(Part 8 of an 8-part College World Series preview)
Exhibiting an ideal combination of a dominant pitching staff, clutch hitting and a sound defense, LSU enters the College World Series looking like a tough team to beat.
Through five NCAA Tournament games, the Tigers (57-9) have allowed 14 runs on 29 hits in 45 innings. Over the past three games, LSU's pitching staff has limited the opposition to 10 hits. Furthermore, the Tigers have been touched for only one home run in the past 10 outings.
LSU owns a .308 team batting average and has displayed a knack for coming through with the timely hit.
Defensively, the Tigers and UCLA share the top fielding percentage among CWS teams at .980.
LSU carries an eight-game winning streak into Sunday's 7 p.m. first-round tilt against UCLA.
Having matched the 1997 national championship team's school record with 57 victories, the Tigers are chasing the seventh national title in program history. Besides 1997, the Tigers also left Omaha with the championship trophy in 1991, 1993, 1996, 2000 and 2009. This marks LSU's 15th trip to the CWS.
First-team All-American and Freshman of the Year Alex Bregman (.380, 6 HR, 52 RBI) is the Tigers' sparkplug, leading the team in batting average, hits (104), total bases (154), triples (7), doubles (18) and runs (59).
Mason Katz paces the Tigers in home runs (15), RBI (68), slugging (.630), on base percentage (.454)and walks (37) and is second on the team with a .366 batting average. A four-year starter, the All-American senior first baseman was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth round.
Senior left fielder Raph Rhymes (.343-4-46), junior designated hitter Sean McMullen (.317-2-30) and junior third baseman Christian Ibarra (.315-6-39) are among five Tigers batting over .300.
Junior second baseman JaCoby Jones (.299-6-31), the Pittsburgh Pirates' third round draft choice, and freshman Mark Laird (.297-0-18) played key roles as the Tigers swept Oklahoma 2-0 and 11-1 in the Baton Rouge Super Regional.
Jones went 5-for-7 with a homer, triple and double vs. the Sooners. Breaking up a scoreless game in the bottom of the eighth, Jones lashed a one-out triple and scored on pinch hitter Tyler Moore's base hit. With two down, Laird singled home an insurance run.
Coming off of an ankle injury in the SEC Tournament, Laird missed the first three games of the Baton Rouge Regional. The Ouachita Christian product went 5-for-9 in the Super Regional, accounting for half of the Tigers' six Game 1 hits.
All-American sophomore righthander Aaron Nola (12-0, 1.68) will draw the starting assignment against UCLA. Coming off of perhaps his best outing of the season, Nola threw a two-hit shutout while facing only 29 batters in the Game 1 Super Regional victory over Oklahoma. It was his fifth complete game of the year.
Limiting foes to a .187 batting average, Nola has accumulated 117 punchouts while walking just 17 and surrendering 78 hits over 118 innings.
Junior righthander Ryan Eades (8-1, 2.79), the Tigers' Saturday starter during the regular season, was the first of nine players on the current LSU roster chosen in last week's Major League draft. He went to the Minnesota Twins as the No. 43 overall pick.
Sophomore lefthander Cody Glenn (7-2, 2.24), the team's Sunday regular season starter, hasn't pitched since May 22. Suspended for the Baton Rouge Regional, Glenn was reinstated for the Super Regional but did not pitch.
Junior righthander Nick Rumbelow (1-0, 3.41) and senior lefty Chris Cotton (4-1, 1.23, 16 saves) are the mainstays of the bullpen.
COLLEGE WORLD SERIES SCHEDULE
Saturday, June 15
Game 1 — Mississippi State (48-18) vs. Oregon State (50-11), 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2 — Indiana (48-18) vs. Louisville (51-12), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Sunday, June 16
Game 3 — North Carolina (57-10) vs. North Carolina State (43-19), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4 — UCLA (44-17) vs. LSU (57-9), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Monday, June 17
Game 5 — Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 6 — Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Tuesday, June 18
Game 7 — Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 8 — Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday, June 19
Game 9 — Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 loser, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Thursday, June 20
Game 10 — Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 loser, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Friday, June 21
Game 11 — Game 6 winner vs. Game 9 winner, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 12 — Game 8 winner vs. Game 10 winner, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday, June 22
Game 13 — if necessary, TBA
Game 14 — if necessary, TBA
Sunday, June 23
No games scheduled
Monday, June 24
Game 1 — 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday, June 25
Game 2 — 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Wednesday, June 26
Game 3 — 7 p.m. (ESPN)