No. 3 LSU (40-14-1, 17-11-1 SEC) vs. No. 6 Vanderbilt (41-16, 18-13)
Time: 9:30 a.m.
Location: Hoover, Ala. – Hoover Metropolitan Stadium
TV: Fox Sports Network
Pitching: Jared Poché (8-3, 2.29 ERA) vs. Jared Miller (6-1, 3.88 ERA)
HOW DID THEY GET HERE?
Both of these teams entered the regular season's final day with a shot at a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament. LSU completed its sweep of Auburn on that decisive Saturday, while the Commodores fell to South Carolina, which landed them the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament.
Vanderbilt met Tennessee in the tournament's opening game and quickly got out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Vols answered back with a pair of runs in the next half-inning, but the Commodores jumped back in front with one more run in the bottom of the second. Vandy pitcher Walker Buehler held the Tennessee offense in check the rest of his outing, finishing with two earned runs allowed on six hits with five strikeouts in eight innings.
Tennessee did put a scare in the Commodores in the top of the ninth. Nick Senzel led off the inning with a double against top reliever Carson Fulmer. A balk moved the tying run to third base, but Senzel was tagged out after a chopper shot directly to 3B Xavier Turner, who made the play to erase the run. A pickoff at first and a strikeout sealed the win for Vandy.
WHAT'S ON THE LINE?
This meeting could have major ramifications on determining NCAA Regional hosts. Most projections have both teams on the bubble in terms of hosting the tournament's opening round, though Vanderbilt has a firmer hold on one of those final few spots. The Tigers still have some work to do, though Paul Mainieri believes his team's already done enough to deserve hosting.
This is a great opportunity for LSU to add another quality win to its resume, as Vanderbilt entered the day with the No. 6 RPI. LSU has a 4-8 record vs. the RPI Top 25, 12-12 vs. RPI Top 50 and 18-12 vs. RPI Top 100. To compare, Vanderbilt is 8-6 vs. Top 25, 19-14 vs. Top 50 and 25-15 vs. Top 100.
At the very least, this game will give the NCAA Selection Committee another head-to-head opportunity to compare the two squads. It will also give the Tigers a chance to even the season series, which would be another feather in LSU's cap for its postseason resume.
Instead of going with ace Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin will trot out junior LHP Jared Miller. LSU didn't have much success against him the first time around, mustering only one run on two hits in 6 2/3 innings. But Miller struggled during the month of April and fell out of the weekend rotation.
His last weekend appearance came April 25 against Georgia, in which he surrendered nine runs (eight earned) in 3 2/3 innings of relief. His last SEC start came April 12 against Texas A&M. He took the loss in that one, giving up four earned runs with three walks in four innings.
Jared Poché faced the Commodores for his first career SEC start, and it didn't exactly go according to plan. The freshman walked five batters, surrendered five hits and allowed four earned runs, three of which came in one inning. That outing, which lasted 4 1/3 innings, left LSU in a hole too big to climb out of, and the Tigers lost the game, 9-3, and the series.
But Poché's come a long way since then. In his most recent outing, he held Auburn scoreless through eight innings, limiting them to only three hits while striking out five.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Jared," Mainieri said. "He's a different pitcher today than he was against Vanderbilt…You can see that he's gotten better as the year's progressed. He's used to being the dude, the main guy, and I think he's excited about pitching the opening game."