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Friday, May 15, 2009

LSU in prime position

BATON ROUGE - Anything less than a Southeastern Conference championship for the LSU baseball team at this point would be nothing short of a choke.

The No. 2-ranked Tigers (40-14) came back from a 4-1 deficit after six innings to defeat Mississippi State, 5-4, Thursday night in Starkville, Miss., to keep a one-game lead over Ole Miss and Florida and a 1.5-game lead over Alabama with two games to play. Ole Miss (18-10) beat Arkansas 7-5 Thursday, while Florida (18-10) beat Kentucky 10-3 and Auburn beat Alabama (17-10), 3-2, in 10 innings.

If the Tigers (19-9 in the SEC) win Friday night's 6:30 game at State, they will clinch their first SEC regular season championship since 2003. Even if Ole Miss and/or Florida finish tied with the Tigers, LSU will get the No. 1 seed at the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., beginning on Wednesday as it has the tiebreaker over both of those teams. The Tigers took two of three from Ole Miss and Florida during the regular season.

An LSU win tonight would also mean that Alabama could not finish with a better record than LSU even if it wins its two remaining games. The best Alabama could do would be 19-10, and if LSU wins tonight the worst it could do would be 20-10.
And the Tigers have their ace going tonight in senior right-hander Louis Coleman (10-2), who leads the SEC with a 2.45 ERA and is fifth in the nation in wins. He will be opposed by Mississippi State freshman left-hander Nick Routt (5-3, 3.89 ERA).

LSU got through the tough one Thursday night after struggling at the plate early and after starter Anthony Ranaudo struggled on the mound early. In the end, the better team won a tough, close game. That's usually how it is in baseball.

On the surface, tonight looks easy. The Tigers will even be somewhat used to facing a lefty since they faced one Thursday night.

It would be just like the sport of baseball for LSU to lose tonight, though. Should that happen, LSU could be in danger of losing the title with two straight losses if Ole Miss and/or Florida win two straight. The Saturday game has been moved up from 2 p.m. to noon because of the threat of bad weather in the Starkville area.

Should LSU win the SEC regular season title, it will clinch a top eight seed in the NCAA playoffs, which would mean home field advantage in the NCAA Regional and Super Regional. That means Omaha, Neb., and the College World Series.

The Tigers are already ranked No. 2 and have been ranked in the top five all year. Should they win the SEC title, the Tigers could go 0-for-2 in the SEC Tournament and likely still get a national top eight seed.

It's all right there for the Tigers. They need to take care of it tonight.


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