LSU preps for three-game set with Houston

Top-ranked LSU (10-1) plays host to Conference USA member Houston (4-7) this weekend in a three-game series beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Alex Box Stadium. <br><br> Game 2 is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and Game 3 will be played at 1 p.m. Sunday.

LSU, ranked No. 1 for the second straight week by Collegiate Baseball magazine, has won eight consecutive games, marking its longest win streak since the Tigers also won eight in a row from April 21-May 1, 2001.

LSU last won nine straight during a 10-game win streak from Feb. 17-March 3, 2001.

The Tigers' 10-1 record is LSU's best through 11 games since the 1997 club began the season with 11 consecutive wins en route to a 19-0 start.

LSU has won 17 straight non-conference regular-season home games, as the Tigers last loss in a non-conference regular-season game in Alex Box Stadium came on Feb. 22, 2003, when Houston posted a 7-2 win.

The Cougars enter Friday's game having played nine consecutive games against Top 15 teams, including Texas, Rice, Cal State Fullerton, Long Beach State and Baylor.

Houston was one win away from reaching the 2003 College World Series before dropping two straight games to Rice -- the eventual national champion -- in NCAA Super Regional play.

Houston leads the all-time series with LSU, 20-12, as the teams first met in 1975. The Tigers have faced the Cougars each season since 2000, and Houston holds a 6-5 advantage in games played this decade.

Last season, the teams split two games in Alex Box Stadium -- the Cougars captured Game 1, 7-2, and LSU responded with a 5-2 victory in Game 2. The third game of the series was canceled due to inclement weather.

LSU is scheduled to travel to Houston in 2005 for a three-game series at Cougar Field.

LSU blanked eighth-ranked Tulane, 6-0, on Tuesday at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La., as freshman left-hander Clay Dirks fired a complete-game four-hitter. The shutout was the first by an LSU pitcher since March 14, 2003, when Brian Wilson blanked Florida on five hits.

Tuesday's victory marked the first time the Tigers held an oppponent scoreless since April 15, 2003, in an 8-0 victory over Tulane in Alex Box Stadium.

Sophomore right-hander Justin Meier (2-0, 1.80 ERA) will start Friday's game on the mound for LSU, and Houston will counter with junior right-hander Garrett Mock (0-3, 7.90 ERA).

Meier defeated Texas State last Friday, as he allowed one run on four hits in 7.1 innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

LSU's pitching staff enters the Houston series with a 1.83 cumulative ERA and a .203 opponents' batting average. The Tigers have limited their opponents to two or fewer runs in each of their last eight contests.

Junior left-hander Lane Mestepey (2-0, 1.53 ERA) will start Saturday's game for LSU as he seeks his 25th career victory. Mestepey is two wins away from tying Mark Guthrie (26 wins, 1984-87) for 10th place on the all-time LSU victories list.

Senior right-hander Nate Bumstead (1-0, 4.15) gets his second start of the season Sunday after defeating Texas State last week. Bumstead limited the Bobcats to two runs on four hits in six innings with one walk and three strikeouts. Bumstead, an all-SEC pitcher in 2003, missed starting assignments in the first two weekends of the season after suffering a shoulder injury on Feb. 3 in an intra-squad game.

Preseason all-America center fielder J.C. Holt leads the Tigers with a .438 (21-for-48) average, and he has collected two doubles and nine RBI. Holt doubled and drove in three runs in the win over Tulane Tuesday night.

Catcher Matt Liuzza, who is riding a 10-game hitting streak, launched a two-run homer against Tulane and has raised his average to .375 (15-for-40) with three doubles, two homers and nine RBI.

LSU designated hitter Nick Stavinoha (.295, 2 HR, 10 RBI), a native of Houston, began his collegiate career as a UH football player in 2000 before transferring to San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College for the '02 and '03 baseball seasons.

SERIES FACTS: Houston (4-7) at #1 LSU (10-1)
DATES/TIMES: March 5 - 6:30 p.m.; March 6 - 2 p.m.; March 7 - 1 p.m.
STADIUM: Alex Box Stadium (7,760)
TICKETS: Available at and at Alex Box Stadium beginning two hours prior to first pitch
RANKINGS: LSU (#1 Collegiate Baseball, #3 Baseball America, #4 ESPN/Sports Weekly); Houston (unranked)
RADIO: March 5 and 7 -- statewide on LSU Sports Network (WDGL-FM 98.1 in Baton Rouge); March 6 -- WJNH-FM 107.3 in Baton Rouge only
TV: None

Game 1
Justin Meier (2-0, 1.80 ERA, 20.0 IP, 5 BB, 15 SO) UH - Jr. RHP Garrett Mock (0-3, 7.90 ERA, 13.2 IP, 10 BB, 5 SO)

Game 2
Lane Mestepey (2-0, 1.53 ERA, 17.2 IP, 5 BB, 8 SO) UH - Sr. RHP Matt Varner (2-1, 4.15 ERA, 17.1 IP, 3 BB, 10 SO)

Game 3
Nate Bumstead (1-0, 4.15 ERA, 8.2 IP, 4 BB, 6 SO) UH - Fr. RHP Brad Lincoln (1-0, 4.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 3 BB, 9 SO)

Tiger Blitz Top Stories