On Sunday, LSU (46-16) accomplished one of those goals by winning the SEC Tournament and as a result of that, along with a successful season, the Tigers also fulfilled another goal in landing a No. 3 national seed and having the opportunity to host a Super Regional in Alex Box Stadium.
“It’s just a great thing to be home and then to know we’re going to be home if we’re lucky enough to win this weekend,” Mainieri said. “I told the guys after our game yesterday that the next time we’re going to be packing our bags and playing a game away from the Box is going to be in Rosenblatt and we won’t mind doing that.”
LSU, who is hosting a regional for the 19th time, will open the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional at 1 p.m. Friday when the Tigers face Southern University in Alex Box Stadium.
LSU, the SEC regular-season and tournament champion, is the No. 1 seed in the Baton Rouge Regional while Southern, champions of the SWAC Tournament, is the No. 4 seed.
The Tigers played Southern once this year – the fourth game of the season on Feb. 25 – and defeated the Jaguars, 11-5. That means LSU is familiar with what Southern brings to the table, but also gives the Jaguars a chance to extract some revenge against their cross-town foe.
“I think it helps a little bit, but at the same time they are doing well and on a roll,” said LSU pitcher Louis Coleman. “It’s post-season, so they have some adrenaline going. They have a completely different ball club. We played them pretty early in the season, so they have capitalized on their errors and figured everything out… It’s going to be a good game and things will be close.”
The second game of the regional will feature No. 2 seed Minnesota versus No. 3 seed Baylor at 6 p.m. Friday. The regional continues with games on Saturday and Sunday, with an “if necessary” game on Monday.
Minnesota (38-17, 17-6) earned a No. 2 seed with its run through the Big 10 Tournament that came up a little short as the Golden Gophers fell to Indiana in the championship game. Minnesota also finished second in the regular season conference race to Ohio State, only a game back.
Baylor – making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance – went 1-2 in the Big 12 Tournament and squeaked its way into postseason despite finishing 29-24 and 10-16 in league play.
Southern (30-15) defeated Alcorn State to claim its 26th conference championship and an automatic bid into the NCAA field.
Despite being a heavy underdog, the Tigers say they will not take the Jaguars lightly.
Mainieri will meet with his players and coaches on Monday afternoon to discuss the tournament in more detail. He will make sure that his players understand what’s at stake and he will also start thinking more about possible pitching matchups.
Austin Ross started game one of the SEC Tournament, followed by Anthony Ranaudo and Louis Coleman.
“I’ve thought about it a little bit, but haven’t really discussed it with the coaches,” Mainieri said of his game one starter. “I wouldn’t imagine that it will change a whole lot. The big question is what we’re going to do with game one. I’m going to sleep on that one for a day or two and re-look at Southern and see what our best matchup is there and that will set the tone for the rest of the weekend.”
The Baton Rouge Regional champion will face the Houston Regional champion in an NCAA Super Regional series. Rice is the No. 1 seed in the Houston Regional, which also features No. 2 Kansas State, No. 3 Xavier (Ohio) and No. 4 Sam Houston State.
LSU, which is the No. 3 national seed in the NCAA Tournament, would play host to the Super Regional if the Tigers win the Baton Rouge Regional.