LSU – Oregon State – Belmont – Louisiana-Monroe
The LSU Tigers will enter this regional as the heavy favorite, to win out and advance to host a Super Regional at The Box. Oregon State will be LSU’s toughest opponent, granted if both teams win their first games. This regional also features teams in Louisiana-Monroe, winners of the Sunbelt Conference, and Belmont, who won the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament.
LSU Tigers (43-16, 19-11)
There is not much to say about this team that the whole nation doesn’t already know. The Tigers are flat out good. Winners of the SEC regular season championship, they will enter the weekend as the team to beat in the regional and have the luxury of playing at home, which is known to hold 10,000 fans during a midweek game.
LSU is led by its powerful junior left fielder Raph Rhymes, who is only leading nation with a .459 batting average and a team-high 96 hits with 50 RBIs. Junior right fielder Mason Katz brings the big stick to the Tiger offense with a team high 11 home runs.
The Tigers’ weekend rotation of Kevin Gausman, Ryan Eades and Aaron Nola boast a combined ERA of 3.37. Gausman leads the way with a 10-1 record and a 2.84 ERA and a team-high 125 strikeouts.
Overall, this is statistically the best team in the region and one of the better teams in the country. If the Tigers can get past Oregon State, they should advance to the next round.
Oregon State (38-18, 18-12)
Oregon State enters this weekend fresh off a sweep of arch-rival Oregon to keep the Ducks from winning the Pac 12 Championship. The Beavers finished the season tied for third place in the conference and are looking strong headed into the postseason on a four-game win streak and 8-2 in their last 10.
If there were a team to challenge the one-seed Tigers, the Beavers would be the team to do it. This potent offense is led by Michael Conforto, who is leading the team with a .350 batting average, 70 hits, 13 home runs and 71 RBI’s, which is also good for third in the nation.
Oregon State’s weekend rotation features a combined ERA of 3.22, but its bullpen is perhaps the team’s biggest weapon led by Scott Shultz, who has appeared in 23 games with a 3-1 record. Shultz is holding batters to a .237 average in his 37 innings of work.
Not saying it will happen because I feel LSU is just that good, but the Beavers could cause the Tigers some fits if their pitching isn’t rock solid.
Belmont (39-22, 17-10)
Belmont is on a hot streak and at the right time. Going 9-1 in its last 10 games, the Bruins could use all the confidence they can get entering this tough regional. The truth is Belmont is just 1-2 against RPI teams in the top 50, which tells me it hasn’t really played teams of LSU or Oregon State’s caliber.
The Bruins are led offensively by their senior second baseman Zac Mitchell, who is batting .361 with only 10 strikeouts in 216 at bats (for all you math nerds, that is one strikeout every 21 at bats).
On the mound, Belmont turns to ace Chase Brookshire, who is 8-3 with a 2.45 ERA and a team-high 78 strikeouts.
Belmont may be good enough to beat up on Louisiana-Monroe, but I do not see it competing against LSU or Oregon State.
Louisiana-Monroe (31-28, 15-15)
Have you ever seen a Tiger and a Warhawk in a fight? Me either, but I could only imagine the Warhawk would not fair too well.
The Warhawks of Louisiana-Monroe open the tournament against big, bad LSU, and rightfully so aren’t getting much of a chance to win this game. The Warhawks finished three games above .500 and are 0-3 against teams in the top 50.
Louisiana-Monroe is led by Joey Rapp, who is batting .325 with a team-high 76 hits, nine home runs and 51 RBIs. Starting pitcher Randy Zeigler has a team-high 17 starts with a 3.65 ERA and a 5-6 record.
Now to you Warhawk fans: I am not trying to hate on you all, but I just don’t see your postseason play going much further than a couple of games. Look on the bright side: You made the tournament, and that is more than Texas can say.
Favorite: LSU - This is obvious, and if you don’t agree then shame on you. LSU is playing really well at the moment and on paper it is what Derek Zoolander would refer to as “really, really, ridiculously good-looking”. My advice: DO NOT pitch to Raph Rhymes if at all possible.
Sleeper: Oregon State - I wouldn’t really consider Oregon State to be a sleeper because they are one of the stronger two-seeds in the tournament with a lot of postseason success in recent years. The Beavers have a lineup and a pitching staff that could make some noise in the regional.
Best Offensive Player: Raph Rhymes of LSU is leading the country with a .459 batting average and a team-high 96 hits with 50 RBIs.
Best Pitcher: LSU’s Kevin Gausman enters the weekend with a 10-1 record and boasts a 2.84 ERA. Gausman has pitched 107 2/3 innings with 125 strikeouts while holding batters to a .231 average.
Who Will Win & Why: LSU will win this regional behind a great offensive lineup and solid rotation of pitchers. Oregon State will challenge, but, in the end, LSU is at home playing in front of its crazy fans that know how to fill up a ball park, The Tigers will advance to the next round.
Game 1: (3) Belmont vs. (2) Oregon State, 2 p.m.
Game 2: (4) UL-Monroe vs. (1) LSU, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser, 2 p.m.
Game 4: Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner, 7 p.m.
Game 5: Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser, 1:30 p.m.
Game 6: Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner, 6:30 p.m.
Game 7: Game 6 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser (if necessary), 6:30 p.m.
All Times Are Central