Gamecocks Host LSU This Weekend At Sarge Frye

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks take on the Bayou Bengals at Sarge Frye field beginning today in the biggest college baseball series in the country. These are two Top 5 teams opening SEC play against one another, and here are the details with quotes from players and coaches ...

RHP Billy Buckner to start on Friday For the Gamecocks

South Carolina baseball (18-0) returns to action this weekend hosting LSU (16-2) at Sarge Frye Field beginning Friday evening at 7 p.m.. This weekend's series with the Tigers is the first series in SEC play for both teams and represents the first meeting between both schools since last year's game at the College World Series. The Gamecocks defeated LSU 11-10 in Omaha to advance in the College World Series. South Carolina is ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation (Baseball America) with LSU heading into the weekend with a ranking as high as No. 1 (Collegiate Baseball).

The pitching matchups for the weekend are also set.

FRIDAY
South Carolina RHP Billy Buckner (4-0, 3.21 ERA)
LSU RHP Justin Meier (4-0, 1.83 ERA)

SATURDAY
South Carolina RHP Aaron Rawl (4-0, 2.08 ERA)
LSU LHP Lane Mestepey (3-1, 2.57 ERA)

SUNDAY
South Carolina LHP Matt Campbell (4-0, 0.00 ERA)
LSU RHP Nate Bumstead (2-0, 3.18 ERA)

Live GAMETRACKER stats as well as live audio will be available at GamecockInsider.com (go to the front page). Saturday's first pitch will be at 4 p.m. with Sunday's finale set for 1:30 p.m.

South Carolina Baseball Quotes

Head Coach Ray Tanner:

"This is a great match up for college baseball. They are ranked number one in one of the polls this week and arguably have a better team than we do and we have shown to be a pretty good team. Something has to give. It is just the first weekend of the SEC and a good match up."

"I do like this. There is a little bit of bounce because we are involved in this series. You feel good about your program and you feel good playing the best program in the country. This is where you want to be, this is what you work for. Trying to be among the best in the country, it's exciting, standing room only crowds, so this is good."

"We are excited to be in this position. I might not be as excited on Monday morning as I am right now. This is great for our program, great for our players. We feel like we are one of the better programs in the country and LSU has been for many, many years. WE have not been for many years but we had some consistency the last few years. We want to be a team like LSU. We have held our own, but like I said they have been there for years and years."

On the pitching staff:
"We thought that we would have a consistent pitching staff and we were confident that these guys would step up for us, but they have exceeded our expectations based how many strikes they are throwing and the competition among the staff. There are innings everybody is fighting for out there and I think the guys just continue to get better. I am ecstatic about what they have done. It has been only 18 games so we are just about a third through the season but we have gotten off to a good start as far as our pitching is concerned."

On the strength of the SEC:
"I think this week there are seven SEC teams ranked in the one of the polls and I know there were 10 in the top 35 so it's a pretty good conference and there are going to be some pretty good match ups throughout the season. "

On LSU coach Smoke Laval:
"He is a fantastic person. He is a great coach. It is one of deals that he is going to want to beat me and I will want to beat him but we have great respect for each other and it will be the same at the end of the series."

On the impact of the series on the coming weeks:
"Knowing we have Melillo, and Powell, Triplett, Tolleson, guys like Matt Campbell and Aaron Rawl. Those guys have been through it. We struggled some last year and we bounced back. No matter what happens this weekend that the older guys will say on Tuesday 'Hey guys, that's over, good or bad. We have to move on and be good today.' That's where the older players take over."

Landon Powell

"I think there is a rivalry being built between the two programs and this is going to be a big weekend. I am sure we will go out there and have a lot of fun."

"It would definitely be a confidence builder to go out there and get a couple wins, especially against a great program like LSU. It is our goal to go out there and win every game. Take it game by game, make sure we are prepared, and go out there and win. You do the best you can and hope that you come out on top."

"You can't win every game, even though we have been perfect so far. We will go out there this weekend and try to win. If we drop a couple this weekend we don't give up. You keep playing, it is a long season and it is definitely early."

