After weekend setback in Texas A&M series, LSU baseball sets sights on Tulane

As the team’s pitchers cycled through their normal pre-practice routine, the LSU offense sat sequestered Monday.

Players lined the bench inside the third base dugout for about 25 minutes while their coaches lectured long past the 3 p.m. scheduled start time for practice. Coach Paul Mainieri led most of the conversation with hitting coach Andy Cannizaro seated close by, two days after concluding the Tigers’ series loss against Texas A&M when LSU scored just five runs and stranded 26 runners.

“You can talk to them until you’re blue in the face about how tough the SEC is going to be, how there are going to be one, two-run ballgames, executing, how important it is to bunt guys over and drive guys in,” Cannizaro said before practice.

“You can preach it all you want, but until those young kids get in there, understand it and feel it; ultimately they’re the ones that have to get in the box and drive in those runs. I have all the confidence in the world we’re going to do that.”

After a weekend where the Tigers got consecutive hits just twice in 27 innings, the lineup another chance to execute Cannizaro’s “pass it on” mentality Tuesday against Tulane, his alma mater, at 6:30 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.

Cannizaro often requests his hitters to simply win their at-bat, progressing the momentum to the next hitter. It’s paramount on this team, which possesses little power and got just five extra-base hits in College Station.

“When you don’t get extra base hits, it makes you susceptible to bad fortune,” Mainieri said. “You can hit balls right to people, you need to get sometimes three hits to score a run. You may not be swinging the bat badly but what happens is, the first guy makes out, then you get a base hit and it’s hard to advance him. Then the next guy might have hit a hard ball but right at somebody. Then the next guy gets a hit. So you’ve had three or four decent at-bats, but all you’ve got is runners on first and second with two outs.”

Cannizaro’s also careful to keep calm with a lineup tasked with replacing eight of nine everyday starters. He calls the first SEC games “trial by fire,” asking the young group to win and satiate a rabid fanbase, while still adapting to the rigors of SEC play.

“Yeah you want to stay patient with them, but at the same time, these games are coming one after the other, after the other,” Cannizaro said. “They’re going to get better the more times they play in those ballgames like we’ve done in the last two weekends. And I’m telling you, we’ll start winning these close ballgames because we’ve played in them with young kids.”

Freshman Cole McKay gets a second straight start for LSU, seven days after striking out five UL-Lafayette hitters in his two-inning stint at the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic.

Mainieri said he’ll extend McKay — who threw 24 of 41 pitches for strikes against the Cajuns —- as long as the tall righty is pitching well.

“Got my routine down and it means a lot,” McKay said of his last start.

“(I) definitely will be more comfortable out in the second start, hopefully fill up the zone a little better than that first one.”

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