LSU looks to extend post-season legacy

(AP Photo) LSU players react after defeating Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament championship game at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala., Sunday, May 26, 2013. LSU defeated Vanderbilt 5-4 in 11 innings.
(AP Photo) LSU players react after defeating Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference NCAA college baseball tournament championship game at the Hoover Met in Hoover, Ala., Sunday, May 26, 2013. LSU defeated Vanderbilt 5-4 in 11 innings.

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Paul Mainieri knows all about the expectations surrounding the LSU baseball program.

After all, the LSU coach met with reporters in the Omaha Room of Alex Box Stadium while discussing the Baton Rouge Regional of the NCAA tournament, which begins with two games on Friday. LSU meets Jackson State in the first and Louisiana-Lafayette meets Sam Houston State in the second.

The walls of the Omaha Room are decorated with lists of the Tigers' achievements - most coming while Skip Bertman was head coach.

LSU has been to the College World Series 14 times, winning it six national championships. This weekend marks the 27th NCAA regional for the Tigers, who are seeded fourth nationally in the tournament.

"Any coach who tells you there is no external pressure is fibbing," said Mainieri, who has taken two of his first seven LSU teams to the College World Series, with a national crown in 2009. "There's history and tradition here. There are expectations on the program."

The Tigers (52-9) set a school record this year for regular-season victories with 48 and won the Southeastern Conference tournament, beat regular-season league champ Vanderbilt in the finals.

"We have had a tremendous year," Mainieri said. "But, I know that now the real season begins. The pressure I put on myself and the team to succeed is there."

And they will have to find a way to succeed without one of their top starters. Mainieri announced later Thursday night that Cody Glenn, who went 7-2 with a 2.41 earned-run average, won't be on the roster this weekend because of an unspecified violation of team rules.

"Should we advance to the next round of the NCAA Tournament, Cody's status will be evaluated next week," Mainieri said.

The Tigers came one victory short in their quest to reach the College World Series last year. LSU was stunned by Stony Brook in the third and decisive game of the super regional.

"You can't go back to what happened last year," said senior left fielder Raph Rhymes, a two-time All-SEC first-team selection. "I can remember the feeling last year. But this is a new season and a new team.

"You come to LSU to play in games like this."

Jackson State (34-20) is making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance and has yet to win a regional game in eight tries. The Tigers won the SWAC title for the first time since 2000 earlier this month.

"It's always a challenge when you play the No. 1 team in the country," Jackson State coach Omar Johnson said, referring to LSU's ranking in some polls, not its national seeding in the tournament. "It's simply a great opportunity for us. These guys are looking forward to this challenge."

Louisiana-Lafayette (41-18) has made 12 previous NCAA tournament appearances - its most recent occurring in 2010. A year ago, the Ragin' Cajuns went 23-30 and has made an 18-victory improvement.

"When we started practice last fall, we wanted to get back to postseason play," said Ragin' Cajuns coach Tony Robichaux, whose teams have made nine regional appearances in 19 years. "Now we are back and that's a good thing. We have the toughest regional and toughest place to play. We have to play tough."

Louisiana-Lafayette finished third in the Sun Belt Conference behind co-champions Troy and South Alabama. The Ragin' Cajuns lost to Florida Atlantic in the championship game of the league tournament.

ULL's improvement can be traced to its offensive output. After hitting just 18 home runs in 2012, the Ragin' Cajuns have hit 66 this year. The leaders are Caleb Adams with 13 and Dex Kjerstad with 10. The team batting average is .321.

Sam Houston State (37-20), which received an at-large bid after winning the Southland Conference regular-season crown, has depended on its pitching staff, which has posted a 3.71 earned run average. Nine-game winner Cody Dickson will start the opener Friday night.

"ULL has a potent offense and this will be a tough challenge for us," Sam Houston State coach David Pierce said. "We get recognized for our arms more so than our offense and defense. We have the arms which can help us get through the regional."

Sam Houston State lost in the finals of the Houston Regional to Arkansas last season. The Bearkats eliminated the host Rice to reach the championship game.

"We definitely have a lot of (NCAA) tournament experience," Pierce said. "We have a lot of guys returning from last year. We are in little bigger environment this time, probably the premium of all the regionals."

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