LSU, Oregon St. seek strong starts to NCAA tourney
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — One year after missing the NCAA tournament, order has been restored at LSU.
The Tigers (43-16) are accustomed not just to making the tournament, but also hosting regionals. They'll do precisely that this weekend as a No. 7 national seed, meaning they'll also host a super regional — if they keep winning.
Joining LSU at the double-elimination Baton Rouge regional are Oregon State (38-18), Sun Belt Conference champion Louisiana-Monroe (31-28) and Atlantic Sun Conference champ Belmont (39-22).
Belmont plays Oregon State to open the regional Friday afternoon, followed by LSU's meeting with ULM on Friday night.
"I can't lie. It's very special to be back," LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. "Obviously I felt very strongly that we deserved to be in the field last year. ... (Missing the tournament) wasn't a very pleasant experience and I don't want to ever feel that again."
LSU has won six national championships, all since 1991. The last came under Mainieri in 2009. That team included pitcher Randy Zeigler, who later transferred to a junior college after having elbow surgery and now pitches for none other than Louisiana-Monroe.
Fittingly, ULM head coach Jeff Schexnaider had assigned Zeigler, who pitched in the Sun Belt title game — to start the Warhawks' tournament opener against LSU.
"When he is on, the players like when he is out there," Schexnaider said. "They are confident with him and I know he is excited about tomorrow night."
LSU expects the best from the former Tiger.
"He's going to come out motivated and hyped up," said LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes, the Southeastern Conference player of the year, who leads the nation in hitting with a .459 batting average. "I know he wants to come out here and maybe prove a point. ... He's a good pitcher. It'll be tough."
LSU will start Aaron Nola, younger brother of shortstop Austin Nola, who played for the 2009 title team.
Oregon State is no stranger to the tournament or winning national titles, having won two in a row in 2006 and 2007. The Beavers also are in the tournament for the seventh time in eight years.
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