By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.org
At this point of the college baseball season, for all 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship have one immediate goal – win two more games to qualify for the College World Series in Omaha.
For Oklahoma, that goal is particularly challenging. The Sooners, along with Rice the only No. 2 seed to win a regional last weekend, take on overall No. 4 seed LSU in the Baton Rouge Super Regional starting Friday. The Tigers are not only considered one of the favorites to win this year’s title, they have one of the top home field advantages in college baseball.
Alex Box Stadium-Skip Bertman Field, aka The Box, has a seating capacity listed at 10,150 but nearly 12,000 fans can squeeze in to cheer on the home team. And a couple of thousand more fans who can’t gain entry like to hang outside the stadium and tail gate.
“It's going to be awesome,” Oklahoma senior outfielder Max White said. “It's a great place to play. I haven't played there, but I've heard a lot about it.”
Over the last 20 years, college baseball fans have heard a lot about LSU. Since 1991, the Tigers have won six CWS titles, which is tied with Texas for the second-most in NCAA history. LSU’s NCAA Tournament winning percentage of .726 (130-49) ranks No. 1 all-time.
This season, LSU (55-9) might have the best team in school history. The Tigers have an outstanding three-man starting rotation of Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades (both right handers) along with left-hander Cody Glenn.
LSU is hitting .307 and led by freshman shortstop Alex Bregman (.385 with 17 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 52 RBIs). First baseman Mason Katz (15 homers, 68 RBIs) is among several dangerous hitters in the lineup.
The Tigers are 37-4 at home this season and LSU has led Division I baseball in attendance for 18 consecutive seasons.
“We're ready for it,” OU catcher Anthony Hermelyn said of the challenge on the field and overcoming LSU’s home-field edge. “What kind of player doesn't want to play in front of that? It's extra motivation for sure. It's you against the world out there. We like it that way as baseball players.”
Baton Rouge (La.) Super Regional
Friday: Oklahoma vs. LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN
Saturday: Oklahoma vs. LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Sunday:* Oklahoma vs. LSU, 6 p.m., ESPN2
How Oklahoma got here: The Sooners are one of two No. 2 seeds still playing. Oklahoma won the Blacksburg Regional, going 3-0. The Sooners defeated Coastal Carolina, 7-3; Connecticut, 5-3 (12 innings); and host school and top seed Virginia Tech, 10-4.
How LSU got here: The Tigers, the overall No. 4 seed, won the Baton Rouge Regional. LSU defeated Jackson State, 11-7; Sam Houston State, 8-5; and Louisiana Lafayette, 5-1.
Oklahoma update: After slumping at the end of the regular season and losing nine of 12, the Sooners recovered and went 4-0 in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship, winning their first post-season title since 1997. … During its eight-game winning streak, Oklahoma has been outstanding at the plate (.295 average), on the mound (1.99 ERA) and in the field. … Junior starter Johnathan Gray, the overall No. 3 selection in Thursday’s pro baseball draft, gives the Sooners a great chance to win the opener. He’s 10-2 with a 1.59 ERA. … Junior left hander Dillon Overton (9-2, 2.91 ERA) also can be overpowering as the No. 2 starter. … Junior right hander Kyle Hayes has added depth to the bullpen. In three appearances during the last eight games, he has thrown six shutout innings. … First baseman Matt Oberste has been outstanding as the No. 3 hitter in the lineup, hitting .376 with 11 home runs and 60 RBI.
LSU update: Being the home team doesn’t mean LSU will automatically advance. Since the Super Regional format was adopted in 1999, only twice has seven of the eight home teams advanced to the College World Series. Three of the last four seasons, only five of the eight home teams advanced. … Shortstop Alex Bregman was selected as the Louisville Slugger Freshman Player of the Year. He also was voted as the most outstanding player in the Baton Rouge Regional. … Sophomore Aaron Nola, the team’s top starting pitcher, is 11-0 with a 1.82 ERA. … Senior left hander Chris Cotton is the stopper in the bullpen. He is 4.1 with a 1.29 ERA and six saves. … LSU has announced that Red Cross volunteers will be taking donations that will go directly to the Oklahoma tornado relief fund.