LSU to meet Southeastern Louisiana in NCAA regional opener

Last time around, LSU needed a shoddy inning from Southeastern Louisiana to eke out a February road win.

The Tigers are hoping it doesn’t come down to that this time.

LSU (44-14-1) begins its quest for a 17th trip to the College World Series against a familiar foe. Southeastern (37-23) travels to Alex Box Stadium to open the Baton Rouge Regional with a duel against the Tigers at 2 p.m. Friday.

LSU beat the Lions 7-3 on Feb. 19. The score was tied at 2 heading into the sixth inning.

“We know a lot about Southeastern Louisiana,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.

He means it.

Mainieri texted Southeastern coach Matt Riser after the Lions won the Southland Conference tournament Saturday, and Mainieri received a congratulatory text from SLU Athletic Director (and former baseball coach) Jay Artigues after LSU won the Southeastern Conference tournament Sunday.

Mainieri’s team needed a botched inning from the Lions on Feb. 19 to help in the win. The Tigers scored four runs in the sixth to break the 2-2 tie. The inning included two hit batters, a walk, a pair of singles and a disastrous scene at the plate.

Mark Laird scored on a wild pitch, then Southeastern catcher Jameson Fisher tossed the ball into the dugout because it was wet. Alex Bregman then came home to make it 4-2.

“Don’t think I’ve seen that one in a long time,” Mainieri said at the time.

Former LSU pitcher Cody Glenn got the win in that game. Glenn announced two weeks ago that he’s transferring to Lipscomb.

“They had some good arms they threw at us,” catcher/first baseman Tyler Moore said of Southeastern. “It took us a little bit to get the sticks going. That was the biggest thing. They’re scrappy at the plate. Got to play good defense against them, too.”

Who pitches?

LSU will “probably” start freshman Jared Poché or ace junior Aaron Nola against the Lions, Mainieri said. Riser said his team will “more than likely” start ace Andro Cutura (10-2, 1.72 ERA), whom Mainieri praised.

Poché is the most likely candidate. Mainieri had suggested he might start Kyle Bouman in the first game of a regional if the Tigers played a No. 4 seed.

Southeastern isn’t your normal No. 4 seed, the coach said.

“You can’t pitch off,” Mainieri said. “You’ve got to go after them with one of your top guys. He’s a legitimate SEC-caliber starting pitcher. This is not a 4 seed you can look beyond. He’ll give them a chance.”

Why so early?

The host team decides when it plays on Friday’s opening day — the early or late game. Mainieri chose the early game, leaving Houston and Bryant to play at 7 p.m.

The coach began doing this while at Notre Dame, taking a cue from former LSU coach Skip Bertman, who played in the afternoons. It assures LSU won’t be playing too late into Friday and will have normal pregame warmups.

That said, Mainieri changed his mind and wanted to play the night game, but six weeks ago, LSU submitted paperwork to play the early game.

“We were rethinking saying, ‘It might be nice playing the night game if we put a little bit more of separation between the two games,’ ” he said. “But the NCAA told us it was too late. We tried to see if they would be open to us switching, but we were locked into the early game.”

Finding the game

All of LSU’s regional games this weekend will be available online at ESPN3.com, and some games could be picked up by ESPN’s television platforms, the school said.

The first two games of the regional Friday will be on ESPN3. Depending on results, other games of the regional could moved to ESPN or ESPN2.

High praise

Bertman lauded Mainieri’s coaching of this year’s team.

“This is one of the best coaching jobs,” Bertman said.

He called Mainieri’s coaching moves “perfect.”

Awards

Nola received the Skip Bertman Award for being the Tigers’ MVP, and outfielder Sean McMullen claimed the Wally Pontiff Jr. academic award.

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog.