For the fourth time since the series inception in 2004 and for the third time in a row, LSU will play UL-Lafayette in the Pontiff Classic.
The game is played in memory of it’s namesake, an All-SEC third baseman who died in his sleep due to a heart condition in 2002. He was 21 years old and had not yet decided on returning to LSU for his senior season or accepting the Oakland Athletics’ contract offered he was taken in the 21st round.
As a kid growing up playing both backyard and organized baseball with a affliction for third base, there was really only two players I and every other third baseman I knew wanted to be: Chipper Jones and Wally Pontiff. LSU fell short of Omaha that year, losing to Rice in the Super Regionals but Wally Pontiff caught the eye of young player like myself and whitehairs all the same. Defensively he actually had an off year with 17 errors committed and in the dying embers of Gorilla ball he only hit six home runs.
He made up for it with something that makes a lot of sense when you consider that the A’s drafted him: he walked. A lot. 48 times in 2002, compared to 20 strikeouts. Not only did he lead the team in walks, he was the only player to have more walks than strikeouts. Coming off of an era of LSU baseball that can best be defined as brash, Pontiff was steady and cool at the plate and it made him an LSU legend.
The proceeds from the game will go towards the Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation set up in his honor.
LSU is 11-2 in the Classic’s history and is 3-0 against UL-Lafayette. LSU leads the series all-time against the Cajuns 54-24 in a series that dates back to 1912. The Tigers have won 14 of the last 19 against the school down I-10 including the 2015 Baton Rouge Super Regional. LSU’s won last year’s contest by a score of 8-6.
ULL: Jack Burk (2.23 ERA, 32.1 IP, 5.20 K/BB [26/5])
LSU: Matthew Beck (.69 ERA, 13 IP, 2.25 K/BB [9/4])