LSU preps for Florida at SEC Tourney

LSU head coach Smoke Laval has never denied the Tigers try and win every game. But you won't find the LSU skipper sulking when he learned his team will enter this weekend's SEC Tournament as the No. 3 seed at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Hoover, Ala.

"We try to win every game we play," Laval said.

 

Although the Tigers (41-15, 18-12 SEC) didn't clear the season's first hurdle by winning the SEC regular season championship, Laval's squad enters the postseason in a prime position to go on one of those LSU-type runs.

 

"Wow, 41 wins and a 3-seed, that's not too shabby," Laval said Sunday. "That's pretty good. You can't take that away from us."

 

No coach, what is pretty good is the Tigers offense lately. After scourging the hotshot duo of Vanderbilt's Jeremy Sowers and Ryan Mullins in Baton Rouge, the Tigers came to Ole Miss last weekend and took two of three games in impressive fashion. Facing a Rebel team with the best home winning percentage and a 25-5 record at Swayze Field, the Tigers swept through Oxford collecting 49 hits and outscored Ole Miss 31-17 in an offensive clinic.

 

"Right now we are where we want to be with the way the team is playing," Laval said. "We have been swinging it pretty good. We got better after Tennessee. Then we hit Sowers and Mullins like that and even against Alabama. I like the way we have added on, added on, added on."

 

Laval said he knew his team had this type of power at the beginning of the year. While LSU is hitting like they were expected too, Laval said the recent offensive surge was like something out of leftfield.

 

"I said from the beginning that offense was our strength," Laval said. "Did we see this coming? No. But good pitching stops good hitting and we might run into a ball-hammer against Florida you can't ever tell."

 

Speaking of Florida, the Tigers will open SEC play against the Gators Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. at The Hoover met just outside of Birmingham, Ala. Florida (38-18, 17-13 SEC) enters the tournament as the 6th seed after losing two of three games at Tennessee last weekend.

 

Laval said he intends on starting sophomore Justin Meier against the Gators on Wednesday.

 

"Meier is going to start no matter who we play," Laval said.

 

Arkansas, who issued LSU its only series lost sweeping the Tigers on April 9-11, is the SEC Tournament's top seed claiming the conference title after tying with Georgia. Both Razorbacks and Bulldogs finished with identical 19-11 records in conference play, but the result of each team's SEC series with LSU determined the league champion. Due to the fact Arkansas swept the Tigers and LSU took two of three from Georgia, tossing in the fact the Dogs and Hogs never met, Arkansas won the SEC crown by default.

 

The top-seeded Razorbacks will meet No. 8 Tennessee in Wednesday's final game at 8 p.m. No. 2 Georgia and 7th-seeded Vanderbilt follow LSU and Florida at 1 p.m. No. 4 Ole Miss and 5th-seeded South Carolina will meet in the 5 p.m. matchup

 

Ironically, Florida is the only team in the SEC which LSU did not face in the regular season.

"It is kind of fitting that we play them," Laval said.

 

One interesting note is neither Alabama or Auburn, the two schools who usually dominate in attendance due to their proximity to the tournament, qualified for the postseason tournament. Bama, which defeated LSU in last season's tournament finale, watched as its season ended with a sweep at the hands of Mississippi State. The Crimson Tide finished 29-26 overall, 10-20 in league play. Auburn, while not headed to the tournament, may make it to a regional with a 32-24 record, but a lackluster 12-18 SEC record.

 

As for the Tigers, LSU remained in Oxford Sunday for a brief workout Monday before heading to Birmingham. The third-year coach likes where his team currently stands, but he is anxious to see how his team builds on its recent success.

"Well it's working out," Laval said. "We have gotten better every game I am telling you. We still need to try and solidify a little bit of pitching. We have gotten better but whether we can add on to it or not, who knows?"

2004 SEC TOURNAMENT GAME FACTS
#6 seed Florida Gators (38-18, 17-13) vs. #3 seed LSU Tigers (41-15, 18-12)

DATE/TIME:Wednesday, May 26 -- 10 a.m.
STADIUM:  Hoover Metropolitan Stadium - Hoover, Ala.
RANKINGS: LSU (#3 Baseball America, #5 ESPN/Sports Weekly, #11 Collegiate
Baseball); Florida (#9 Baseball America, #12 ESPN/Sports Weekly, #12
Collegiate Baseball)
RADIO: statewide on LSU Sports Network (WDGL-FM 98.1 in Baton Rouge)
INTERNET:  www.LSUsports.net; www.secsports.com
TV:  Comcast Sports Southeast (Cable Ch. 13 in Baton Rouge)

PITCHING MATCHUP
LSU - So. RHP Justin Meier (5-2, 4.01 ERA, 85.1 IP, 24 BB, 57 SO)
UF - Jr. RHP Justin Hoyman (10-1, 2.76 ERA, 117.1 IP, 33 BB, 81 SO)


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