· Thursday, March 30 @ 7 p.m. CT (ESPNU)
· Friday, March 31 @ 6 p.m. CT (SEC Network)
· Saturday, April 1 @ 1 p.m. CT (SEC Network +)
LSU Starting Lineup
1B Jared Jones
2B Gavin Dugas
SS Jordan Thompson
3B Tommy White
RF Josh Pearson
CF Dylan Crews
LF Tre Morgan
C Brady Neal
DH Cade Beloso
Tennessee Starting Lineup
1B Blake Burke
2B Christian Moore
SS Maui Ahuna
3B Zane Denton
RF Griffin Merritt
CF Christian Scott
LF Jared Dickey
C Charlie Taylor
DH Cal Stark
LSU – Jr. RH Paul Skenes (5-0, 0.72 ERA, 37.1 IP, 7 BB, 71 SO)
UT – Jr. RH Chase Dollander (4-2, 3.93 ERA, 34.1 IP, 8 BB, 53 SO)
LSU – Jr. RH Ty Floyd (4-0, 2.05 ERA, 26.1 IP, 9 BB, 31 SO
UT – So. RH Chase Burns (2-1, 4.15 ERA, 34.2 IP, 9 BB, 59 SO)
LSU – So. RH Thatcher Hurd (2-0, 3.91 ERA, 23.0 IP, 15 BB, 32 SO)
UT – So. RH Drew Beam (3-1, 2.54 ERA, 28.1 IP, 8 BB, 27 SO)
No.1 LSU will square off against No.10 Tennessee in the second top-10 matchup at Alex Box Stadium this season.
LSU comes into this matchup 22-3 overall and is 1st in the SEC West with a 4-2 conference record. LSU is coming off of a series win against then No.3 Arkansas, in which the Tigers won two out of three games. In the doubleheader last Saturday, the Tigers beat the Razorbacks by a combined score of 26-7.
Tennessee has an overall record of 20-6 and a conference record of 3-3. The Volunteers swept the series against then No.21 Missouri last weekend.
LSU leads the all-time series with Tennessee, 58-28. LSU has won 14 of its last 21 games versus Tennessee. However, Tennessee has won the last six meetings, including a 5-2 victory last season in the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
The Vols won five straight games over the Tigers in 2021, sweeping a three-game SEC regular-season series and a two-game NCAA Super Regional. Their regular season matchup was notable because former LSU skipper Paul Manieri claimed that the Tennessee fans were “nasty” towards some of the LSU’s players, especially Tre Morgan.
This will be Tennessee’s first weekend series in Baton Rouge since 2018 when LSU recorded a three-game sweep over the Vols.
Tennessee has been one of the top programs in the SEC the last few years, which includes an SEC championship last year and an appearance in Omaha in 2021. Just like LSU is this year, Tennessee was the No.1 team in the country for a good portion of the year and was the No.1 seed during postseason play.
Although they are still one of the top teams in the country, they lost a lot of key players from last year including outfielder Drew Gilbert, third baseman Trey Lipscomb and outfielder Jordan Beck. Because of these departures, the lineup is younger than it was last year. The youth of the team has led to fielding errors and baserunning miscues.
However, Tennessee’s bats are still one of the best in the country and the Volunteers have arguably the best pitching staff in the country.
“We’re facing an incredibly talented opponent with a great pitching staff, one of the best staffs in the country,” said LSU head coach Jay Johnson.” “They have an explosive position player group, and they know how to win, so it’s going to be a fun weekend, and I know our players are looking forward to it.”
Tennessee’s Pitching Staff
If there is one thing Tennessee is excellent at is pitching. Tennessee has one of the best pitching staff in the country and also has a phenomenal pitching coach in Frank Anderson.
Led by Chase Dollander and Chase Burns. Tennessee’s pitching staff has an ERA of 2.62, which is the best in the SEC and the third-best in the conference. Dollander and Burns have also hurled 112 strikeouts combined.
Dollander (4-2) is the best pitcher on Tennessee’s pitching staff, which is considered one of the best pitching staff in the country, if not the best. Dollander, who is a first-team All-American on almost every collegiate baseball poll, has an ERA of 3.93 and has hurled 53 strikeouts this season. He will start on Thursday night.
Burns, who will be their Friday night starter, who was the National Freshman of the Year according to D1baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball, is 2-1 on the year with a 4.15 ERA and leads the team in strikeouts.
Sophomore right-hander Drew Beam will be the Saturday starter. The 2022 SEC Freshman of the Year, has a record of 3-1 with an ERA of 2.54 and has 27 strikeouts on the year.
Reliever Seth Halvorsen has been the guy Vitello and Anderson have turned to in late-game situations as a closer. Halvorsen is 2-1 on the year and has recorded an ERA of 2.29, 20 strikeouts and two saves on the year through 19.2 innings pitched.
Left-hander Kirby Connell is the reliever Tennessee has used in the most games as he has appeared in 13 games this season. Through eight innings pitched, Connell has a record of 1-0 and has recorded a 3.38 ERA with seven strikeouts. Vitello likes to use him in matchup battles for an inning before pulling him out and sometimes will only use him for just one batter.
Relievers Andrew Lindsey and Zach Joyce have both appeared in 10 games, which is the second most on the pitching staff.
Lindsey has an ERA of 2.25, seven walks and 21 strikeouts through 16 innings pitched.
Joyce has an ERA of 2.16 and has hurled 13 strikeouts through 8.1 innings. Joyce is the twin brother of 2022 third round pick Ben Joyce. Ben threw the fastest pitch in college baseball history at 105.5 mph last season.
Reliever Zander Sechrist, who usually is Tennessee’s Tuesday night starter, could make an appearance as well, especially for an opponent of LSU’s caliber. Sechrist has a 0.52 ERA and has 18 strikeouts through 8 appearances on the mound.
AJ Russell and Aaron Combs are reliable relievers as well. Russell has an 0.87 ERA and has hurled 16 strikeouts through 10.1 innings pitched. Combs has a record of 3-0 and has recorded an ERA of 1.80 with 19 strikeouts through 10 innings.
Tennessee’s Batting Lineup
Although Tennessee lost some valuable pieces in their lineup, they are still one of the best teams in the nation at the plate. The Volunteers are tied for seventh in home runs, 11th in slugging percentage and are tied for 31st in runs. Tennessee is also very good at getting on base as the Volunteers are 31st in on-base percentage.
First baseman Blake Burke has been Tennessee’s best power hitter this year as he leads the Volunteers in home runs. Burke has batted .337 at the plate and has three doubles, two triples and 10 home runs. Burke has also plated 28 RBIs, which is also a team-high.
All-American shortstop Maui Ahuna was one of the most sought-after players in the transfer portal over the summer. Although he has had a slow start to the season, Ahuna is averaging .292 at the plate along with four doubles, one triple and four home runs.
Ahuna, who played at Kansas last season, was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the first eight games of the season due to a compliance issue after he was allegedly recruited too early in the transfer portal. Vitello was also given a self-imposed three-game suspension by the University of Tennessee due to the allegations.
Second baseman Christian Moore leads the Volunteers in batting average (.360) and on-base percentage (.524). Moore has also recorded four doubles, five home runs and 19 RBIs.
Outfielder Jared Dickey and third baseman Zane Denton are also dangerous. Dickey has batted .315 at the plate and has recorded three doubles, two triples and 21 RBIs. Denton has batted .316, recorded 28 RBIs and leads the team in triples with three. Dickey and Denton both have five home runs this season.
Griffin Merritt is another dangerous batter. Merritt is second on the team in home runs with seven and has plated 18 RBIs.