The Tigers have split their two games this week, posting a 16-5 win at Southeastern Louisiana Tuesday before dropping a 10-9 decision to Louisiana-Lafayette on Wednesday.
LSU is playing its opening SEC series at home for the first time since 2003, when the Tigers played host to Florida.
Kentucky has won nine straight games, including victories this week over Georgetown College (12-5) and Indiana (8-7).
“One thing we do know about Kentucky, is that they have two really outstanding left-handed pitchers going on Friday and Saturday, Chris Rusin and James Paxton,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Last year, Rusin really pitched a great game against us and we somehow figured out a way to win the game. Paxton must have been hurt last year, because they took him out of the ball game in the first inning. It is going to be a great challenge.”
Paxton (3-0, 3.63 ERA) is scheduled to start Friday’s game for UK, while Rusin (2-1, 3.63) will take the mound on Saturday.
“Offensively, Kentucky lost some key hitters,” Mainieri said, “but they are playing with confidence this year. We aren’t too sure what to prepare for offensively, we just know they are going to play with a hard-nosed attitude, play hard and play with confidence. It should be a great matchup and we’re looking forward to the competition.”
Mainieri said sophomore right-hander Anthony Ranaudo (2-0, 0.98 ERA) will start Friday’s game on the mound for LSU. Sophomore right-hander Austin Ross (2-1, 1.59 ERA) is LSU’s starter on Saturday, and the Game 3 starter has yet to be determined.
Ranaudo enjoyed an excellent outing last Friday versus Illinois, though he was not involved in the decision of a 3-1 loss. Ranaudo fired a career-high 12 strikeouts in seven innings while limiting the Illini to four hits and one unearned run.
LSU enters Friday’s game batting .348 as a team with 31 home runs. The Tigers are second in the SEC in batting average (Georgia is first at .360) and in homers (Auburn is first with 33 HR).
Junior first baseman/catcher Sean Ochinko is third in the SEC with a .473 batting average, and he ranks first in the league in hits (26). Ochinko is also No. 2 in the conference in RBI (27) and he has six homers this season, one in each of the Tigers’ last four games.
The last LSU players to homer in four consecutive games were former first baseman Matt Clark and outfielder Blake Dean, each of whom hit dingers in four straight contests last season from May 24-31.
LSU sophomore shortstop DJ LeMahieu is hitting .447 this season with two doubles, three triples, two homers and 12 RBI. Freshman third baseman Tyler Hanover is batting .379 with three doubles, one triple, one homer and 12 RBI.
UK has been led by a hard-nosed offensive attack, highlighted by catcher Marcus Nidiffer (.390 avg., 2 HR, 11 RBI), second baseman Chris Bisson (.412, 5 2B, HR, 18 RBI, 4-4 SB) and shortstop Chris Wade (.313, 2 2B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 5-5 SB).
Kentucky has relied heavily on newcomers in its lineup, with freshmen Chad Wright (.375, 2 2B, HR, 9 RBI, 2-2 SB), Cory Farris (.371, 7 RBI, 2-2 SB), Andy Burns (.343, 3B, 2 HR, 14 RBI) and Braden Kapteyn (.405, 3 2B, HR, 6 RBI) having an immediate impact.
LSU leads the overall series with Kentucky, 37-19-1, including a three-game series sweep in Lexington last season. The Tigers have won eight of their last 10 SEC series over Kentucky. However, the teams are 4-4-1 against each other over the past nine games.
UK posted a 2-0-1 series victory in 2007 in its last visit to Baton Rouge. Kentucky won the first two games of the ’07 series by scores of 16-2 and 6-5 before Game 3 ended in a 9-9 tie when the contest was halted after eight innings due to SEC travel regulations.
#29 Kentucky (11-2) at #3 LSU (11-3)
Friday, March 13 – 7 p.m. CT; Saturday, March 14 – 3 p.m. CT; Sunday, March 15 – 1 p.m. CT
Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. (9,200)
LSU - No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball, No. 4 Baseball America, No. 4 USA Today/ESPN
Kentucky – No. 29 by Collegiate Baseball
· LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates
· The Baton Rouge affiliate is WDGL 98.1 FM
www.LSUsports.net – live video, audio and stats
LSU leads, 37-19-1
LSU – So. RHP Anthony Ranaudo (2-0, 0.98 ERA, 18.1 IP, 4 BB, 20 SO)
UK – Jr. LHP James Paxton (3-0, 3.63 ERA, 17.1 IP, 1 BB, 23 SO)
LSU – So. RHP Austin Ross (2-1, 1.59 ERA, 17 IP, 1 BB, 18 SO)
UK – Sr. LHP Chris Rusin (2-1, 3.63 ERA, 17.1 IP, 2 BB, 29 SO)
LSU – TBA
UK – TBA