"I think we match up pretty good on paper. Both teams have very good pitching staffs. I think the key for us will be our crowd here at Sarge Frye Field. It is one of the best atmospheres in the country and definitely the best fans in the Country. We hope they will give us a little edge to beat LSU"

On the LSU program:
"LSU has been the Lakers of the last 10 years or so in the SEC. Coach Tanner and Coach Toman have done a great job building this program and we are trying to catch them. They have won five national championships and we don't have one. We will give it our best and go out there trying to win. Even though we are in the top five, I feel like we are the underdog."

LSU Oficial Press Release

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Top-ranked LSU (16-2) opens defense of its 2003 Southeastern Conference title this weekend as the Tigers play No. 3 South Carolina at Sarge Frye Field in Columbia.

First pitch for Game 1 of the LSU-USC series is 6 p.m. CST Friday, Game 2 is set for 3 p.m. CST Saturday and Game 3 will be played at 12:30 p.m. CST Sunday.

The games can be heard statewide on the LSU Sports Network (WDGL-FM 98.1 in Baton Rouge). All three games can also be heard on the internet at www.LSUsports.net.

Sunday's game will be televised statewide by the Jumbo Sports Network (Cable Ch. 3 in Baton Rouge).

LSU, ranked No. 1 for the fourth straight week by Collegiate Baseball magazine, has won 14 of its last 15 games, including a 14-0 victory against New Orleans on Tuesday night.

The Tigers' 16-2 record is LSU's best through 18 games since the 1997 club began the season with 18 consecutive wins en route to a 19-0 start.

The Tigers enter this weekend's series riding a five-game win streak after Tuesday's win over UNO. LSU exploded for eight runs in the first inning -- the Tigers' largest single-inning output since they scored 12 runs in the fourth inning of a Feb. 22 victory over Jacksonville State.

LSU collected 12 hits Tuesday to raise its team batting average to .346, and the Tigers are hitting .347 with runners in scoring position.

The LSU offense is led by center fielder J.C. Holt (.427, 1 HR, 14 RBI), right fielder Jon Zeringue (.403, 3 HR, 15 RBI) and catcher Matt Liuzza (.382, 3 HR, 17 RBI).

Four LSU pitchers combined against UNO to record the Tigers' second shutout this season, lowering the team ERA to 1.86. LSU has allowed two or less runs in its last five games and in 13 of its 18 games overall.

LSU coach Smoke Laval will send sophomore right-hander Justin Meier (4-0, 1.83 ERA) to the mound Friday, while South Carolina will counter with junior right-hander Billy Buckner (4-0, 3.21 ERA).

Meier defeated Southeastern Louisiana in his last outing last Friday, limiting the Lions to one run on six hits in 7.0 innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

LSU and South Carolina last met in the 2003 College World Series, where the Gamecocks defeated the Tigers, 11-10, in a CWS elimination game.

LSU leads the all-time series with South Carolina, 19-10-1, and the teams split four meetings last season. LSU won two of three games in the regular-season series in Baton Rouge before the Gamecocks edged the Tigers in the CWS.

LSU has an 8-4 mark in its four previous visits to Columbia, though South Carolina won two of three games in the last series meeting there in 2002. LSU has a 17-13 mark in SEC regular-season road games during Laval's three-year tenure.

This weekend's series matches two of the nation's top programs this decade -- over the past four seasons, LSU and South Carolina have made a combined four College World Series appearances and have won three SEC championships.

LSU won the College World Series title in 2000 and South Carolina appeared in the 2002 CWS championship game, where the Gamecocks were defeated by Texas.

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SERIES FACTS
#1 LSU Fighting Tigers (16-2) at #3 South Carolina Gamecocks (18-0)

DATES/TIMES: March 19 - 6 p.m. CST; March 20 - 3 p.m. CST; March 21 - 12:30 p.m. CST
STADIUM: Sarge Frye Field (6,000)

RANKINGS: LSU (#1 Collegiate Baseball, #4 Baseball America, #5 ESPN/Sports Weekly); South Carolina (#3 Baseball America, #4 Collegiate Baseball, #4 ESPN/Sports Weekly)
RADIO: statewide on LSU Sports Network (WDGL-FM 98.1 in Baton Rouge)
TV: No TV on Friday and Saturday; Sunday's game will be carried live by the Jumbo Sports Network (Cable Ch. 3 in Baton Rouge)

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