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June 5, 2012

Tigers won't be overconfident

LSU is two victories away from returning to the College World Series for the first time in three years.

The Tigers' opponent is probably an unknown to nearly all of the 10,000 or so fans who will attend this weekend's super-regional series at The Box.

LSU must defeat America East regular season and tournament champion Stony Brook in order to move on to Omaha. The Tigers will be taking on a non-BCS conference team for a third consecutive time. But, LSU's two previous super-regional opponents were more well-known - Cal Irvine (2008) and Rice (2009).

However, coach Paul Mainieri quickly pointed out to members of the media at his press conference Tuesday afternoon that the Seawolves will provide a challenge for his team.

"There is no such thing as being overconfident," Mainieri said. "From day one, I preach to the players to respect all opponents and be in awe of none of them. Anybody who takes Stony Brook lightly is way off base.

"It doesn't matter if the name on the shirt says Texas, South Carolina or Stony Brook. We're going to approach the game the same way. Stony Brook is outstanding. Fortunately, plenty of our players played with and against their players in the Cape Cod League. They just have to listen to their teammates."

Stony Brook played just three games in the regular season against a team in the NCAA tournament. The Seawolves were swept in a three-game series at East Carolina. During the regular season, Stony Brook split four games against BCS conference teams - 1-1 against both Kansas and Minnesota.

But, the Seawolves were quite impressive in coming out of the losers' bracket to win the Coral Gables Regional. Stony Brook defeated host Miami in the first round. After losing to Central Florida, the Seawolves stayed alive by beating Missouri State. Then, Stony Brook beat Central Florida twice.

"Stony Brook is the only team to win 50 games," Mainieri said. "They have won 26 of their last 28 games. It's not their players' fault as to whom they play and what conference they are in.

"All they can do is play the teams in front of them. Just because they haven't played SEC teams doesn't mean they are not capable of playing teams in the SEC."

Besides the opponent, another topic of conversation has been the starting times for the games in the super-regional. LSU and Stony Brook will play at 11 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. If a third game is needed, it will start at noon Sunday. ESPN sets the times for all super-regional games.

"The only thing I'm concerned about is the game time for our fans," Mainieri said. "It's going to be hot. We played a great game at 9:30 a.m. (11-2 victory against Ole Miss) in the SEC tournament. Whether a game is early in the morning, in the heat of the day or late at night, the players have to adjust."

Mainieri has not yet settled upon a starting pitcher for Friday. Kevin Gausman and Aaron Nola will start the first two games of the series. Last week, Mainieri used Nola in the first-round game against Louisiana-Monroe. Normally, Gausman pitches the opening game of a weekend series.

"We are preparing both Nola and Gausman for Friday," Mainieri said. "I may not announce the pitcher for two days. I am waiting for a while to see what Stony Brook is doing. They threw their No. 1 guy (Tyler Johnson) on both Friday and Monday."

Mainieri did name Ryan Eades the starter if the series goes to a third game Sunday. Mainieri is treating this weekend like a normal SEC series.

"Our goal this weekend is to win two games," Mainieri said. "It's like a SEC weekend series where we try to win the series. It doesn't matter which two games you win as long as you win two."



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