As LSU Baseball Looks to Find Answers to Many Issues, Closing Out Games Standing Out Above All

Tigers planning to shake up bullpen this weekend, a few players could make return from injury
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There are no moral victories for Paul Mainieri. With LSU on the brink of a second straight series win, completely outplaying No. 5 South Carolina for most of two games, the Tigers once again faltered down the stretch. 

So on Monday, instead of talking about all of the positives that the Tigers could take away from the series, Mainieri once again was talking about another losing SEC series. 

"We're here to win and that's what we've done for years," Mainieri said. "When you get beat and you're winning 2-0 and they score four runs in the last inning, those games cause you to toss and turn all night. 

"As you might imagine when they left here on Saturday, they were pretty down. We were a hair away from winning a series against a top ranked team and played so well for two ball games. We just couldn't close it out. We've gotta regroup and get back on the horse, hopefully have a good game tomorrow and face another really tough SEC opponent."

The problems for this team have come from a myriad of issues. Inconsistent offensive production and lackluster bullpen performances have led to some truly devastating losses for this team in conference play. There was game two of the Tennessee series, where LSU held a lead going into the top of the ninth but couldn't bring it in, losing in extra innings. 

There was game three of Kentucky where trailing 5-3 late in the game but still a chance to sweep the series was ultimately done in by an eight run inning for the Wildcats that cost the Tigers. Then there was this last weekend against the No. 5 Gamecocks, when a 2-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh was squandered as four runs came across and cost LSU a series win. 

For Mainieri and LSU, it's been a season that has been defined by one and two run games. The Tigers are 1-5 in SEC play in games decided by two runs or less and it's lead to a 4-11 conference start and the team on the brink of losing this season completely. 

"Even if you just take the games where we were one strike away or two outs away, if you turn those two games around you feel like you're in the middle of the pack at least," Mainieri said. "It's just so frustrating to think that we're so close because I think our team has made a lot of improvements in a lot of areas. And yet we're still snake bitten."

One of the major concerns all year has come from the bullpen and with the team down Jaden Hill, the Tigers have not been getting what they need out of that third starting position either. But closing out games with a lead has plagued this team all season and Mainieri will shake things up from all indications this week at Ole Miss. 

Will Hellmers, who hasn't been seen in SEC games for two straight weekends will be heavily used. Garrett Edwards made a strong case that he should possibly earn a start at the end of the week after a career high 3.2 innings against South Carolina on Saturday. Mainieri will also look for freshmen Javen Coleman and Zachary Muray, who's been out all of the season with a shoulder injury, to make his debut with the program against ULM on Tuesday. 

Even veteran Matthew Beck is set to throw his first bullpen after being out most of this season with an elbow injury of his own. With guys getting healthy and throwing new arms out of the bullpen, the hope is more consistency will come out of the road series with the Rebels. 

"Most importantly tomorrow, we need to look at a lot of guys who have not pitched," Mainieri said. "It's definitely time for us to run some of these freshman arms out there and see if they can give us a good spark out of the bullpen."