Before every first midweek game of the season, coach Paul Mainieri tells every one of his teams a story about the importance of winning every game, no matter if it's on a Tuesday or Friday night.
The story goes like this. In 2011, LSU went 36-20 and 13-17 in conference play and didn't receive a bid to the NCAA tournament.
"A couple of years later we went 40-16, a four game conference game difference and we were a national seed," Mainieri said. "So we went from not getting a bid to a national seed by virtue of the results changing by four games."
It's a short tale that doesn't directly apply to the midweek games but hammers home the importance of them nonetheless. Had LSU lost even one or two extra games in that season, it likely wouldn't have received a national seed bid.
"A lot of people in this town have this misconception that I don't take midweek games seriously and there's nothing further from the truth," Mainieri said. "If you look back at the '13 or '14 season, we went undefeated in midweek games. It was the first time in the history of LSU baseball. Even under the 18 years of Skip [Berman] they never went undefeated in the midweek games. Then we turned around and did it again the following year."
Mainieri has a theory behind what has made midweek opponents so daunting for this team in recent years and it stems from the change in roster sizes that college baseball teams are allowed to have.
"A lot of players that would have come down to LSU are now going to our other brethren in the state, which strengthens their teams and they've gotten better," Mainieri said. "I wouldn't say across the board, every one of their players would be in our starting lineup here, but there's kids that went to these other schools that got an opportunity to play early in their careers, and then really developed. Then by the time they're juniors and seniors, they're really good ballplayers."
LSU split the two games last year with Southern, including a 7-2 loss at their place and sophomore first baseman Cade Beloso hasn't easily forgotten.
"They definitely put it on us last year and I don't want to feel that way ever again," Beloso said. "I remember that feeling like it was yesterday and definitely going to come out tomorrow with a little extra motivation."
First pitch was changed to 4 p.m. today with junior Brandon Kaminer on the mound and will feature the first start of freshman Maurice Hampton in centerfield.