Tigers travel to South Carolina for SEC opener

Top-ranked LSU (16-2) opens defense of its 2003 Southeastern Conference title this weekend as the Tigers play No. 3 South Carolina at Sarge Frye Field in Columbia.

First pitch for Game 1 of the LSU-USC series is 6 p.m. CST Friday, Game 2 is set for 3 p.m. CST Saturday and Game 3 will be played at 12:30 p.m. CST Sunday.

The games can be heard statewide on the LSU Sports Network (WDGL-FM 98.1 in Baton Rouge). All three games can also be heard on the internet at www.LSUsports.net.

Sunday's game will be televised statewide by the Jumbo Sports Network (Cable Ch. 3 in Baton Rouge).

LSU, ranked No. 1 for the fourth straight week by Collegiate Baseball magazine, has won 14 of its last 15 games, including a 14-0 victory against New Orleans on Tuesday night.

The Tigers' 16-2 record is LSU's best through 18 games since the 1997 club began the season with 18 consecutive wins en route to a 19-0 start.

The Tigers enter this weekend's series riding a five-game win streak after Tuesday's win over UNO. LSU exploded for eight runs in the first inning -- the Tigers' largest single-inning output since they scored 12 runs in the fourth inning of a Feb. 22 victory over Jacksonville State.

LSU collected 12 hits Tuesday to raise its team batting average to .346, and the Tigers are hitting .347 with runners in scoring position.

The LSU offense is led by center fielder J.C. Holt (.427, 1 HR, 14 RBI), right fielder Jon Zeringue (.403, 3 HR, 15 RBI) and catcher Matt Liuzza (.382, 3 HR, 17 RBI).

Four LSU pitchers combined against UNO to record the Tigers' second shutout this season, lowering the team ERA to 1.86. LSU has allowed two or less runs in its last five games and in 13 of its 18 games overall.

LSU coach Smoke Laval will send sophomore right-hander Justin Meier (4-0, 1.83 ERA) to the mound Friday, while South Carolina will counter with junior right-hander Billy Buckner (4-0, 3.21 ERA).

Meier defeated Southeastern Louisiana in his last outing last Friday, limiting the Lions to one run on six hits in 7.0 innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

LSU and South Carolina last met in the 2003 College World Series, where the Gamecocks defeated the Tigers, 11-10, in a CWS elimination game.

LSU leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 19-10-1, and the teams split four meetings last season. LSU won two of three games in the regular-season series in Baton Rouge before the Gamecocks edged the Tigers in the CWS.

LSU has an 8-4 mark in its four previous visits to Columbia, though South Carolina won two of three games in the last series meeting there in 2002. LSU has a 17-13 mark in SEC regular-season road games during Laval's three-year tenure.

This weekend's series matches two of the nation's top programs this decade -- over the past four seasons, LSU and South Carolina have made a combined four College World Series appearances and have won three SEC championships.

LSU won the College World Series title in 2000 and South Carolina appeared in the 2002 CWS championship game, where the Gamecocks were defeated by Texas.

#1 LSU Fighting Tigers (16-2) at #3 South Carolina Gamecocks (18-0)

DATES/TIMES: March 19 - 6 p.m. CST; March 20 - 3 p.m. CST; March 21 - 12:30 p.m. CST

Sarge Frye Field (6,000)
LSU (#1 Collegiate Baseball, #4 Baseball America, #5 ESPN/Sports Weekly); South Carolina (#3 Baseball America, #4 Collegiate Baseball, #4 ESPN/Sports Weekly)
statewide on LSU Sports Network (WDGL-FM 98.1 in Baton Rouge)
: www.LSUsports.net
No TV on Friday and Saturday; Sunday's game will be carried live by the Jumbo Sports Network (Cable Ch. 3 in Baton Rouge)


Game 1
Justin Meier (4-0, 1.83 ERA, 34.1 IP, 8 BB, 21 SO) USC - Jr. RHP Billy Buckner (4-0, 3.21 ERA, 28.0 IP, 3 BB, 41 SO)

Game 2
LSU - Jr. LHP Lane Mestepey (3-1, 2.57 ERA, 28.0 IP, 9 BB, 16 SO) USC - Jr. RHP Aaron Rawl (4-0, 2.08 ERA, 30.1 IP, 3 BB, 28 SO)

Game 3
LSU - Sr. RHP Nate Bumstead (2-0, 3.18 ERA, 17.0 IP, 6 BB, 13 SO) USC - Jr. LHP Matt Campbell (4-0, 0.00 ERA, 27.2 IP, 2 BB, 43 SO)

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