With the NCAA Tournament looming, the No. 2-ranked Tigers take aim at continuing their dominance at the league's postseason party.
HOOVER, Ala. –
Some pre-game notes as an appetizer for the lunch-time showdown between No. 2-ranked LSU
(42-14) and 24th-ranked Mississippi State (35-21), which is optimistically slated for 12:30 p.m. from Regions Park.
The Tigers have dominated the SEC Tournament through the years with a 63-35 record and nine championships, including three straight from 2008-10. State has claimed six titles, the most recent in 2005. The Tigers and Bulldogs have split their meetings 7-7 through the years, the last coming in that 2005 State championship run (9-2 MSU win).
LSU has played 21 one-run games this season, winning 15. The Tigers are 12-5 against SEC foes in games settled by a run – two of those against the Bulldogs to begin the league season on March 18-19.
Eighteen of LSU's SEC games this season were vs. ranked opposition (12-6), 12 against teams that were ranked No. 3 or higher at the time (8-4).
Four runs has been the magic number for the Tigers this season. They are 37-4 when scoring four runs or more, 5-10 when they don't.
State outscored LSU 12-8 in the regular-season series, seven of those runs coming on Sunday. The offensive star of that series for the Tigers – no surprise – was Raph Rhymes, who was 5-for-9 but surprisingly did not drive in a run. In fact, no LSU hitter had more than two RBIs in the series and Mason Katz bashed the Tigers' only homer of the weekend.
Junior left-handed reliever Chris Cotton has gone 12.1 innings (seven appearances) without allowing a run, with 10 strikeouts and only six hits allowed in that span.
Slumping center fielder Arby Fields has not had more than one hit in a game since April 20 at Kentucky when he was 2-for-3. He has produced at least one hit in 11 of 17 games since then, but is also not scoring runs at a high clip with only eight.
Katz has made a habit of heating up late in each of his first two seasons at LSU and there are hints he may be doing so now as well. In the last eight games, Katz is 12-for-34 (.352) and has driven in nine runs with three home runs mixed in. At the 2010 SEC Tournament, Katz emerged as a regular starter for the first time in his career and produced a .375 average (6-for-16) in four games with four runs scored and three RBIs.
Shortstop Aaron Nola has committed just one error in the last 29 games and five for the season, a .976 fielding percentage. He has also had a hand in a team-high 18 double plays.
Rhymes has gone through a cooling off period since his average soared above .500 and stayed there for 10 games. In the last nine starts, Rhymes is hitting .323 (10 for 31) and if there is a troublesome trend it's that he has chased in only two runs in that stretch.
ON DECK: LSU vs. Mississippi State
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