BATON ROUGE --On Saturday at 5 p.m. CT, LSU (46-16-1) begins its quest for its first College World Series berth since 2004 when the Tigers face UC Irvine (41-16) in Game 1 of the NCAA Super Regional at Alex Box Stadium.
The best-of-three series continues at 3 p.m. Sunday, with a “if necessary” game set for 6 p.m. Monday. The series winner advances to Omaha, Neb. for the CWS, which begins on June 14.
All games in the super regional will be carried by the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network. The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM.
Live audio of LSU’s games in the super regional may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net.
Game 1 will be televised by ESPNU, Game 2 will be carried on ESPN, and Game 3 (if necessary) can be seen on ESPN2.
The Tigers, riding a 23-game win streak, are No. 2 in this week’s Collegiate Baseball poll, No. 5 in the Baseball America rankings and No. 7 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll.
UC Irvine, which advanced to the CWS last season, is ranked No. 8 by Baseball America, No. 12 by USA Today/ESPN and No. 13 by Collegiate Baseball.
LSU enters Saturday’s NCAA Super Regional opener riding a 23-game winning streak, the longest single-season streak in Southeastern Conference history. Sixteen wins in the Tigers' 23-0 run have come against SEC teams. LSU finished the regular season with 12 straight SEC wins, and the Tigers posted victories over South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Ole Miss to win the SEC Tournament May 21-25
LSU extended the streak last weekend with consecutive victories over Texas Southern and Southern Mississippi (twice) to win the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.
LSU has won 28 times this season after facing a deficit, including all four wins in the SEC Tournament.
LSU has rallied to overcome a deficit in 17 of its 23 victories during the current win streak.
The Tigers are hitting .324 (280-for-864) as a team during their 23-game win streak with 65 doubles, eight triples and 42 home runs, and LSU has outscored its opponents, 219-101, in the past 23 contests.
The Tigers' pitching staff has been superb during the streak as well, recording a 3.53 ERA in 217 innings of work with 68 walks and 202 strikeouts.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who led Notre Dame to the 2002 CWS, said the Tigers are ready for their super regional challenge.
“I said before the season began that it wouldn’t surprise me if this team played in Omaha and now we have a chance to get there,” Mainieri said. “I believe you have to earn your way to the College World Series, and if we get there, we will have certainly earned it against a great UC Irvine team. They are extremely talented with an outstanding pitching staff, so we will have to be at our best to win two games against them.
“I am so proud of what our team has accomplished this season. We have a great group of kids who have worked hard and embraced their roles, and they deserve to be where they are right now.”
Mainieri said junior left-hander Ryan Verdugo (9-2, 3.81 ERA), the ninth-round draft selection of the San Francisco Giants, will start Saturday’s game on the mound for LSU. UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie, who guided Southern California to the 1998 CWS title, will counter with junior right-hander Scott Gorgen (11-3, 2.31 ERA). Gorgen was selected in the fourth round of the MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
LSU sophomore outfielder/DH Blake Dean is hitting a sizzling .424 (39-for-92) during the streak with nine doubles, one triple, 11 homers and 34 RBI. Junior first baseman Matt Clark is hitting .392 (31-for-79) during the streak with 10 doubles, 12 homers and 29 RBI. Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu is hitting .360 (32-for-89) over the past 23 games with eight doubles, one triple, one homer and 13 RBI.
UC Irvine is hitting .306 on the year with 35 home runs. Shortstop Ben Orloff is hitting .344 with 17 doubles and 21 RBI. Centerfielder Ollie Linton is batting .323 with seven doubles, one triple, four homers, 35 RBI and 39 steals. Catcher Francis Larson is hitting .320 on the year with team-highs of seven homers and 40 RBI.
The Anteaters’ pitching staff owns a 2.88 ERA, the second-best mark in the nation.
Saturday’s game marks the first meeting between LSU and UC Irvine. LSU has a 109-41 (.726) record in the NCAA Tournament, marking the highest all-time winning percentage in NCAA competition. The Tigers are making their 22nd appearance in the tournament and their seventh appearance in a super regional.
LSU has a 7-7 all-time record in super regional games, including a 6-1 mark in games played in Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers have won each of their three previous home super regionals, defeating UCLA in 2000, Baylor in 2003 and Texas A&M in 2004.
The Tigers have appeared in the College World Series 13 times, claiming national championships in 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 2000.
#8 UC Irvine Anteaters (41-16) vs. #2 LSU Fighting Tigers (46-16-1)
Saturday, June 7 5 p. m. CT; Sunday, June 8 3 p.m. CT; Monday, June 9 6 p.m. CT (if necessary)
Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. (7,760)
LSU is ranked No. 2 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 5 by Baseball America and No. 7 by USA Today/ESPN;
UC Irvine is ranked No. 8 by Baseball America, No. 12 by USA Today/ESPN and No. 13 by Collegiate Baseball
LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates
The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM
www.LSUsports.net live audio and stats
Saturday ESPNU (contact your cable/satellite provider for availability)
Monday (if necessary) ESPN2
PITCHING MATCHUP (Game 1)
LSU - Jr. LHP Ryan Verdugo (9-2, 3.81 ERA, 87.1 IP, 33 BB, 79 SO)
UCI - Jr. RHP Scott Gorgen (11-3, 2.31 ERA, 109.0 IP, 36 BB, 115 SO)