There has been a lot of attention paid to the way the No. 2 ranked Tigers have been swinging the bat over the past seven weeks and for good reason.
LSU has been deadly at the plate with a .324 batting average and has hit 42 homeruns over the last 23 games.
Those numbers will be put to the test when No. 13 ranked UC Irvine invades Alex Box Stadium as the Anteaters will bring one of the best pitching staffs LSU has faced all year led by the ace of the staff Scott Gorgen.
Gorgen played a key role in UC Irvine’s run to the college world series last year as he threw three consecutive complete games prior to the first round matchup with Arizona State at Rosenblatt Stadium and was 3-1 with a save in post-season play.
He followed that up with another strong season and is up for several national awards including the Golden Spikes Award and the Roger Clemens Award after compiling an 11-3 record with a 2.31 ERA.
What is even more impressive is the fact that Gorgen has limited his opponents to a .175 batting average over the 109 innings he has thrown.
The 5-foot-10, junior right-hander will present a stiff challenge for the Tigers but it is one that they will embrace according to LSU’s skipper.
“You don’t come to LSU unless you love challenges,” Mainieri said. “This place is not for the faint of heart. I can promise you that. Not for coaches or players or anybody. Our players will embrace the challenge we have ahead of us this weekend. They will be geared up and they will be fired up.
The Tigers have obviously fared well against their opponents’ front line pitching but they haven’t faced three starters that all have the ability to silence their opponents at the plate.
“The pitching at Irvine is outstanding,” Mainieri said. I think they have the second leading earned run average in the country. Their top pitcher has had a great career and he is as good as they come. This is as big of a challenge as we could ask for in the super regional.
Gorgen is expected to throw in game one for UC Irvine and if head coach Mike Gillespie stays true to form then he will send his sophomore right-hander Bryan Stowell to the hill on Sunday.
Stowell started out at Pepperdine but transferred over after his freshman year and he brought some strong credentials with him.
Heading into his first year at UC Irvine, Baseball America ranked Sowell 21st among the Top 50 sophomore in the country and he was ranked No. 90 in the magazine’s pre-season rankings for top draft prospects at the collegiate level.
Stowell has been impressive this year and hasn’t done anything to hurt his stock with an 8-2 record, a 2.77 ERA, and a .236 clip that he holding opponents to at the plate.
Gillespie has been known to throw a curveball so he may opt to throw his southpaw hurler Daniel Bibona on Saturday to counter LSU’s five lefties at the plate.
Bibona has been just as effective as Gorgen and Stowell with a 9-3 mark and he is giving up just over three earned runs every nine innings he has thrown.
The Tigers will have to be as good as they have been during their nation-best 23-game win streak if they are going to continue on their quest and if they live to play past this weekend then they will have certainly earned it.
“I’ve always felt that if you want to get to Omaha there is no easy way to get there,” Mainieri said. “The fans can buy a ticket but participants can’t. You have to earn your way into Omaha and if we beat these guys this weekend then I can assure you we’ve earned our way there.”