POSTED: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 11:15pm
UPDATED: Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 11:19pm
BATON ROUGE, LA — Third-ranked LSU (38-11, 16-8 SEC) begins a three-game conference series versus Vanderbilt (24-24, 11-13 SEC) at 7 p.m. CT Friday in Alex Box Stadium.
Game 2 of the series starts at 7 p.m. CT Saturday, and first pitch for Game 3 is 1 p.m. CT Sunday.
The games will be carried by the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network, with Baton Rouge affiliate WDGL 98.1 FM serving as the flagship station. Live video, audio and stats of Friday’s game and live audio and stats on Saturday and Sunday may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net .
Friday’s game will be televised by Cox Sports Television, and the games on Saturday and Sunday will be televised by SportSouth/Fox Sports Houston (Cox Cable Ch. 38). The games on Saturday and Sunday may also be viewed at www.ESPN3.com , though an online blackout may apply in some areas.
LSU is in a first-place tie with South Carolina in the overall SEC standings, and the Tigers have a four-game lead over Arkansas and Mississippi State in the SEC Western Division race. LSU will clinch the Western Division championship with three wins this weekend, and two wins would give the Tigers at least a share of the division title.
LSU is 13-4 in one-run games this season, including a 10-3 mark in SEC games decided by one run.
“We’re taking the approach that we’re trying to win a championship each weekend for the remainder of the season”, said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This weekend we have an opportunity to win a division championship, next weekend we hope to have a chance at the overall SEC title, and then we’ll start the postseason with the SEC Tournament. We need to be at our best this weekend against a very talented Vanderbilt club. They’re the defending SEC champions, they were in the College World Series last year, and they have a very strong program. We’re looking forward to a great series and a very special atmosphere this weekend in Alex Box Stadium.”
The LSU-Vanderbilt matchup marks the Tigers’ final home series of the regular season. LSU’s five senior players – catcher Jordy Snikeris, infielder Beau Didier, third baseman Tyler Hanover, infielder Grant Dozar and shortstop Austin Nola – will be honored prior to Saturday’s 7 p.m. first pitch.
The LSU pitching staff is fifth in the SEC with a 3.25 ERA while Vanderbilt is 11th with a 4.30 ERA. The LSU staff leads the league in strikeouts with 435.
Mainieri said that sophomore right-hander Kevin Gausman (7-1, 3.16 ERA), who leads the SEC in strikeouts with 101, will start Friday’s game on the mound for LSU. Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin will counter with sophomore right-hander T.J. Pecoraro (0-3, 5.40 ERA).
LSU ranks fourth in the SEC with a .299 team batting average, and the Tigers have collected 33 homers and 38 steals in 61 attempts.
Junior leftfielder Raph Rhymes continues to lead the nation with a .500 (85-for-170) cumulative batting average, and he has collected 11 doubles, three homers, 47 RBI and 38 runs. Rhymes enters the Vanderbilt series riding a 15-game hitting streak, and he has reached base safely in 29 consecutive games.
LSU junior rightfielder Mason Katz is hitting .331 with team-highs of 14 doubles and nine homers to go along with 38 RBI. Sophomore catcher Ty Ross is batting .305 with five doubles, one triple, three homers and 34 RBI while Nola is hitting .295 with 13 doubles, four homers, 34 RBI and 32 runs.
Vanderbilt is hitting .269 as a team (ninth in the SEC) with 24 home runs and 48 steals in 66 attempts. The Commodores are led at the plate by junior infielder Anthony Gomez, who is hitting .351 with eight doubles, two triples, one homer and 42 RBI. Sophomore infielder Conrad Gregor is batting .313 with 14 doubles, one homer and 31 RBI while sophomore catcher Spencer Navin is hitting .307 with eight doubles, one triple, three homers and 20 RBI.
LSU leads the overall series with Vanderbilt, 51-36, though Vanderbilt has won six of the last 10 SEC series with the Tigers, dating back to the 2000 season. Vanderbilt has also won the past four SEC series between the teams – the Tigers’ last series win over the Commodores came in 2005, when LSU won two of three in Nashville. LSU, however, has won the last two SEC Tournament meetings between the teams, including a 6-2 win in the 2009 tournament championship game and a 7-5 victory in the 2010 second round.