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SEC Weekend Preview: Vols Welcome Hungry Tigers

Conference play is well underway for the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers (17-4) after one weekend of SEC action. The only difference for the Vols this week will be the opportunity to get a series win at home against a league opponent

The LSU Tigers (16-5) roam to Knoxville looking to feast on a couple of conference wins. Last weekend the Bayou Bengals dropped two games at home in Baton Rouge to No. 4 Mississippi State.

One team is looking to continue riding consistency while moving up the rankings. The other desperately needs a series win before facing No.1 Vanderbilt in a week.

Both dropped news on Thursday that could have a drastic effect on the series. Here a few notes to keep an eye on as the Vols take on the Tigers.

An Extended, SEC Stay

SEC

LSU’s road trips have been nothing but pit stops up to this point. The Tigers have only played two games away from Alex Box Stadium. One contest was a an 11-2 win over in-state rival Louisiana. The other was a 5-0 victory over New Orleans.

It will be interesting to see how LSU responds when they have to carry some luggage. Tennessee is 12-2 at home and has scored five runs or more in the past eight home games. And the Volunteers are starting to gain some attention for a hectic atmosphere despite limited capacity.

An SEC Slug Fest ?

While the Vols are the more efficient lineup, the Tigers have the most powerful one.

LSU ranks fifth in the SEC in team slugging percentage (.486) and second in total bases (360).  The Purple and Gold must still be celebrating Mardi Gras the way they are launching baseballs like beads on Fat Tuesday. The Tigers lead the conference in home runs with 37. Tennessee has 24, good for 10th in the league.

It’s mainly a two-headed monster providing the dazzle for LSU. Freshman Dylan Crews leads the way with 54 total bases and a .383 average. Sophomore Cade Doughty holds a .774 SLG and a team-high 25 RBI.

The Vols tend to keep the lineup moving, but fail to capitalize in certain situations. Tennessee has a patient approach at the plate, a philosophy installed by head coach Tony Vitello. That method has led the Volunteers to leading the SEC in walks (126). They also rank fifth in on-base percentage (.391).

The biggest area of concern for Tennessee is leaving runners stranded. As good as they have been maintaining a fluid order (938 plate appearances), the Vols have also left 30 more men on base than the Tigers in the same amount of games.

Senior shortstop Liam Spence and sophomore outfielder Drew Gilbert are the darlings for Vitello’s bunch. Spence leads in total bases (48) while Gilbert has a team-high five home runs.

Spence is listed at No.6 in D1 Baseball’s Top 30 Shortstops. The shortstop has the highest SLG (.566) of all Tennessee players with more than five at-bats.

A Shake-Up on the Mound

Vols Pitcher delivers pitch to batter in 2020 season.

Each squad has news regarding their respective pitching staff. And the results of a each revelation has yet to be determined.

For LSU, it’s head coach Paul Mainieri deciding to flip the script on the first series road trip and go with his hot hand.

The Tigers’ Twitter account announced on Thursday that junior Landon Marceaux will be the Friday night starter in place of fellow junior, Jaden Hill.

The 6’4, 234 lb Hill has been the Friday night starter for the past four weeks. In the last three games, he has given up 14 runs on 18 hits.

Meanwhile, Marceaux is looking like one of the best pitchers in the country. The right-hander has logged 30 innings with an unblemished ERA. No one with that amount of work has gone without giving up a run. Marceaux has 35 strikeouts to just six walks. He’s also held opponents to a .140 average.

On the bump for the Vols will be junior Chad “Cheese” Dallas. This comes as no shock. What is daunting for Tennessee is the news of senior Jackson Leath being out for season. Last month, the senior went down with a hamstring injury in what was his first start of the season. That appearance is likely his last in a Vols uniform.

It will interesting to see how Vitello’s group responds to the loss. Perhaps they’ve had reason to expect the news. Either way, there is a big difference in dealing with hope versus reality in regards to Leath’s future with the team.

Dallas is undefeated in his Tennessee career. The junior holds a 6-0 career record to go along with a 3.65 ERA. Dallas has 32 SO to 6 BB in just 23 innings of service this season.

The three-game series starts Friday at 6:30 p.m. All contests can be streamed via the ESPN app on SEC Network Plus.

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