LSU Set to Battle Rice

Tigers take on top ranked Owls in the third-annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Classic.

LSU (33-19) plays its final non-conference game of the regular season at 7 p.m. tonight when the Tigers meet top-ranked Rice (42-10) at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La., in the third-annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Classic.

Proceeds from the game will benefit the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation, a charitable organization founded in the name of the former LSU all-conference third baseman that died in 2002 due to heart abnormalities. Wally Pontiff Jr., who helped lead the Tigers to the 2000 national championship, was 21 years old at the time of his death.

Rice and LSU are meeting in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation Classic for the second straight year. LSU won last season's match-up, 8-2, on April 6, 2005 at Zephyr Field.

The game will be broadcast statewide on the LSU Sports Radio Network (WDGL 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge), and the audio broadcast and live stats are available in the Geaux Zone powered by USAgencies at www.LSUsports.net.

The game will be televised live by the Jumbo Sports Network (Cable Ch. 13 in Baton Rouge).

LSU coach Smoke Laval said senior right-hander Chris Cahill (1-0, 1.74 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday's game on the mound for the Tigers. Cahill will make his first appearance since defeating New Orleans on April 26, a game in which fired a no-hitter through 5.1 innings.

Rice coach Wayne Graham, who directed the Owls to the 2003 College World Series title, is expected to counter Tuesday with sophomore right-hander Will McDaniel (6-1, 2.79 ERA). The Owls have already clinched the Conference USA regular-season championship.

Tuesday's contest marks LSU's third this season at Zephyr Field, the home of the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. The Tigers defeated Southeastern Louisiana, 5-4, at Zephyr Field on March 22 before suffering a 12-5 defeat to Tulane on April 18.

LSU (12-15 SEC) has moved into eighth place in the overall SEC standings with three league games remaining in the regular season. The Tigers hold a one-half game lead over Mississippi State (11-15) and Tennessee (11-15) for the final berth in the eight-team SEC Tournament, which begins May 24 in Hoover, Ala.

The Tigers play a three-game series at Florida (8-19 SEC) beginning on Thursday, marking the first regular-season match-up between the teams since 2003 in Baton Rouge.

"We've got a very important series starting on Thursday at Florida," Laval said, "but playing the No. 1 team in the nation can certainly help us to get better. This game is also for a great cause in memory of a very special young man. Wally Pontiff will always be revered by the LSU community."

LSU junior designated hitter Steven Waguespack had a very productive series last weekend versus Vanderbilt, batting .556 (5-for-9) in three games with two doubles, one homer, one RBI and two runs. His solo homer on Sunday against the Commodores was his first dinger since March 3 versus Houston.

Waguespack is batting .500 (11-for-22) in his last seven games with two doubles, one homer and two RBI. He is now LSU's leading  hitter in SEC games, batting .318 (21-for-66) with three doubles, one homer and seven RBI.

LSU sophomore first baseman Jordan Mayer hit .500 (4-for-8) in the Vanderbilt series with one double, one homer, three RBI and two runs. Mayer is hitting .400 (12-for-30) in his last 10 games with three doubles, one homer, eight RBI and five runs.

Senior left-hander Clay Dirks delivered his third consecutive solid starting outing last Friday against Vanderbilt, allowing just two earned runs on 11 hits in seven innings with two walks and six strikeouts. The Commodores grabbed a 3-0 lead through three innings, but Dirks fired four consecutive scoreless innings to keep LSU within striking distance – the Tigers eventually won the game, 4-3, on right-fielder Quinn Stewart's RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Senior third baseman/pitcher Will Harris earned the win over Vanderbilt Friday in relief, retiring the Commodores in order in the top of the ninth inning. Harris also contributed to the victory with his bat, delivering the game-tying single in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Rice, which is hitting .311 as a team, is led at the plate by sophomore infielder Brian Friday (.387, 3 HR, 34 RBI, senior infielder Greg Buchanan (.351, 4 HR, 32 RBI), and junior infielder Josh Rodriguez (.332, 6 HR, 46 RBI).

LSU leads the overall series with Rice, 11-10, but the Owls won two of three meetings with the Tigers last season. The Tigers defeated Rice in the regular-season meeting at Zephyr Field, but the Owls posted two wins over LSU (9-7, 5-4) in the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional to advance to the super regional round.


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