Mississippi State (40-25) at LSU (46-17), Saturday, 8 p.m.
Owners of a 14-game winning streak, LSU hosts Mississippi State in an all-SEC Super Regional this weekend at Alex Box Stadium. First pitch for Games 1 and 2 is set for 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Game 3, if needed, will be played Monday at a time to be determined.
LSU (46-17) is making its 13th Super Regional appearance and is seeking its 18th CWS berth since 1986.
Coach Paul Mainieri's Tigers have been on fire of late. Besides sweeping the Bulldogs 3-1, 11-5, 7-1 in Starkville to close out the regular season, the Tigers are a perfect 8-0 in postseason play after cruising through the SEC Tournament and last week's Baton Rouge Regional. LSU went 3-0 en route to its 23rd Regional championship at the expense of Texas Southern (15-7), Southeastern Louisiana (11-6) and Rice (5-0).
Freshman center fielder Zach Watson swung a potent bat for the Tigers in the Regional. Entering the tournament with four home runs, the West Ouachita product went 5-for-10 with four bombs, seven RBI and five runs scored in the first two games vs. Texas Southern and SLU. He became the first Tiger to blast four home runs in a Regional since Zeph Zinsman in 2001.
Watson improved his season numbers to: .316 batting average/.372 on base percentage/.519 slugging percentage, 8 home runs, 34 RBI, 35 runs.
First-team All-SEC junior right fielder Greg Deichmann headlines a dangerous lineup with a .322/.430/.614 slash line, 143 total bases, 19 home runs, 11 doubles, 69 RBI, 47 walks and 49 runs.
Senior shortstop Kramer Robertson is also having a banner season with a .317/.418/.504 slash line, 127 total bases, eight home runs, three triples and 41 RBI, along with team-highs in doubles (17) and runs (79).
Batting behind Robertson in the No. 2 slot, senior second baseman Cole Freeman leads the Tigers with a .333 average, a .435 on base percentage, 20 hit by pitches and 15 sacrifice hits. He is also tied for the team lead with 18 stolen bases, while adding two home runs and 39 RBI.
Rounding out the starting infield are freshman third baseman Josh Smith (.290, 4 home runs, 15 doubles, 43 RBI, 47 runs), with junior Nick Coomes and freshman Jake Slaughter splitting time at first. Coomes is batting .296 with two homers and 24 RBI in 42 games (34 starts). Slaughter (.258 batting average, .355 on base percentage, 2 HRs, 22 RBI) has appeared in 44 games while drawing 34 starts. A former Ouachita Christian Eagle, Slaughter went 2-for-7 while starting two games in the Regional.
Deichmann and Watson are joined in the outfield by sophomore left fielder Antoine Duplanits (.319, 1 HR, 54 RBI, 18 SBs).
Rounding out the starting lineup are junior catcher Michael Papierski (.255/.411/.443, 8 HR, 31 RBI) and junior designated hitter Beau Jordan (.275, 3 HR, 25 RBI).
Junior right-hander Alex Lange, senior left-hander Jared Poché and freshman righty Eric Walker have made 16 starts apiece on the bump.
Lange (9-5, 2.87 ERA) has four complete games among a staff-high 103.1 innings. A first-team All-SEC honoree, he has allowed 94 hits while striking out 124 and walking 34.
Poché (10-3, 3.13) has surrendered 81 hits with 63 punchouts and 32 walks over 95 innings.
Walker (8-1, 3.46) has logged 93.2 innings while yielding 81 hits, striking out 78 and walking 23. Coming off of one of his best outings of the season, Walker delivered eight scoreless innings in the Regional clincher vs. Rice. He struck out eight without issuing a walk and allowed seven hits.
Freshman Zack Hess and sophomore Caleb Gilbert, a pair of right-handers, spearhead a stingy bullpen. Hess (6-1, 2.92) has held opposing batters to a .181 average while striking out 71 and walking 24 in 52.1 innings through 24 appearances (6 starts).
Gilbert (5-1, 2.74) struck out six through 2.2 scoreless innings to earn the win against Texas Southern.
In contrast to LSU, the Bulldogs (40-25) took the hard road to the Super Regional round.
After dropping its first-round tilt to South Alabama 6-3 in the Hattiesburg Regional on Friday — their eighth loss in 11 games — the Bulldogs regrouped to win four games in two days. With Saturday's action pushed back a day due to rain, State topped Illinois-Chicago 5-4 and South Alabama 7-3 on Sunday. Paired against host Southern Mississippi, the Bulldogs forced a winner-take-all championship game with an 8-1 victory in Monday's early matchup. Trailing 5-1 after four innings, State rallied for an 8-6 triumph in the finale.
Junior first baseman Brent Rooker is in the midst of a remarkable season. Recently named SEC Player of the Year, Rooker is slashing .395/.498/.827 with 96 hits, 201 total bases, 23 home runs, three triples, 30 doubles, 82 RBI, 57 runs and 18 stolen bases.
Senior third baseman/left fielder Cody Brown complements Rooker with a .321/.427/.538 slash line, nine home runs and 40 RBI.
Among the other Bulldogs to watch are junior first-team All-SEC shortstop Ryan Gridley (.331, 6 HR, 39 RBI), sophomore center fielder Jake Mangum (.327, 14 steals) and sophomore second baseman Hunter Stovall (.300, 2 HR, 18 RBI).
Sophomore left-hander Konnor Pilkington (8-5, 3.26) is the Bulldogs' staff ace. Through 102 innings, he has limited opposing hitters to a .198 batting average with 107 punchouts and 43 walks.
Junior right-hander Jacob Billingsly (2-3, 4.44) came through with a clutch outing in Monday's first game against Southern Miss, allowing one run on six hits in a complete game effort.
Pilkington has started 16 games on the mound, while Billingsly has been assigned a dozen starts. No other MSU pitcher has started more than nine games.
Sophomore right-hander Spencer Price (4-1, 14 saves, 2.41 ERA) and freshman right-hander Riley Self (5-1, 8 saves, 3.59 ERA) are among the mainstays of the bullpen.
In other Super Regional pairings:
Starting Friday — Vanderbilt (36-23-1) at No. 1 national seed Oregon State (52-4); Cal State Fullerton (37-21) at Long Beach State (41-18-1); Davidson (35-24) at Texas A&M (39-21); Kentucky (43-21) at No. 7 Louisville (50-10).
Starting Saturday — Sam Houston State (44-21) at Florida State (43-21); Missouri State (43-18) at No. 6 TCU (45-16); Wake Forest (42-18) at No. 3 Florida (45-17).
Super Regional winners advance to the 71st College World Series, which starts Saturday, June 17 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.