LSU-MSU: A Championship Series?

On today’s SEC baseball coaches teleconference – the last one of the year, save next week’s pre-tournament session – LSU coach Paul Mainieri said of his team’s visit to Mississippi State this weekend, “We’re treating it as though it’s a championship series.” And in a way, it is.

LSU, with an 18-9 SEC mark, leads the West and is half-game up on Alabama (17-9) and one up on Florida and Ole Miss (both 17-10). As we saw last weekend in Oxford, MSU has the potential to screw up an opponent’s best-laid plans.

Mainieri is well aware of what State did to the Rebels.

“I think it tells you they’ve got good players. Anybody that can go win in Oxford can’t do it with mirrors, you have to have good players to do that. I’ve thought all along Mississippi State has good players. It also shows they don’t quit.”

MSU, of course, will not be playing in the SEC Tournament. So this is it for the seniors. That’s some motivation, but it’s an unfamiliar situation for first-year coach John Cohen – being part of a last-place team trying to play spoiler. He said the only other time this has happened was his first year at Kentucky.

He said he does not expect his players to be intimidated by an LSU team that will throw the likes of Anthony Ranaudo (6-3, 3.10) and Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.45).

“I think our kids know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and one of our strengths is we’re going to compete,” Cohen said. “Even though we’re not where we want to be in wins and losses right now, I think they can all sense the direction we’re going.”

Remember, the series begins Thursday, at 6:30 p.m. Friday’s game is also at 6:30, and Saturday’s finale is set for 2 p.m. In tomorrow’s Journal, my preview will actually be a feature on catcher Scott DeLoach, who’s gone from walk-on to the team’s best hitter and the SEC’s best-hitting catcher.

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