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The LSU Tigers are two victories away from reaching the College World Series.
The No. 13 national seed Tigers (40-24) host the Florida State Seminoles (39-21) in a best-of-three Super Regional in the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament starting Saturday at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
“I am so proud of our team for advancing to the Super Regional and playing for a chance to go to Omaha,” LSU coach Paul Manieri said. “This is why our players come to LSU, and they’ve earned this opportunity to compete for a berth in the College World Series.”
“Florida State is one of the greatest program in the history of college baseball, and (FSU coach) Mike Martin is one of my heroes because of the tremendous impact he has made upon our game,” Manieri said. “They have an extremely talented ball club that dominated their regional last weekend. We’re looking forward to an unbelievable atmosphere at ‘The Box’ this weekend with a trip to Omaha on the line.”
Martin has been the head coach at Florida State for 40 years and is college baseball’s all-time wins leader. He is retiring at the end of this season.
Saturday’s Game 1 is set for 2 p.m. and will be broadcast by ESPN. Game 2 is scheduled for 5 Sunday (ESPN2). Game 3, if necessary, is set for 7:30 Monday (ESPN).
Freshman right-hander Cole Henry (4-2, 3.51 ERA) will get the start for LSU in Game 1. Junior left-hander Drew Parrish (8-5), 5.07 ERA) will start for FSU.
The scheduled starters for Game 2 are LSU freshman right-hander Landon Marceaux (5-2, 4.64 ERA) and FSU sophomore right-hander CJ Van Eyk (10-3, 3.71 ERA).
The scheduled starters for a possible Game 3 are LSU sophomore right-hander Eric Walker (5-4, 5.47 ERA) and FSU sophomore right-hander Conor Grady (9-5, 3.64 ERA).
Marceaux and Henry both turned in outstanding performances in the regional.
Grady was the winning pitcher in the Seminoles’ 10-1 victory over No. 4 overall seed Georgia in the Athens Regional. He allowed allowed six hits in seven innings.
Van Eyk pitched eight innings and struck out nine in a 12-3 regional victory over Georgia.
The Baton Rouge Super Regional is one of eight to determine who will compete for the national championship at the College World Series June 15-26 in Omaha, Neb..
In the other seven, No. 1 UCLA (51-9) hosts Michigan (44-19), No. 8 Texas Tech (42-17) hosts No. 9 Oklahoma State (39-19), No. 5 Arkansas (44-7) hosts No. 12 Ole Miss (40-25), No. 2 Vanderbilt (52-10) hosts Duke (34-25), No. 7 Louisville (47-16) hosts No. 10 East Carolina (46-16), No. 6 Mississippi State (49-13) hosts No. 11 Stanford (45-12) and No. 14 North Carolina (45-17) hosts Auburn (46-25).
LSU and Florida State both went 3-0 in their respective regionals. The Tigers defeated Stony Brook 17-3 and Southern Miss twice, 8-4 and 6-4, in the Baton Rouge Regional
The Seminoles, seeded second, defeated Florida Atlantic 13-7 in their first game in the Athens, Ga., Regional. That was followed by the two dominating wins over Georgia.
LSU has come on strong late in the season thanks in part to a healthier pitching staff. After enduring a four-game losing streak, the Tigers have won 10 of their last 13, including a semifinal run in the SEC Tournament.
The Seminoles and Tigers have faced off 18 times overall but only twice during Martin’s tenure and that was 36 years ago on May 4 and 5, 1983, at the old Alex Box Stadium.
But Martin is obviously well aware of how intimidating it can be to play LSU at Alex Box.
“I wish I could say we’ve prepared for that,” he said earlier this week. “I don’t know how you prepare for it. Their fans are really impressive. They show up in droves. It’s a very loud stadium. It’s a mentality of us against them, and they certainly outnumber us. But we’re excited about being put in that environment.”
Six LSU players were selected in the recent MLB Draft — junior shortstop Josh Smith (2nd round, No. 67), junior centerfielder Zach Watson (3rd round, No. 79, Orioles), junior right-handed pitcher Zack Hess (7th round, No. 202, Tigers), junior right-handed pitcher Todd Peterson (7th round, 213, Nationals), senior outfielder Antoine Duplantis (12th round, No. 358, Mets) and sophomore catcher Saul Garza (32nd round, No. 949, Royals).
Smith leads LSU with a .346 average. He has 15 doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 41 RBI.
Watson, a former Ruston star, is batting .310 with 17 doubles, seven home runs and 41 RBI. He hit two home runs and had seven RBI in the regional.
Hess is 4-5 this season with a 4.63 ERA and two saves in 18 appearances (10 starts). He has 82 strikeouts in 70 innings.
Peterson is 5-2 with three saves and a 3.83 ERA in 28 appearances (one start). He has 40 strikeouts in 44 2.3 innings.
Duplantis is batting .319 with eight doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 64 RBI. He became LSU’s all-time hits leader with 354 in the regional.
Garza went 6-for-12 in the regional and was voted Co-Most Outstanding Player. He was also named to the SEC all-tournament team. For the season, Garza is batting .309 with 10 doubles, five home runs and 27 RBI.
Four Florida State players were drafted — third baseman Drew Mendoza (3rd round, No. 94, Nationals), pitcher J.C. Flowers (4th round, No. 124, Pirates), Parrish (8th round, 229, Royals) and infielder Mike Salvatore (9th round, 276, Mariners).
Mendoza leads FSU with 16 home runs and 55 RBI. He batted .467 in the regional.
Flowers has a 1.52 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. His 11 saves lead the ACC. He has also started for three seasons in centerfield. This season, he is batting .278 with 13 home runs.
Salvatore leads the team with a .341 average. He hit .643 in the regional and was named MVP.
FSU hit six home runs in the victory over FAU, including two by Tim Becker, who had just 32 plate appearances on the season coming into the game.
Florida State is playing in its 42nd consecutive postseason tournament, the longest active streak in college baseball. Vanderbilt is a distant second with 13.
The Seminoles finished third in the ACC’s Atlantic Division with a 17-13 mark. Louisville was first at 21-9.