LSU and Texas A&M will meet starting Thursday as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation.
Shortstop Alex Bregman is trying to push that from his mind. So is pitcher Alden Cartwright. And everyone else on the LSU baseball team.
After all, coach Paul Mainieri has impressed on his players to think about only the next game.
That will never be tested more than this week.
“Everyone knows everyone’s excited about this weekend,” Bregman said Monday. “Baton Rouge is buzzing about the No. 1 and No. 2 teams playing, but we can’t worry about that. We’re worried solely on Tulane.”
Before the big showdown with the Aggies, LSU (34-6) hosts Tulane (24-15) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Alex Box Stadium — its second game against the Green Wave in a month. Tulane took a series from nationally ranked Central Florida over the weekend, and many — like Bregman — believe the Green Wave will be in an NCAA regional come May.
“We’re not thinking about the weekend right now,” Cartwright said. “Tulane is pretty good.”
It’s tough not to overlook the Green Wave, though.
LSU is the consensus No. 1 team in the land, ranked atop all six major polls, and A&M is ranked No. 2 in four of six rankings. The Tigers will host their first No. 1-versus-No. 2 series in at least a decade, and it’s just the second series in Baton Rouge between top-five teams in Mainieri’s nine years with the Tigers.
The teams combine for a 69-11 record and are tied for first in the Southeastern Conference at 12-5. In league stats, they’re first (LSU) and second (A&M) in batting average and first (A&M) and third (LSU) in ERA.
LSU will make its season debut to a national television audience. ESPN is covering Game 3 on Saturday, and ESPNU will take Game 1 on Thursday.
It’s a big one, right?
“No. 1 vs. No. 2,” Mainieri said. “I don’t care how much you play down polls. It’s always exciting in what is considered the top two teams in the country by most people get to play out there on the field and match each other’s abilities against the other.”
“No. 1 versus No. 2, it’s always a huge deal,” said Kendall Rogers, editor and writer for D1Baseball.com.
It’s big enough that Alex Box Stadium’s 10,326 seats are nearly completely sold for the three-game series.
Friday and Saturday’s games have zero seats available. As of late Monday afternoon, there were five individual outfield tickets left for Thursday’s series opener. The school has already sold more than 600 standing-room-only tickets for the three games, and many more are expected to be distributed.
The game is likely to have a postseason feel to it — two of the top 10 teams in the nation duking it out in front of a raucous, rowdy crowd at one of college baseball’s best venues.
Don’t put too much stock in the results, though, Rogers said. LSU and Texas A&M are chasing SEC regular-season and Western Division championships as well as an all-important top-eight NCAA national seed.
This series might not affect the latter goal, at least.
“No matter what happens this weekend, they’re in really good shape for a national seed,” he said of both LSU and A&M, which are No. 8 and No. 5 in the NCAA’s official RPI released Monday. “I think LSU could lose two (of the next four SEC) series and still get a national seed.”
Meanwhile, the players are thinking about you know who.
“First off,” Bregman said, “Tulane is a great team.”
LSU will have its sixth top-10 home series since coach Paul Mainieri took over in 2007 and its fourth No. 1-versus-No. 2 duel in that span:
- 2014: No. 9 LSU vs. No. 9 Mississippi State (LSU won 3-0)
- 2013: No. 2 LSU vs. 10 South Carolina (SC, 2-1)
- 2013: No. 7 LSU vs. No. 2 Kentucky (LSU, 3-0)
- 2011: No. 5 LSU vs. No. 1 Florida (UF, 3-0)
- 2009: No. 3 LSU vs. No. 9 Florida (LSU, 2-1)
No. 1 versus No. 2 matchups
- 2013: No. 2 LSU vs. No. 1 Vanderbilt (LSU, 1-0)*
- 2012: No. 1 LSU at No. 2 Kentucky (UK, 2-1)
- 2009: No. 2 LSU at No. 1 Georgia (LSU, 2-1)
*SEC tournament championship game
Note: Highest rankings used
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.