(Photo: Bleacher Report)
While a 38-23 regular season record in an extremely tough conference like the SEC could be considered great by some standards, fans of the Tigers hold their program to even higher standards. But even in a “down” year, LSU embraced the underdog role in the Eugene regional last weekend.
The third seed in a regional that contained an Oregon team that was 16th in RPI and 10th in D1Baseball’s top 25 (as of June 1st), and a Gonzaga team that was 27th in RPI, LSU lost their opening round game to Gonzaga 3-0. On the brink of elimination, the Tigers won four straight, including two in a row in the regional final against that red hot Oregon team to advance to the Super Regionals.
After an early exit in the SEC tournament, LSU was forced to wait patiently on the committee’s decision to determine whether their season would continue. Not only that, but their long time coach, Paul Mainieri, announced his retirement shortly before the NCAA selection show. Nonetheless, as fate would have it, the Tigers’ name was called and they were given a chance to right the ship.
The way the team responded after losing in the opening round of regional play is why they have a chance to knock off the heavy favored Tennessee Volunteers this weekend.
Tennessee swept LSU in Knoxville during the regular season, but that was only the second SEC series of the year. The Tigers struggled early in the year, as expected with the amount of youth that was rushed into major playing time this year, but played their best baseball down the stretch.
LSU is led offensively by Tre Morgan, who hit .361 and stole 15 bases, and Dylan Crews who also hit .361 and blasted 16 home runs during the regular season. They also have one of the best pitchers in the nation in Landon Marceaux, who won 7 games and posted a 2.44 ERA during the 2021 season. They will need all three and more to step up if they want to continue their run to Omaha.
The Volunteers are riding momentum that fans haven’t seen in a long time. Almost losing to Wright State in the opening round of their regional, Tennessee walked it off and didn’t look back on their way to a Super Regional berth. A very good offensive team, they are led by Liam Spence and Jake Rucker who hit .346 and .323 respectively.
My X-Factor for this series is the motivation that the LSU team carries because it will be Paul Mainieri’s last chance to return to Omaha, where he won a championship in 2009. Anyone who watches LSU play can see how much they rally behind Mainieri and I believe that this will give them an edge in this series.
Game Times and TV
Friday, June 12th, 7 P.M. – ESPN2
Saturday, June 13th, Noon or 3 P.M. – ESPN2/ESPNU
Sunday, June 14th, 4 P.M. or 7 P.M. – ESPN2/ESPNU