LSU's quest for a trip to Omaha begins Friday when the Tigers take the field against a major underdog in Jackson State.
Jackson State (34-20) won its 15th Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship when the Tigers beat Prairie View A&M 6-2. It was JSU's first SWAC title since 2000.
Does Jackson State bring a sense of anxiety to a team that fell to Stony Brook in last year's Super Regional? LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes doesn't think so. "I don't really think about it. You can always go back to the feeling you had, losing that game. But I don't like to go back to it. It's a new year. It's another opportunity to get to Omaha."
As a team, Jackson State has a batting average of .285. Charles Tilery leads the Tigers with a .344 average and eight doubles.
Malcolm Tate, Bryce Taylor and Stephen Curtis all have 13 doubles for JSU.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri will start Ryan Eades on the mound against the Tigers Friday. "We want him to go all nine innings. We will probably extend him longer than we have all year because we need to save our bullpen. I hope we only play three games this weekend because there is a possibility to play five. You have to have as many arms as possible and it's the reason we are pitching Ryan first. We need him to pitch for as many innings as possible on that first night."
Jackson State brings a team ERA of 4.66 to Alex Box Stadium. Alexander Juday leads the staff with a 7-4 record and a 3.14 ERA.
Desmond Russell is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA in nine appearances. Russell is also hitting .321 with six doubles and two home runs in 53 at bats.
When asked about not looking ahead, Ryan Eades said it perfectly, "Omaha is our goal. But just staying loose and just having fun. That's what it's all about, just having fun and doing the little things right. Going out there and competing and giving it everything you have - just taking it one game at a time. We're not looking at Omaha right now because we aren't going to Omaha if we win tomorrow. We've got to take it one game at a time and just have fun."
LSU begins the journey to Omaha Friday at 2:00 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium.
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