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May 27, 2013
Looking for five victories
There was little suspense surrounding the announcement of the NCAA tournament bracket Monday morning as regards LSU.
The Tigers knew they were going to get one of the eight national seeds which guarantee them home games through the first two rounds of the postseason tournament. Even though LSU defeated Vanderbilt in Sunday's SEC tournament title game, it still received the No. 4 national seed.
North Carolina, Vanderbilt and Oregon State are the three teams who have higher seeds than the Tigers. Louisiana-Lafayette, Sam Houston State and Jackson State will be the other team in the Baton Rouge Regional, which starts Friday.
"A No. 1 seed hasn't won a national championship since 1999," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri at a press conference Monday afternoon. "Maybe there's a curse with it. If we both get there, Vanderbilt is on the other side of the bracket which would set up a neat final.
"The goal is to be a national seed so you can host a regional and a super-regional. That's the important thing. You can get to sleep in your own bed. But, you are not guaranteed anything as we were reminded last year. But, you certainly have a better chance to get to Omaha by being at home."
A year ago, the Tigers won three straight games in the regional at The Box. However, fourth-seeded Stony Brook beat LSU two games to one in the super-regional. The Tigers were shocked after dropping the last two games of the series with Stony Brook.
"That super-regional loss is not fresh in my mind," Mainieri said. "I never used that as a motivation with this team. This is a new year.
"What happened last year gave us confidence. I sensed we were going to have a good team this year. I pray that we got in the same situation this year - one win from Omaha. If we get there, I hope we play better than we did at that point last year."
LSU bounced back from a second-round loss to Arkansas to win the SEC tournament. The Tigers rallied for two ninth-inning runs to stay alive in an elimination game against Alabama. LSU then knocked off the Razorbacks in the semifinals before nipping the Commodores 5-4 in 11 innings in the title game.
"As I always say momentum in baseball depends upon the next day's starting pitcher," Mainieri said. "But, we do have a lot of confidence after the SEC tournament. That tournament gave the players a feeling of getting the job done.
"Our pitching was phenomenal. Everyone knows we didn't swing the bats very well out there. Our defense stepped up considering two of our best defensive players (JaCoby Jones and Mark Laird) were out. Our defense may have been the determining factor in winning the tournament."
Mainieri had no news Monday on the status of Jones and Laird. Since Monday was Memorial Day, neither went for a MRI. Jones has a wrist injury, while Laird sprained his ankle during batting practice Saturday.
"They won't see the doctor until Tuesday," Mainieri said. "JaCoby did some rehab stuff (Monday). If he is ready to go Friday, we'll put him in there. Mark is not as sore as he was Sunday. But, his game is speed. Anything he does depends upon his speed."
Mainieri will decide Tuesday whether Cody Glenn or Ryan Eades will start the Friday game against Jackson State. Mainieri gave the team off from practice Monday. The Tigers will work again Tuesday night.
"I don't know much about Jackson State and Sam Houston," Mainieri said. "We played ULL and it was one of those nights where everything went well for us (11-2 LSU victory). I know this. I was in awe during batting practice. They must have lost 100 balls."
LSU appears to be a big favorite to win its regional. However, Mainieri understands his team's 52-9 record means nothing right now.
"Everything we have done up to this point matters zilch," Mainieri said. "I am always very confident in our team. Our philosophy is that we respect all of our opponents and we are in awe of none. We feel we have the best program in the country.
"The goal is to get to Omaha no matter who we lose and who we recruit. But, we can't get to Omaha this week. We are five wins away from Omaha. We have to take it one game at a time. There are no gimmes, no cupcakes. Our chances are enhanced by playing at home."
Here is information regarding the Baton Rouge Regional. The winner of the Baton Rouge Regional will play the winner of the Blacksburg Regional.
BATON ROUGE REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, May 31
Game 1: Jackson State vs. LSU, 2 p.m.
Game 2: Sam Houston State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 1
Game 3: Jackson State-LSU loser vs. Sam Houston State-Louisiana-Lafayette loser, 2 p.m.
Game 4: Jackson State-LSU winner vs. Sam Houston State-Louisiana-Lafayette winner, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 2
Game 5: game 3 winner vs. game 4 loser, 2 p.m.
