LSU will host its first super regional in Baton Rouge since 2019 when the Tigers will welcome Kentucky for the second time this season. However, there will be more at stake this time as the winner of the Baton Rouge Super Regional will punch a ticket to Omaha.
This is LSU’s 16th super regional appearance since the super regional format was established in 1999. LSU is looking for its first College World Series appearance since 2017. This is only Kentucky’s second Super Regional appearance as the only other time the Wildcats advanced to the Super Regionals was in 2017. If Kentucky wins the Baton Rouge Regional, they will advance to Omaha for the first time in school history.
LSU comes in with a 46-15 record and as champions of the Baton Rouge Regional. In the Baton Rouge Regional, the Tigers went 3-0 and defeated the likes of Tulane and Oregon State twice.
Kentucky comes in with a 40-19 record and is the champion of the Lexington Regional. After Kentucky won its first game against Ball State and lost its second game to Indiana, the Wildcats defeated West Virginia in an elimination game before defeating Indiana twice in the regional final to advance to the super regionals.
Kentucky and LSU faced each other earlier in the season on April 13-15. LSU won two games out of three in what was a chirpy and hard-fought series victory over the Wildcats from the first game until the last.
Let’s look at both teams and see how they match up against each other.
If there is one thing that LSU has been known for, it’s hitting. However, LSU is at another level this season as LSU fans have not seen their team hit like this since the days of Skip Bertman and “gorilla ball”.
LSU leads the SEC in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs, hits, RBIs, and sac flies. The Tigers are also tied for first in home runs with Florida.
The Tigers have the best hitter in baseball with outfielder Dylan Crews. Crews, the two-time SEC Player of the Year and Golden Spikes Award finalist has batted .432 from the plate with 14 doubles, a triple, 17 home runs and 63 RBIs. Crews are also 2nd nationally in on-base percentage while he is third nationally in batting average. Crews was named the MVP of the Baton Rouge Regional.
Third baseman Tommy White is LSU’s best power hitter on the team leader in doubles (20) and home runs (22). White, who was named as a member of Collegiate Baseball’s All-AMerican team, is third nationally in RBIs with 93.
Designated hitter Cade Beloso and catcher Hayden Travinski have been dangerous hitters as of late as well. In LSU’s victories over Oregon State, both Beloso and Travinski hit back-to-back home runs. Beloso is batting .329 at the plate with 13 homers and 38 RBIs. Travinski, who has only started 18 games out of 34 appearances for LSU, has 10 home runs along with 29 RBIs.
Left fielder Josh Pearson has been one of LSU’s hottest bats since the regular season was nearing its end. Pearson was named to the All-Regional team after he batted .363 (4-11) from the plate with two triples, one home run and five RBIs.
Although LSU’s pitching staff not named Paul Skenes and Ty Floyd has struggled throughout the latter half of the season, they have finally found their stride in the last three weeks.
Thatcher Hurd has finally implemented himself as the No.3 starter for the Tigers. Against Oregon State in the winner’s bracket, Hurd came in relief for Floyd after a lengthy rain delay and fanned 12 Oregon State batters in LSU’s 6-5 victory.
True freshman Gavin Guidry has been LSU’s main closer in the latter half of the season. In his last three outings, Guidry has had six strikeouts, three hits allowed and no walks.
LSU pitcher Javen Coleman returned on April 18 after going through Tommy John surgery last season. In seven appearances this season, Coleman has fanned 19 batters with 12 walks and nine hits allowed in 12.2 innings.
Nate Ackenhausen, Riley Cooper and Griffin Herring have stepped up as well.
Kentucky has been known for its “small ball” style of play because of its emphasis on individual runs and attempts to score them. Instead of using extra-base hits, “small ball” teams like the Wildcats use walks, stolen bases, sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly balls, hit-and-runs and aggressive baserunning.
However, because of this style of play, teams have to sacrifice hitting and home runs to play this particular style. No team embodied the “small ball” spirit like the 2013-2015 Kansas City Royals.
The Royals led the league in stolen bases but finished last in home runs in 2013 and 2014. However, the Royals went to back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015, winning it in the latter year over the New York Mets in six games.
Just like those Royal teams, Kentucky leads the SEC in stolen bases but is dead last in home runs. Despite being in last place in home runs, Kentucky is third in triples and fourth in doubles and batting average.
Jackson Gray has been Kentucky’s batter all season. Gray has a .348 batting average with 15 doubles, five home runs and is the SEC leader in triples with six. He also leads the team in on-base percentage (.504) and has 19 stolen base attempts on 26 attempts.
Hunter Gilliam and catcher Devin Burkes are two of Kentucky’s most dangerous sluggers.
Gilliam leads the team in both home runs (12) and RBIs (71), while Burkes leads the team in doubles with 18 and has sent eight homers over the outfield wall.
Second baseman Emilien Pitre is your quintessential “small ball” player. Pitre has only hit one home run all year but he has a .322 batting average with 16 doubles, 51 RBIs and 18 stolen bases on 22 attempts.
Some other notable “small ball” players are Jase Felker and Ryan Waldschmidt.
Because of the way Kentucky plays, a good defense and pitching staff is needed. Fortunately for the Wildcats, they excel at both.
Kentucky is first in fielding percentage, second in assists and third in double plays in the SEV when it comes to fielding.
The Wildcats, while 13th in strikeouts, are second in the SEC in runs allowed, third in ERA and fifth in runs allowed and hits allowed.
Kentucky’s ace pitcher is Zack Lee (5-3). IN 67.1 innings pitched, Lee has a 3.74 ERA, 73 strikeouts and 27 walks. However, he has allowed 10 doubles and nine home runs.
Darren Williams (4-2) is in his sixth year at Kentucky. Williams has a 4.04 ERA, 61 strikeouts and 22 walks. Williams has beaned 15 batters on the year, which is a team-high.
Reliever Mason Moore has more of a wildcard role in this pitching rotation, similar to that of Arkansas star pitcher Hagen Smith. Moore has a 1.95 ERA, 49 strikeouts and an opposing btting average of .167.