BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - LSU's pending Southeastern Conference showdown at Kentucky this weekend took on added significance Monday when the Tigers ascended to No. 1 and the Wildcats were ranked No. 2 in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll.
"It's exciting," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "The last time we had a regular-season one-versus-two matchup was 2009, when Georgia was No. 1 and we were No. 2. We were fortunate enough to win two out of three games. I remember it was the most hyped series in the history of Georgia baseball in Athens. It was a great environment. I'm sure it will be a very similar environment in Lexington."
The series begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Cliff Hagan Stadium.
The Tigers (30-7 and 11-4 in the SEC) lead the Western Division and are tied with Kentucky (32-5 and 11-4) for the overall conference lead. LSU, which has won 13 of its past 14 games, including the past six in a row, moved up from No. 3 after sweeping a series against Alabama last weekend to complete a 5-0 week. The Wildcats, No. 1 a week ago, lost a mid-week game against Louisville before winning two out of three at Arkansas over the weekend.
The Baseball America poll and the USA Today Baseball Weekly/ESPN coaches poll both have Kentucky No. 3 and LSU No. 4. The Tigers and Wildcats have emerged as the top contenders in the SEC at the midpoint of the conference schedule. Florida was the preseason pick to win the East, South Carolina is the two-time defending national champion and Arkansas was the preseason pick to win the West.
"It's going to be a big weekend," said Mainieri, whose team has a nonconference game against Lamar on Wednesday in Alex Box Stadium. "I don't care if they spell Kentucky or South Carolina or Florida on the uniform chest. If you're playing an SEC team that's having a good year, you know you're going to have your hands full."
This is the third LSU team to be ranked No. 1 in Mainieri's six seasons. The 2009 team, which won the national championship, was ranked No. 1 in seven different weeks. The 2010 team was ranked No. 1 for three weeks.
"We're certainly very proud of the No. 1 ranking," Mainieri said. "It brings a lot of notoriety, but it also brings a lot of responsibility. We are not going to ask our players to do anything more that what they've been doing. We want them to continue to play relaxed and aggressive, and have fun. It's a great honor, but it's most important to be No. 1 at the end of the year."