Game 6: game 4 winner vs. game 5 winner, 7 p.m.
Monday, June 3
Game 7: same teams as game 6 (if necessary), 7 p.m.
LSU (Seed No. 1) - 52-9, 23-7 in SEC
SEC tournament champion, SEC West champion
Record against teams in NCAA tournament: 19-8
Regional tournament appearances/titles: 26/19 (last title coming in 2012)
Team batting average: .308
Team earned run average: 2.48
Team fielding percentage: .981
Alex Bregman, Fr., SS -- .378 BA, 5 HR, 49 RBI
Mason Katz, Sr., 1B -- .377, 14 HR, 64 RBI
Raph Rhymes, Sr., OF -- .335, 4 HR, 43 RBI
Christian Ibarra, Jr., 3B -- .335, 6 HR, 37 RBI
Mark Laird, Fr., OF -- .289, 0 HR, 17 RBI
Aaron Nola, So., RH - 10-0, 1.94 ERA
Ryan Eades, Jr., RH - 8-1, 2.69 ERA
Cody Glenn, So., LH - 7-2, 2.41 ERA
Chris Cotton, Sr., LH - 4-1, 15 saves
Louisiana-Lafayette (Seed No. 2) - 41-18, 19-11 in Sun Belt
Sun Belt tournament runner-up
Record against teams in NCAA tournament: 10-6
Regional tournament appearances/titles: 13/2 (last title coming in 2000)
Team batting average: .323
Team earned run average: 4.26
Team fielding percentage: .969
Dex Kjerstad, Jr., OF -- .392 BA, 11 HR, 42 RBI
Seth Harrison, Jr., OF -- .342, 9 HR, 44 RBI
Caleb Adams, So., DH -- .339, 14 HR, 50 RBI
Blake Trahan, Fr., SS -- .337, 4 HR, 34 RBI
Michael Strentz, So., C -- .316, 7 HR, 42 RBI
Austin Robichaux, So., RH - 8-2, 3.20 ERA
Cody Boutte, Jr., LH - 8-3, 5.27 ERA
Ryan Wilson, Jr., LH - 6-4, 3.35 ERA
Matt Hicks, Jr., RH - 3-1, 10 saves
Sam Houston State (Seed No. 3) - 37-20, 20-7 in Southland
Southland regular season champion
Record against teams in NCAA tournament: 7-3
Regional tournament appearances/titles: 8/0
Team batting average: .291
Team earned run average: 3.71
Team fielding percentage: .970
Kevin Miller, Sr., 3B -- .338 BA, 2 HR, 37 RBI
Carter Burgess, So., SS -- .318, 0 HR, 27 RBI
Anthony Azar, Jr., C -- .309, 5 HR, 45 RBI
Colt Atwood, So., OF -- .306, 0 HR, 25 RBI
Luke Plucheck, Jr., OF -- .297, 8 HR, 40 RBI
Cody Dickson, Jr., LH - 9-5, 4.33 ERA
Caleb Smith, Jr., LH - 7-5, 3.23 ERA
Tyler Eppler, So., RH - 5-2, 3.41 ERA
Jason Simms, Jr., LH - 3-1, 9 saves
Jackson State (Seed No. 4) - 34-30, 19-5 in SWAC
SWAC tournament champion, SWAC East champion
Record against teams in NCAA tournament: 0-3
Regional tournament appearances/titles: 5/0
Team batting average: .285
Team earned run average: 4.66
Team fielding percentage: .955
Charles Tilery, Jr., OF -- .344 BA, 1 HR, 33 RBI
Bryce Taylor, Jr., OF -- .309, 1 HR, 25 RBI
Stephen Curtis, Jr., 2B -- .301, 1 HR, 36 RBI
Ethan Bright, Sr., 1B -- .297, 4 HR, 36 RBI
Jose Cruz, Jr., C -- .250, 1 HR, 39 RBI
Alexander Juday, So., RH - 7-4, 3.14 ERA
Brandon Gregory, Jr., LH - 6-4, 6.46 ERA
Vincent Anthonia, Fr., LH - 5-4, 5.11 ERA
Desmond Russell, Jr., RH - 3-0, 3 saves