NCAA Baseball Tournament 2013 super regional preview: Baton Rouge

USA TODAY Sports

LSU hosts Oklahoma in Alex Box Stadium, where Jonathan Gray and Aaron Nola will square off in perhaps the most anticipated pitching matchup of the entire tournament.

It's a heavyweight bout between two legitimate title contenders in Baton Rouge, stocked-full of big league prospects and national intrigue. Here's the lowdown on how they stack up against each other.

(4) LSU Tigers (55-9) vs. (2) Oklahoma Sooners (43-19)

All times Eastern
Friday: 7 p.m. (ESPN)
Saturday: 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday (if necessary): 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

Background

Oklahoma was in the super regionals this time last year, but ran into the postseason buzz saw that was the South Carolina Gamecocks. They'll have to avoid a similar fate in Baton Rouge to advance to Omaha for the 10th time in school history. The Sooners have captured the national championship twice before -- once back in 1951 and again in 1994.

To get a third title, Oklahoma will have to find a way past perennial power LSU. The Tigers' tale of the tape is staggering: 10 super regional appearances, 16 trips to Omaha and six national championships. The last time they hoisted the trophy was in 2009, current head coach Paul Mainieri's second year at the helm. There's a real chance he could have his fingerprints on the hardware again in 2013.

Path to the supers

The Sooners were a hot pick to win the Blacksburg regional, and they didn't disappoint, running through Coastal Carolina and UConn before eliminating one-seed Virginia Tech, 10-4, in the first game of the regional finals.

Nationally-seeded LSU got through the first round undefeated as well, but showed at least a minor ding in their armor. They started with a somewhat shaky 11-7 win over Jackson State that saw them burn through six pitchers and potentially open up an upset opportunity for the high-powered offense of Louisiana-Lafayette. The Tigers promptly reminded us all why they are the SEC champs, however, getting through UConn and then holding the Ragin' Cajuns in check in a 5-1 win to clinch the regional.

Hitting

The Tigers finished in the top two in the SEC in almost every meaningful offensive statistic, including batting average, runs scored, slugging percentage and home runs. They're powered by seniors Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz along with National Freshman of the Year Alex Bregman, a trio that combined to bat .469 with two home runs and nine RBI in the opening round. Rhymes and Bregman left in the fourth inning of last Friday's contest against Jackson State after a scary collision in the outfield, but both returned to action the following day and appeared no worse for wear.

Oklahoma doesn't necessarily wow you with its numbers (.285, 350 runs scored) but is solid, nonetheless. Matt Oberste is the big bat in this lineup -- his 60 RBI lead the Big 12 and he's slugging .624. He had two hits and two RBI in the Sooners' tournament-opening win over Coastal Carolina.

Pitching

Friday night in Baton Rouge features perhaps the top pitching matchup of the entire tournament as LSU's Aaron Nola faces off with potential No. 1 overall MLB draft pick Jonathan Gray. Nola finished the brutal SEC stretch with a spotless 11-0 record and has an equally pristine 1.82 ERA to match it. It doesn't get any easier for Oklahoma in Games 2 or 3, as the Tigers will roll out Ryan Eades (8-1) and Cody Glenn (7-2).

Gray is coming off of a complete game against Coastal Carolina in which he allowed only two earned runs and struck out 11. Dillon Overton is no slouch in the two-spot, holding a sub-3.0 ERA and a 9-2 record.

Prediction

The Sooners are certainly capable of beating LSU, but they'll have to play a flawless series, something not easily done in Baton Rouge. Home-field advantage isn't normally discussed in baseball, but only by people who haven't watched a game in the raucous 10,000-seat Alex Box Stadium. It will be tight, but the Tigers pull it out in Game 3 and punch their ticket to the CWS.

LSU in three games.

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