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Series preview: LSU vs. Dartmouth

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Let's try this again.

No. 20 LSU (7-2) enters the third weekend of its season tonight against Dartmouth -- a supposedly overmatched opponent from a lesser league.

That was the script last week as well, when the Tigers hosted Appalachian State. But the Mountaineers took two of three in impressive fashion and held LSU to five runs on the weekend.

A pair of high octane wins in the middle of the week got the Tigers back on track. LSU outscored Grambling and McNeese State by an eye-popping 36-20 on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

Now the Tigers turn to the Big Green (0-0) for their fourth consecutive Ivy League opponent in the past four years. LSU took two of two games from both Harvard and Brown in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Last spring the Tigers won two of a three-game series with Princeton.

LSU serves as the first test of the season for a solid Dartmouth squad. The Big Green face a similar situation to the Tigers in that they return several key cogs to the lineup, as well as two of three weekend starters.

One of those returning pitchers, left-hander Kyle Hunter, will face off against LSU ace Kevin Gausman tonight. Hunter finished 5-3 last season and posted a 3.77 ERA for Dartmouth.

Gausman (2-0) has been lights out as expected through two starts this season. He is the only member of LSU's weekend rotation with an unblemished record, and his ERA sits at an impressive 0.69. On top of that are his 14 strikeouts in 13 innings.

Dartmouth is sending its other veteran arm, Mitch Horacek, against LSU's newcomer starter Ryan Eades on Saturday. Kurt McCune gets another start Sunday for the Tigers against Dartmouth's Michael Johnson.

Johnson had a 3-0 record and a 4.39 ERA in 2011.

Despite the big midweek games for the LSU bats, all eyes will be on the lineup to see if it flounders against quality competition. With the gaudy run totals from Tuesday and Wednesday, several Tigers have put together monstrous stats.

First baseman Mason Katz is hitting .500 for the year after a huge week when he put up two doubles, a home run and for RBI. Katz has reached base in 12 straight at-bats heading into Friday.

Third baseman Tyler Hanover and right fielder Raph Rhymes combined for 15 RBI in the drubbings of Grambling and McNeese State. Plenty of eyes are also sure to be on designated hitter Jared Foster.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri plugged Foster into the lineup at the leadoff spot after the disappointing weekend. He responded by going 3 for 6 against Grambling, knocking one RBI and scoring three times. He once again managed to work his way to base against McNeese, as he found a hit and a pair of walks which allowed him to score three more times.

Dartmouth promises to be one of the better teams in the Ivy League this spring, but the Big Green still aren't considered elite competition.

It will ease the minds of a lot of people in Baton Rouge if the bats can keep popping into the weekend.