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LSU Baseball Looking to Seek Balance in the Lineup Against Eastern Kentucky

Mainieri to start four freshmen in second weekend series of season.

The list of mistakes was two pages long. After LSU's disappointing 4-2 midweek loss to Nicholls on Wednesday, coach Paul Mainieri compiled a laundry list of head-scratching problems his team made.

Whether it was the poor at bats, walking five Colonels batters and hitting four more or messing up fundamental defensive assignments, Mainieri called his team's performance "embarrassing."

"There's just a lot of growing up this team has to do," Mainieri said. "I take full responsibility for the way we played last night. I know the difference between just being outplayed by the other team versus not playing fundamentally sound and being focused and doing the little things. Last night I had two pages of notes of mistakes that we made that I'll go over with the team. Last night hurt, that was a bad one."

The problems that come defensively with constant manuevering of the lineup is players have a propensity to play a position that they're not comfortable with. That's what happened to third baseman Zack Mathis Wednesday when he was asked to spot start at shortstop against Nicholls.

"One of the problems with tinkering with the lineups is in the infield for example," Mainieri said. "[Zack] Mathis plays third, now he's playing short last night and he doesn't quite all understand where he needs to be as a shortstop so second base gets uncovered and the runner takes off for second base. Stuff like that happens when you have guys playing multiple positions."

So as LSU continues to tinker with its early season lineups, Mainieri is in search of one thing above all else, balance. In his 13-year career at LSU, Mainieri said he's never had an offense that was as one dimensional as the one he's currently seeing.

There has always been a nice blend of contact and swing for the fences offensive styles on past teams but this year he's noticing more than ever, his team is trying to be something that maybe it's not meant to be.

"I've always preached balance so that you can win a 2-1 game or where you can win a 12-11 game," Mainieri said. "But early in the season, we've had a tendency to just try to be a home run hitting team." 

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The problem, Mainieri said, is LSU continues to sacrifice defense for offense but when that offense doesn't show up, it makes it that much more difficult to win games.

"When you don't get the offense, it wasn't worth the sacrifice that you made," Mainieri said. "I don't want to take away all our home run hitters but you can't have seven or eight home run hitters that are just going to strike out a lot."

With all of that being said, here's the plan Mainieri will run with this weekend against Eastern Kentucky.

Freshman Wes Toups will replace Drew Bianco in left field this weekend while Hal Hughes will make a return to shortstop, allowing Zack Mathis to slide back to third base, a position where he spent most of the fall and spring. Freshman catcher Alex Milazzo will also catch two of the three games against Eastern Kentucky this weekend which means LSU will have four freshmen in the lineup at some point.

Mainieri said freshman centerfielder Maurice Hampton is "getting better with each passing play and each passing at bat" and sees Hampton sticking it out in center after two impressive midweek performances.

"At the plate, I just think he's getting better and better," Mainieri said. "Earlier in the game, he crushed a ball to right field and the wind was blowing, right. I thought it was going to beat the right fielder, but it didn't quite get over his head. Then he comes up in the ninth inning and just hits a missile up the middle. He's a great athlete, great outfielder and I think he's going to continue to grow and grow and become a nice player for us."

As far as the pitching staff is concerned, Mainieri said he's hoping the starters will be able to go six innings with a 90 pitch limit. In the opening week, no starter went longer than four innings.

First pitch Friday between LSU and Eastern Kentucky is set for 7 p.m. and the series can be viewed on SECN+.