Top-ranked LSU ready to take on No. 2 Kentucky

Top-ranked LSU ready to take on No. 2 Kentucky
Sports
Friday, April 20, 2012 - 12:31am

Top-ranked LSU (31-7, 11-4) faces No. 2 Kentucky (33-5, 11-4 SEC) this weekend at Cliff Hagan Stadium in Lexington in a matchup of teams tied for first place in the Southeastern Conference standings.

Game 1 is set for 6:30 p.m. ET Friday, Game 2 begins at 2 p.m. ET Saturday, and first pitch for Game 3 is 1 p.m. ET 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 audio and stats of the games may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net.

The games on Friday and Saturday will be televised by Fox Sports South, and they can be seen in Louisiana on Fox College Sports Ch. 255.

LSU is ranked No. 1 in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll released Monday. The Tigers have won 14 of their last 15 games, including the last seven in a row.

The 2012 club is the third LSU team to be ranked No. 1 during the six-season tenure of coach Paul Mainieri. The 2009 team, which won the national championship, was ranked No. 1 in seven different weeks. The 2010 Fighting Tiger squad held a No. 1 ranking for three weeks.

This weekend’s series marks the third time in four weeks LSU will face a team ranked among the Top 3 in the nation. LSU swept Arkansas three weeks ago when the Razorbacks were No. 3, and the Tigers won two of three game at Florida two weeks ago when the Gators were No. 1.

“We’re looking forward to a great series between the top two teams in the nation,” Mainieri said. “I thought Kentucky had a good club last year, and this year they have been outstanding. We know we’re facing a tremendous challenge, especially in their ball park, but these are the types of series and atmospheres we embrace at LSU. We’re going to relish the opportunity to play against a great team in what should be a very spirited environment.”

Mainieri said that sophomore right-hander Kevin Gausman, No. 2 in the SEC with 77 strikeouts on the year, will start Friday’s game on the mound for LSU. Sophomore right-hander Ryan Eades will start on Saturday, with freshman right-hander Aaron Nola getting the call on Sunday.

Kentucky coach Gary Henderson will counter with a trio of left-handers – junior Taylor Rogers, junior Jerad Grundy and sophomore Corey Littrell.

The Tigers have outscored the opposition, 50-20, during their seven-game win streak and are batting .295 in that span with 12 doubles, two triples, four homers and nine steals. The LSU pitching staff has a 2.29 ERA over the past seven games, and opponents are hitting just .195 against the Tigers during the win streak.

LSU, which has committed just two errors in its last six games, is No. 1 in the SEC with a .979 cumulative fielding percentage. The Tigers have played half of their games (19 out of 38) without making an error.

LSU has lowered its cumulative ERA to 2.96, which is second in the SEC, and the Tigers are batting .303 as a team, fourth-best in the league.

Junior outfielder Raph Rhymes, the SEC’s leading hitter with a .484 average, has collected eight doubles, one homer, 40 RBI and 27 runs. Junior rightfielder Mason Katz is batting .348 with 11 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 31 RBI, while junior catcher Ty Ross is hitting .322 with five doubles, one triple, one homer and 29 RBI.

Kentucky is the SEC’s top-hitting team with a .316 average, and the Wildcats are second in the league with 44 home runs. The Kentucky pitching staff has a 3.53 ERA, which ranks seventh in the SEC, and UK is No. 6 in the league with a .974 fielding percentage.

Kentucky is led at the plate by freshman outfielder Austin Cousino, who is hitting .353 with 15 doubles, one triple, six homers and 30 RBI. Freshman first baseman A.J. Reed is batting .328 with eight doubles, three homers and 37 RBI, while junior catcher Luke Maile is hitting .326 with nine doubles, 10 homers and 37 RBI.

LSU leads the overall series with Kentucky, 42-23-1, and the Tigers have won 10 of their last 13 SEC series with the Wildcats, including a three-game sweep of UK last season in Alex Box Stadium. Kentucky, however, swept three games from the Tigers in 2010, the last time the teams met in Lexington.

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