LSU baseball vs Ole Miss preview

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Photo credit Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

LSU: 29-16 overall, 13-8 SEC

Ole Miss: 30-16 overall, 13-8 SEC

Tigers-Rebels at "The Box" This Weekend!

— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) May 2, 2019

LSU and Ole Miss square off this weekend in a pivotal SEC series in Baton Rouge.  Both teams are two games back of the overall SEC lead with three conference series remaining. Let’s take a look at the match up:

LSU hitting:  Outfielder Zach Watson continues his torrid hitting pace, leading the Tigers with a .348 average this season. Watson’s power numbers are on the rise as well with 5 long balls this season.  Saul Garza has emerged as the team’s best catchers down the stretch.  Garza has become a better hitter in the last two weeks of the season bumping his average up to .211 with two home runs in the last two SEC series. As a team the Tigers are hitting .271which is right in the middle of the conference rankings.

Ole Miss hitting: The Rebels are fourth in the SEC in team batting average, hitting .287 for the season.  Utility man Ryan Olenek is the leading hitter for Ole Miss with a .364 average.  Cole Zabowski and Dillard Thomas provide the power in the Mississippi line-up, each posting 9 home runs this season. The Rebels feature four hitters in their everyday line-up batting above .300 for the season.  Ole Miss loves to run on the base paths with 76 stolen bags on 91`attempts this season.

LSU pitching:  Finally, after nearly two years of consternation Zack Hess and Paul Mainieri decided it's best that Hess pitch out of the bullpen. Hess was ultra-successful out of the bullpen as a freshman, and never consistently settled into his Friday night starting role over the last two seasons.  Freshman Cole Henry will not be available in the starting rotation this weekend.  Henry is still dealing with elbow soreness.  Ma’Khail Hillard will get the start in the opening game of the series against Ole Miss.  Eric Walker will pitch Saturday, and freshman Landon Marceaux will finish the series on Sunday.  With Hess in the Bullpen, the LSU Tigers are in great shape.  Todd Peterson, and Devin Fontenot with Hess gives Paul Mainieri a lot of options in the back end of his bullpen.

Ole Miss Pitching:  The Rebels have a team ERA of 3.97 headed into this weekend against LSU. Will Ethridge is the stud Ole Miss will count on as the starter this weekend.  He’s 5-3 this season with a couple of tough luck losses.  LSU will get another strong dose of left handed pitching this weekend against Ole Miss.  Freshman lefty, Doug Nikhazy is the likely game two starter for the Rebels. Nikhazy was sensational last outing against Texas A&M striking out 10 Aggie hitters in seven innings of work.

Lagniappe:  The Tigers have three SEC series remaining If LSU is going to host a Regional and a Super Regional it’s safe to say they’ll have to take two out of three games in the final three series of the season.  That would give them 19 SEC wins, which would certainly be enough to host a regional.  If LSU loses any of next three series it would severely damage their chances of getting a top-8 national seed, and hosting a regional and super-regional.  If LSU gets to 18 wins in the conference they would still be a regional host site, but would have to go on the road if they advance out of that regional.  If the Tigers do manage to make a run in the SEC tournament with 18 conference wins they’ll improve their seeding chances greatly.  Believe it or not there is still a lot of baseball to be played.