By Glenn Guilbeau / GANNETT LOUISIANA
BATON ROUGE - The Southeastern Conference Tournament for LSU was all about hosting its own NCAA Regional tournament beginning on May 30 and possibly the Super Regional round the next week as well, should it advance.
But the Tigers, who won their third straight SEC Tourney game and second by the 10-run rule on Saturday 11-1 over Arkansas to reach the championship game Sunday, continue to treat Hoover, Alabama like home. Perhaps they may lobby the NCAA to host the postseason in Hoover, where the Tigers will go for their fifth SEC Tournament title since 2008 against either Kentucky or Florida at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, on ESPN2.
“There’s something about Hoover that brings the best out of our kids,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Saturday after his team won its third game in four days by a combined count of 29-4.
The Tigers (43-14-1) won their seventh consecutive game overall and continued to bash opponents with gorilla ball-like power. In that seven-game winning streak, the Tigers have outscored opponents 85-8 with 104 hits and won by the 10-run rule three times. LSU’s three wins in Hoover have been over Vanderbilt, 11-1, on Wednesday in seven innings, Arkansas, 7-2, on Thursday and Arkansas again, 11-1, on Saturday in eight innings.
LSU’s ratings percentage index (RPI), critical for the right to host NCAA Regionals and Super Regionals, continues to soar as it was at No. 10 Saturday after a No. 16 mark entering the SEC Tournament. Vanderbilt entered the tournament with a No. 6 RPI but has dropped to seven after being eliminated in three games. The Tigers have also moved ahead of Ole Miss, which has seen its RPI fall to 14 after losing two of three games in the tournament. The Rebels entered the tournament as the No. 2 overall seed as it edged No. 3 seed LSU for second in the final SEC regular season standings.
LSU will learn if it will be one of 16 NCAA Regional hosts at 8 p.m. Sunday. The complete 64-team bracket with pairings and the top eight national seeds for Super Regionals will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
LSU will enter the NCAA selection process very hot, regardless of the outcome of its tournament title game Sunday afternoon. The Tigers on Saturday became the first team to 10-run rule two opponents in the SEC Tournament since Vanderbilt in 2006.
“It was a big shot in the arm for us with the NCAA Tournament next week,” Mainieri said. “We are proud of the way we’re swinging the bat.”
LSU previously won SEC Tournaments under Mainieri in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
“It’s going to be fun. I love playing for championships in this place,” he said.