SEC baseball is alive and well in Hoover, Alabama this holiday weekend, but the same may not be the case for LSU if history repeats itself. Â
Friday's 4:00 PM affair with sixth-seeded Mississippi State looms on the horizon for the top-seeded Tigers, who will need to proceed cautiously if they are to make it out alive and advance to Saturday's semifinal round. Â Â
When a huge underdog beats up on a favorite, it always makes for a good story. Â
But if it happens twice in two days, it becomes legendary. Â Mississippi State's thrilling 3-2 win over LSU remains fresh because it occurred Wednesday. Â Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, theÂ exuberanceÂ lasted less than 24 hours, when No. 12 Kentucky tamed them with a 5-1 beat down in Thursday's third round.
It's single elimination from here on out, so both teams are well aware of the consequences of losing on Friday. Â
But Mississippi State already knows how to take down LSU. Â Here are the three keys to doing it again.
1. Jump on LSU Pitching EarlyÂ Â
LSU may have planned to utilize a lot of pitchers in Wednesday's loss, but it bordered on ridiculous.
While the Bulldogs gotÂ six excellent innings and eight strikeouts from starter Chris Stratton (11-1), the Tigers shuffled through seven pitchers in all. Â None lastedÂ more than two and two-thirds innings, and that may be too long for Mississippi State to capture magic in a bottle twice. Â
The best-case scenario would be to knock the ball around enough to force LSU to turn to a bullpen that was also used in Thursday's 11-2 elimination win over Ole Miss. Â The faster that happens, the quicker the Tigers will become weary.Â
2. The Bulldogs Need Some More Timely HittingÂ Â
Both Adam Frazier and Brent Brownlee got things started early for Mississippi State on Wednesday, with third-inning RBI singles that gave the Bulldogs a quick 2-0 lead over LSU. Â
ButÂ Demarcus Henderson will be the guy with a target on his back when he steps up to the plate on Friday. Â Henderson's bat wrote the perfect ending to the Bulldogs' stunning win, when he smashed a sixth-inning single that drove in Mitch Slauter for the deciding run.Â
3. Mississippi State Must Refocus and Put the Kentucky Loss Behind Them.Â
In post-game notes provided by secdigitalnetwork.com,Â Mississippi State head coach John Cohen worried about the fatigue factor in a grueling tournament like the SEC's. Â But if the Bulldogs want to be the best, they have to beat the best again.
"There arenâ€™t a lot of teams in our league that have done that this year," said Cohen. "Iâ€™m really proud of the effort weâ€™ve been getting. Mentally, we were a little bit tired and not as locked in as I wanted us to be today. Our mission right now is to put that in the rear view mirror and move forward and get ready to play a very good LSU team.â€
Only time will tell if the Bulldogs can outsmart the Tigers twice over.
In the meantime, Friday's SEC Tournament schedule features a second elimination game. Immediately after LSU and Mississippi State square off at 3:00 PM, South Carolina will battle Florida. Kentucky and Vanderbilt await the winners on Saturday in the tournament semifinals.
For a complete look at the SEC Tournament grid, check outÂ TigerDroppings.com.Â It includes TV listings and results from the event's first couple of days.