Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE – As far as LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri is concerned, his team does not need to win a game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament that opens Tuesday in Hoover, Ala., because his Tigers have already accomplished enough to garner one of the 16 NCAA Regional sites, where the first round of the NCAA postseason will be from May 30-June 2.
“What we’ve done already is worthy of hosting an NCAA Regional,” Mainieri said before his team practiced Monday morning at Alex Box Stadium. “I think finishing third in the SEC should be enough.”
LSU finished the regular season at 40-14 overall and third overall in the SEC at 17-11 behind Florida (37-19, 21-9 SEC) and Ole Miss (40-16, 19-11), which lost two of three at home to the Tigers last month. The Tigers are ranked only 15 or 16 in some of the various RPI (ratings percentage index) listings and have only the 47th toughest schedule in the nation and easiest in the SEC, according to warrennolan.com.
Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt all have significantly higher RPI numbers than LSU and are in contention for a host site as well. The NCAA has rarely awarded five SEC teams host sites.
Mainieri was asked if Vanderbilt (40-16, 17-13 SEC for sixth) and its No. 6 RPI deserves to host over LSU. Vanderbilt also beat LSU two out of three to open the SEC season in Nashville in March.
“They finished sixth in the league,” he said. “Their RPI is six. God bless them, but they’re sixth in the league. You can say all you want, but the bottom line is we’re the third best team in the SEC. I think the third best team in the SEC deserves to host.”
Mainieri also realizes that no one can predict how the NCAA Baseball Selection Committee will add up the various numbers and trends in a given year.
“Nobody knows,” he said. “I don’t really know. It can’t hurt to do well in the SEC Tournament. But we’ve won 40 games. We have the least amount of overall losses (14) of all the teams in the SEC except one (South Carolina with 13). That’s a pretty good year.”
LSU received a first round bye in the SEC Tournament with Florida, Ole Miss and South Carolina and will play at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday against the winner of Vanderbilt and No. 11 seed Tennessee (31-22, 12-18 SEC).
The Tigers have won four of the last six SEC Tournaments, including last year’s tournament.
“It’s a very enjoyable tournament,” Mainieri said. “It has a great environment.”