This week was set up for the LSU baseball team to transition from one showdown weekend to the next, a battle against the team favored to win the SEC West followed by one of the favorites to win a national championship in June.
But there won’t be any down time after all and that may suit the Tigers’ current situation better.
After sweeping then No. 3-ranked Arkansas, LSU is back at work at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when Division III Louisiana College visits Alex Box Stadium for the first time since 1998 in a game scheduled to replace a rained-out contest against Notre Dame last month.
The 7th-ranked Tigers (22-6) head to Gainesville to take on No. 1 Florida in a series that starts Thursday night to accommodate a9 national television broadcast.
The Wildcats (10-14) jumped into to fill the one-game void on LSU’s schedule after Mainieri called every D-I program in the Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi within driving distance for a taker.
“Several of these non-Division I coaches have said to me through the time I have been here that if you ever have an opening would you remember us,” Mainieri said. “So I thought, let’s give somebody an opportunity to do it.”
Mainieri has a soft spot for non-D-I programs getting a crack at the big boys. In his first job at D-II St. Thomas University, he guided teams that twice beat Goliath-like Miami.
Because of his experience, he expects LC – which features a roster full of state players, eight from the Baton Rouge metro area – to be jacked up about playing at Alex Box Stadium.
“They’re pretty excited about it, and they should be,” Mainieri said. “I think it’s a neat thing for them.”
Generating excitement for the Tigers might be more of a challenge, but Mainieri insisted his team is not taking the Wildcats lightly.
Perhaps in a way to churn up some motivation, Mainieri will put several non-starters in the lineup to help them stay sharp.
“You probably won’t recognize the lineup that’s out there,” he said. “It’s the combination of our everyday guys playing a very intense 29 innings this weekend and our reserve players not playing as much as I would like recently and having to keep those guys sharp. Anybody who’s on the roster should be good enough to win with. Hopefully, they’ll be inspired and play very well.”
The pitching plans will follow a similar patchwork approach Mainieri and pitching coach Alan Dunn have used in several mid-week games. Freshman left-hander Cody Glenn is expected to get the start, but he won’t go long to make sure he’s ready and available for the Florida series.
Part of the by-committee plan is the shuffle in weekend plans created when freshman Aaron Nola left Sunday’s 3-2 11-inning victory against Arkansas with a sore shoulder. A visit to the doctor revealed no structural damage, but Mainieri said Nola won’t start vs. the Gators and isn’t likely to pitch at all, though he is expected to be on the travel roster.
With that domino falling, Mainieri will start sophomore Kurt McCune in the series opener to allow Kevin Gausman and Ryan Eades to stay on their normal rest and recovery schedules in the altered week.
McCune is a former weekend start and he logged only one inning of work against the Razorbacks on Friday.
“I think we’ll turn a negative into a positive here because Gausman and Eades will get their normal rest,” Mainieri said. “They’ll be able to do their normal routine.
“I think Kurt McCune is ready for this, and so we’re going to just go ahead and go with him on Thursday night. It just seemed like the prudent thing for us to do.”
ON DECK: Louisiana College at No. 7 LSU
Nola won't start, unlikely to pitch this week