And while there won’t be any College World Series action taking place locally, the Capital City will be well-represented across the national landscape as both LSU and Southern head to their respective Regionals.
The Tigers travel all the way across the country as a 3-seed to Eugene, Oregon, where the team will take on No. 2 Gonzaga in its first matchup. First pitch is set for 9 p.m. Friday night and will be aired on ESPNU.
Landon Marceaux (6-5, 2.26 ERA) will take the mound for LSU in the opener, and he’ll be going toe-to-toe with Bulldogs ace Alek Jacob (7-1, 2.82 ERA).
Jacob provides a formidable challenge for the Tiger bats. Not only are his numbers impressive, but his slightly sidearmed release adds some extra difficulty to opposing hitters.
“We have studied this pitcher so much, and he scares me, honestly,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said in his pregame press conference. “He’s got an unorthodox way of pitching. He’s all arms and legs. We’ve gotta have a really good approach on him. They play with an awful lot of confidence when this kid is on the mound.”
The Tigers will play either No. 1 Oregon or No. 4 Central Connecticut on Saturday in LSU’s second game of the weekend, with first pitch slated for either 3 p.m. or 9 p.m. Regionals are all double elimination, and should LSU make it to the end of the weekend, it could play as late as Monday evening.
The Tigers closed out the regular season by winning each of its final three weekend series’ before losing its only SEC Tournament matchup to Georgia, 4-1.
LSU now enters the postseason for the final time under Mainieri, who announced he will retire from coaching baseball at the end of the season. This marks the ninth time the Tigers made an NCAA Regional during Mainieri’s 15-year tenure.
“I have been the luckiest guy in the world to have lived out a childhood dream of becoming a college baseball coach,” Mainieri said during his announcement. “I’ve worked at four wonderful institutions, and it’s been the honor of my life to have served as the head coach at LSU for 15 years. To have carried the torch of a program built by Skip Bertman, the greatest college baseball coach of all time, has been a tremendous privilege. It has always been my unwavering goal to sustain the excellence that was created here. I’ve been blessed throughout my career to coach unbelievable young men of great character and skill, and to have worked with talented and dedicated assistant coaches, support staff and administrators. It’s very difficult to leave a profession that I truly love, but I’m so grateful for the amazing opportunities that have been presented to me through the years.”
This weekend will also provide the first Regional appearance for Southern coach Chris Crenshaw, who was put in charge of the Jaguars program on an interim basis back in December.
After losing its second-round SWAC Tournament game last weekend—putting it one loss away from elimination for the rest of the tournament—Southern rattled off four consecutive wins to pull off the improbable run to conference title game and win the SWAC.
The Jags earned a 4-seed in the Regional and now head to Austin to take on host Texas in the opening round. First pitch for the game against the Longhorns, who are the top seed in the Regional and No. 2 seed nationally, is at 1 p.m. Friday and will be aired on the Longhorn Network.
“Stay together—that’s what I preached going into the tournament,” Crenshaw said in his pregame press conference. “We’ve talked about some of the same things. Stay together, pull for one another, and let me do all the fussing. Y’all just pick each other up.”
At the time of publication, Crenshaw hadn’t yet named a starting pitcher for the contest, but whoever it is has quite the challenge ahead.
As a team, Texas boasts a .278 batting average with 59 home runs and 375 runs scored on the season—something that stood out to the Southern skipper during his preparation.
“The thing I think about (with Texas) is their offense,” Crenshaw said. “The ERA and that other stuff kind of goes out the window once you get into the tournament. Some guys play well in the regular season. Some guys don’t play well in the postseason. To me, it’s tournament time now and you never know who’s going to show up.”
The Jaguars will face either No. 2 Arizona Stateor No. 3. Fairfield in its second-round game.