LSU and Rice have been frequent opponents in NCAA tournament play over the years, though Sunday night’s winner’s bracket game in the Baton Rouge regional was their first meeting since 2009.
This was the 11th NCAA contest between the Tigers and Owls since 1995, with Rice holding a 6-4 edge including a 4-0 mark in regional games played in Baton Rouge. LSU is 2-0 against Rice in the College World Series and 2-2 against the Owls in super regional games (2-0 in Baton Rouge, 0-2 in Houston).
LSU’s 6-5 win over Rice in the 2008 CWS was the Tigers’ first win in Omaha under coach Paul Mainieri.
Monday’s game times
Though virtually the entire Baton Rouge regional schedule has been altered by rain, NCAA officials have pegged games for Monday at 2 p.m. between Southeastern Louisiana and loser of the LSU-Rice game and 7 p.m. for the first game of the championship round.
If a second regional championship game is needed, it would be played Tuesday.
Trying to make history
Southeastern Louisiana has to win three games to do it, but the Lions still have a chance to make history in the NCAA Baton Rouge regional.
Since the NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1999 and added the super regional between regionals and the College World Series, no Southland Conference team has made it past the regional round.
Southeastern Louisiana coach Matt Riser sounded a warning for the Lions’ next opponent Monday that has to face SLU pitcher Kyle Cedotal in an elimination game.
“I feel sorry for the loser of this game,” he said, speaking of Sunday night’s game between LSU and Rice.
Despite his coach’s confidence, the season ended in shaky fashion for Cedotal (5-4, 3.19 earned run average). He struggled in his last five starts and was benched for the Lions’ final regular-season series at Central Arkansas.
Utah Valley second baseman Trevor Howell had to switch from his regular No. 2 to No. 3 Saturday after his gear was stolen off the Wolverines’ charter bus.
Howell accidentally left his bag on the Utah Valley bus Saturday night. According to a team spokesman, Howell’s uniform, bat and glove were taken some time after the bus returned to the charter company’s facility.
Fisher not on fire
As the nation’s leading hitter, all eyes were on SLU’s Jameson Fisher heading into this weekend.
Fisher entered the Baton Rouge regional with the nation’s best batting average (.437), but after going 1-for-5 through two games, he’s dropped to his lowest total since March 15 (.431).
His only hit came in the fifth inning against Rice when he singled to right field.
He’s also walked three times, which is less surprising after Rice coach Wayne Graham originally said on Thursday the Owls would walk him every at bat. He was intentionally walked once against Rice.
“We knew he was a good hitter coming into it, like everyone knows, he’s one of the best hitters in the nation right now,” said Rice pitcher Blake Fox. “Our job as pitchers is to go out there and treat him like he’s just another hitter.”
“He’s one of the best hitters in the country and I tried to not really think about that,” said Utah Valley pitcher Jackson Cofer. “I tried to just go after him like I would any other hitter. I think I had two walks and both of them were on him, so I wish I could have had those at-bats back.”
Tough way to finish
Utah Valley first baseman Spencer Gothberg was one of eight seniors helping the Wolverines make their first NCAA tournament appearance this season.
Like most seniors, the finality of his final college game left Gothberg emotional as he discussed his team’s 3-2 loss to SLU.
“It’ll be hard for me to talk,” Gothberg said, his voice halting. “I’m one of eight seniors. It’s been an awesome ride to make our first regional in front of this awesome crowd.
“I’m just sad it’s over.”
Gothberg made his last college game count, belting his fifth home run of the season in the fourth inning to the bleachers below the scoreboard in left center.
The last word
“Just walked up on a possum digging in my trash outside. He gets a pass tonight.”
— Former LSU quarterback Matt Flynn on Twitter Sunday night
Mike Gegenheimer contributed to this report.