BATON ROUGE, La. - Fourth-ranked LSU (40-13, 17-10 SEC) concludes the 2012 regular season this week at top-ranked South Carolina (38-13, 17-9 SEC) with the opportunity to compete for the SEC championship.
The Tigers are one game behind Kentucky and a half-game behind South Carolina in the overall league standings. LSU has already clinched at least a tie for the SEC Western Division title, and the Tigers have locked up at least the #2 seed in next week's SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
Game 1 of the LSU-South Carolina series begins at 6 p.m. CT Thursday, Game 2 starts at 6 p.m. CT Friday and first pitch for Game 3 is Noon CT Saturday.
The games will be carried by the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network, with Baton Rouge affiliate WDGL 98.1 FM serving as the flagship station. Live audio and stats of the games may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net.
Thursday's game will be televised by Fox Sports Houston/Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports South, Friday's game will be televised by Cox Sports Television, and Saturday's game will be televised by ESPNU.
LSU's SEC Western Division title is the Tigers' third division crown in the past five seasons under coach Paul Mainieri. Mainieri also directed LSU to division championships in 2008 and 2009. LSU has won 16 Western Division titles in its history, including five in the past 10 seasons.
LSU is seeking this week its 15th overall conference championship and its second in four seasons. The Tigers have an SEC-best 14 overall league titles in their history.
LSU (2009) and South Carolina (2010, 2011) have combined to win the last three College World Series titles. This week's series marks the first meeting between the teams since the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks in the third round of the 2009 SEC Tournament.
"Our players are very excited for the opportunity to go to Columbia and compete for the SEC championship," Mainieri said. "We have so much respect for (South Carolina coach) Ray Tanner and his program, and it should be a series the entire nation will be watching."
Mainieri said that sophomore right-hander Kevin Gausman (8-1, 2.95 ERA), the SEC's strikeouts leader with 112, will start Thursday's game on the mound for LSU. Tanner will counter with senior left-hander Michael Roth (5-0, 2.60 ERA).
LSU junior leftfielder Raph Rhymes continues to lead the nation in batting average, hitting .476 (88-for-185) on the year with 11 doubles, three homers and 48 RBI. Rhymes is hitting .597 this season with runners in scoring position, and he's batting .469 in SEC games.
Junior rightfielder Mason Katz is hitting .332 with team-highs of 15 doubles and 10 homers, and he has collected 43 RBI.
Senior third baseman Tyler Hanover has 262 career hits and needs seven more to move into the Top 10 in LSU annals. Hanover also has 32 sacrifice bunts in his career, just one behind Michael Hollander (2005-08) on the LSU career list.
Senior shortstop Austin Nola has 48 career doubles and needs two more to move into the Top 10 of the LSU all-time doubles list.
South Carolina is hitting .275 as a team (eighth in the SEC) with 38 homers and 28 stolen bases in 47 attempts. The Gamecocks are led at the plate by junior first baseman Christian Walker, who is hitting .343 with nine homers and 45 RBI.
Junior infielder LB Dantzler has nine homers and 43 RBI, while freshman catcher Grayson Greiner has six homers and 31 RBI.
LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 29-21-1. This week's meeting is the first between the teams since May 22, 2009, when the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks, 4-1, in the third round of the SEC Tournament. This is the first regular-season series meeting between the clubs since March 20-22, 2009, when LSU won two of three games over South Carolina in Columbia.
LSU has won seven of its last eight games with South Carolina, including a three-game sweep in Baton Rouge in 2008, a first-round win in the 2008 SEC Tournament, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2009 and a third-round 2009 SEC Tournament victory.
#4 LSU Fighting Tigers (40-13, 17-10 SEC) at #1 South Carolina Gamecocks (38-13, 17-9 SEC)
Thursday, May 17 - 6 p.m. CT; Friday, May 18 - 6 p.m. CT; Saturday, May 19 - Noon CT
Carolina Stadium in Columbia, S.C.
LSU - No. 4 by Collegiate Baseball; No. 9 by USA Today/ESPN; No. 9 by Baseball America; No. 9 by NCBWA
USC - No. 1 by NCBWA; No. 2 by Baseball America; No. 2 by USA Today/ESPN; No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball
LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates
The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM
Pregame show starts 15 minutes prior to first pitch
www.LSUsports.net - live audio and stats
Thursday - Fox Sports Houston/Fox Sports Southwest/Fox Sports South
Friday - Cox Sports Television
Saturday - ESPNU
LSU leads the overall series with South Carolina, 29-21-1. This week's meeting is the first between the teams since May 22, 2009, when the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks, 4-1, in the third round of the SEC Tournament. This is the first regular-season series meeting between the clubs since March 20-22, 2009, when LSU won two of three games over South Carolina in Columbia. LSU has won seven of its last eight games with South Carolina, including a three-game sweep in Baton Rouge in 2008, a first-round win in the 2008 SEC Tournament, a 2-1 series victory in Columbia in 2009 and a third-round 2009 SEC Tournament victory.
LSU - So. RHP Kevin Gausman (8-1, 2.95 ERA, 91.2, 21 BB, 112 SO)
USC - Sr. LHP Michael Roth (5-0, 2.60 ERA, 86.2 IP, 27 BB, 66 SO)
LSU - Fr. RHP Aaron Nola (6-3, 3.86 ERA, 67.2 IP, 6 BB, 63 SO)
USC - So. RHP Forrest Koumas (2-2, 5.40 ERA, 20.0 IP, 13 BB, 23 SO)
LSU - So. RHP Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.75 ERA, 74.1 IP, 21 BB, 49 SO)
USC - TBA