in the latest projections. 

It's what makes a series win this weekend in Alex Box so critical for both programs fighting to stay in the hunt of the postseason. A loss for LSU would almost certainly end any hopes of squeaking into the tournament. But for Paul Mainieri and his team, the message hasn't wavered even with the big picture being talked about.

"All is not lost, we still have a lot to play for," Mainieri said. "We can get into the postseason and once we get into the postseason, it's clean slate. We're improving as a team, we're getting better and we're a team to be reckoned with."

That all starts with Alabama this weekend, a team that is in a similar boat to LSU in terms of the standings. The Tigers must win this series but the Crimson Tide are a team that doesn't make many mistakes. 

"They have a really good team. Speed, power, they're a really good defensive team and make you earn everything that you get," Mainieri said. "The top two starters for them have been really solid and remind me a lot of a team like Auburn. We're gonna have our hands full."

Mainieri had called this series with the Crimson Tide the most important of the year but that's not something the players can really worry about. In the backs of their minds, they know how critical the next three games are to the postseason push but keeping that one day at a time mentality is what's been helped them dig out of the hole created earlier this season.

"We pretty much look at every game as important in the SEC. We take it one game at a time," Gavin Dugas said. "Big series but we're not looking too deep into the future. We're just doing what we can with what's in front of us."

LSU will be getting Jordan Thompson back in the lineup Mainieri said. The freshman shortstop had been feeling poorly, which forced him to miss most of the midweek win against Louisiana Tech but Mainieri said Thompson has been feeling better each day. 

Drew Bianco's recent play has plugged a hole at second base and Ma'Khail Hilliard has turned in back-to-back stellar outings on the mound to give LSU a reliable third starter. The pieces are starting to come together for this team playing its best baseball of the season.

With the Tigers knowing hosting postseason baseball isn't in the cards, this final series is a way to send off the seniors on a high note while keeping postseason hopes alive. 

"We need the fans this weekend," Mainieri said. "These kids have been through a lot and it'd be great if we could have that one weekend where the LSU Tigers fans really show up and rally our team. I feel we're going to finish this season strong and this weekend will go a long way to making that happen."