Silence engulfed the Champions Club at Alex Box Stadium as LSU’s name popped up on the television screen.
The consensus top-ranked team in the nation was given the No. 2 overall NCAA national seed — not the No. 1 seed. Sudden disappointment gave way to a round of applause from players, coaches and fans gathered to watch the selection show.
These Tigers have something more to prove.
“We’ve got motivation,” freshman pitcher Alex Lange said. “We’ve got something to play for.”
UCLA claimed the No. 1 NCAA national seed, denying LSU a shot at history: No Tigers team has been the top seed since the NCAA went to the format in 1999.
The goal for LSU was accomplished, though: The path to Omaha for coach Paul Mainieri’s team will go through Baton Rouge. LSU will host No. 2 seed UNC-Wilmington, No. 3 seed Tulane and No. 4 seed Lehigh in a four-team regional starting Friday.
The winner of the double-elimination event will face the winner of the Houston regional in a best-of-three super regional that LSU, if it advances through regionals, would host as one of the top eight national seeds. Houston is hosting a regional that includes Rice, Louisiana-Lafayette and Houston Baptist.
Houston beat LSU in the Baton Rouge regional last season, knocking out the No. 8 overall seed Tigers in their own backyard.
Still stings? Oh yeah.
“That’d be a dream come true to have that opportunity to play them again with a chance to go to Omaha,” shortstop Alex Bregman said.
But first, the regional.
At 3 p.m. Friday, LSU meets Patriot League champion Lehigh, a squad with a 239 RPI and a record of 25-29. LSU staff members spent the hours after the selection show scrambling for information on the Mountain Hawks, who are making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.
The LSU-Lehigh game is scheduled to air on the SEC Network.
“I don’t know anything about Lehigh and don’t know much about UNC-Wilmington,” Mainieri said immediately after the announcement.
At least one of the three regional opponents is familiar.
“I do know Tulane very well,” Mainieri quipped.
LSU beat the Green Wave (34-23) 13-7 and 6-0 this season. Tulane, on the bubble of the tournament entering the weekend, plays UNC-Wilmington (39-16) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Tulane and LSU wins Friday would pit the squads in an 8 p.m. matchup Saturday in what could be as intense and rowdy of an atmosphere at the Box.
“Place would be rocking,” second baseman Jared Foster said.
The Tigers are in the NCAA tournament for a 28th time and are hosting a 23rd regional. They’re a national seed for the fourth straight year — the active longest national seed streak in the nation.
Louisville (3), Florida (4), Miami (5), Illinois (6), TCU (7) and Missouri State (8) joined LSU and UCLA as the eight national seeds. LSU claimed its sixth national seed in Mainieri’s nine seasons as coach — one of the goals for a squad that cruised through one of the school’s best regular seasons.
LSU has been ranked the consensus No. 1 team for the past five weeks. The Tigers won the Southeastern Conference regular season championship, avoided consecutive losses for just the second time in program history and won nine of 10 regular-season SEC series.
Most projections had LSU as the No. 1 overall national seed. That didn’t happen.
“Quite frankly, I was kind of hoping we would get it because it had never happened before in LSU baseball history,” Mainieri said. “I thought we were probably deserving of it. You can’t argue with UCLA either.”
For players, it’s just one more thing to prove — that these Tigers are the best in the land.
“Did we think we deserved the No. 1 seed?” Bregman asked before smiling. “Maybe, but it’s OK.”
Friday, May 29
Game 1 - 3 p.m. - #4 seed Lehigh vs. #1 seed LSU (SEC Network)
Game 2 - 7 p.m. - #3 seed Tulane vs. #2 seed UNC-Wilmington (ESPN3)
Saturday, May 30
Game 3 - 3 p.m. - Game 1 Loser vs. Game 2 Loser (SEC Network or ESPN3)
Game 4 - 8 p.m. - Game 1 Winner vs. Game 2 Winner (SEC Network or ESPN 3)
Sunday, May 31
Game 5 – 3 p.m. - Game 3 Winner vs. Game 4 Loser (SEC Network or ESPN3)
Game 6 – 7 p.m. - Game 4 Winner vs. Game 5 Winner (SEC Network or ESPN3)
Monday, June 1
Game 7 – 7 p.m. - Game 6 Winner vs. Game 6 Loser (if necessary – SEC Network or ESPN3)
LSU in the NCAA tournament
Appearances (including 2015)
134-53 (.717, highest winning percentage ever)
College World Series appearances
Super regional appearances
Super regional titles
Regionals hosted (including 2015)
LSU as a national seed
No. 8 seed losing in NCAA Baton Rouge regional
2-2 in NCAA postseason
No. 4 seed losing in College World Series
5-2 in NCAA postseason, 0-2 in CWS
No. 7 seed losing in NCAA Baton Rouge super regional
4-2 in NCAA postseason, 1-2 in super regional
No. 3 seed winning College World Series
10-1 in NCAA postseason,5-1 in CWS
No. 7 seed losing in College World Series
6-3 in NCAA postseason, 1-2 in CWS
No. 2 seed losing in College World Series
5-3 in NCAA postseason, 0-2 in CWS
No. 2 winning College World Series
9-0 in NCAA postseason, 4-0 in CWS