Paul Mainieri went to bed Tuesday night not knowing how LSU’s blunder against Northwestern State would affect his team’s standings and mentality. He’s seen midweek losses drop teams double digits in the RPI and knew that a similar fall would be a hard hole to climb out of.
After a disappointing loss to the Demons that ended the home slate of the regular season on a sour note, the question on most people's minds was how it would affect LSU's standings in the RPI. Entering the game at No. 18, the Tigers only dropped four spots to No. 22 in the rankings. Mainieri was worried that the Tigers would drop into the 30's in the RPI immediately following the game so he woke up "pleasantly surprised" when he checked the latest rankings Wednesday morning.
LSU was still the "first four in" the NCAA tournament in the latest D1 Baseball projections but its standing is far from certain. It's what makes getting to at least 13 wins in conference play a must with this weekend's series at Texas A&M. The common theme coming out of Tuesday night's loss was lack of focus, something this young but now experienced team can not afford to let happen again.
"I don't think losing last night cripples us as much as I thought it might after the game was finished last night," Mainieri said. "This game can humble you in an awfully big hurry but our kids are resilient and we'll be ready to go this weekend.
"We're going into an important weekend," pitcher Landon Marceaux said. "We have to focus on tomorrow night because it's the biggest game of the year. And then Friday night's the biggest game of the year. From now on it's like we're playing in the finals, we have to keep our head above water."
Mainieri was quite honest with the fact that he doesn't know exactly what they need to do earn a tournament bid. At the end of the day the tournament committee will hold the Tigers postseason future in its hands and LSU needs to stack up as many wins this weekend as possible.
LSU has proven to be resilient coming off tough losses, particularly in recent weeks as the Tigers climb back into the postseason hunt. That game three win over Alabama was just the latest that kept their postseason hopes alive and outfielder Gavin Dugas says that resilience is a trait not many teams have.
"I think that's something we're really good at, we're able to rebound pretty well," Dugas said. "We run from failure and I truly believe this team has a good mindset moving forward, nobody's panicking about anything."
The Aggies are at the bottom of the conference standings so a series win should be the least of what's expected. A sweep would get the program to 14 wins and likely secure that postseason bid, even if its RPI rankings don't change all that much.
But Texas A&M is playing for plenty this weekend as well, most importantly an SEC Tournament bid. Mainieri and the players know what happens when you take an opponent too lightly and the message after the Northwestern State loss.
"We cannot take a play off at all," right fielder Dylan Crews said. "There's definitely a chip on our shoulder. I feel like this weekend's gonna be good because we're giving it everything we got. We're gonna go in there ready to play.
"It's going to be a grind this weekend. There's no doubt about that. Looking at past games with Texas A&M and 90% of them come down to one run so I would expect nothing different this weekend," Mainieri said.