The Southeastern Conference is known to be the premier conference of college football, but the SEC’s most decorated and well rounded sport is baseball.
Baseball in the SEC has been dominant for nearly a decade now with the fourteen teams laying claim to five of the last ten championships. Last year’s championship was an all SEC matchup pitting the Florida Gators vs the Tigers for the title marking just the third time that has happened in the conferences history.
The Gators would eventually sweep the Tigers, but the game would only further the notion that the SEC was the best conference in the country. The matchup between the Gators and the Tigers represented the thirteenth and fourteenth SEC teams to compete for the championship since 2000.
With nineteen games to go before the SEC Tournament, the No. 19 Tigers are sitting with a record of 24-13, 9-6 SEC and are currently in second place in the West. The Tigers have had an up and down season this year after injuries to key players Josh Smith and Brandt Broussard have kept them out of the lineup for a major portion of the season.
Despite the up and down season, coach Paul Mainieri is confident in his team to weather the storm and succeed in the tumultuous SEC.
“You never get to high on yourself and you never get to low on yourself, because in this league everyday is a new adventure,” Mainieri said. “I’ve always said the SEC is the Major Leagues of college baseball. The reason I say that, not just because of the high level of play, but because every team from one through fourteen if filled with SEC caliber players.”
The SEC currently has nine teams rated inside of the Top 25 according to Baseball America with the Atlantic Coast Conference following in second with five teams inside the Top 25.
With so many quality teams on LSU’s schedule, the team has had a hard time finding its stride this season. The Tigers have won three of their five SEC series this season picking up a key series win this weekend against Tennessee.
“Anybody can beat anybody on a given day,” Mainieri said. “The best teams in major league baseball lose 60 games every year, the worst teams win 60 games a year it’s what you do with those other 40 games that define your season. That’s what it’s like in our league. Everybody in our league is going to lose 10 games and everyone is going to win ten games, it’s what you do with the other ten games that define what your season is gonna be.”
The series win against Tennessee was pivotal for the Tigers squad with a four game road stint set to start at Tulane on Tuesday and over the weekend against South Carolina. The Tigers hope to get starting shortstop Smith back at some point this week after a stress reaction in his back has kept him sidelined since the first series of the season.
With a tough road ahead of them the Tigers will have to play some of their best baseball of the season, but Mainieri is optimistic his guys can handle all the pressure put on them.
“I know sometimes it hasn’t been real pretty,” Mainieri said. “I know sometimes we haven’t hit as well as we’d like, you know there’s times we didn’t pitch as well as we’d like but at the same time I think there’s still hope. When you look at ourselves compared to around the league everybody’s got their own issues.”