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Preview: LSU Baseball Set to Square Off With Gonzaga in First Regional Game

Tigers not taking Zags team that was on brink of hosting a regional lightly

This will not be an easy regional for the Tigers and judging by the first game this weekend against Gonzaga, the purple and gold will have their hands full throughout the entire three day Oregon regional. 

The Zags enter as one of those teams that feel cheated as they were one of the original 20 sites selected to host a regional before being left off the final 16 regional sites. It's a team with a bone to pick and Paul Mainieri knows LSU will get their best shot on Friday, which is why he's electing to throw Landon Marceaux in game one.

Offensively, it's not an overwhelmingly powerful group as they mostly hit for contact. But in the postseason, those are usually the most dangerous teams as there's very little room for error.  

"You can't get frustrated if you can't strike these guys out because they have a really good approach when they get two strikes on them," Mainieri said. "They're a very unselfish team, they hit the ball the other way and they're tough guys. You can see they're well coached and we've gotta play great defense behind Landon."

Playing the right defense behind Marceaux will be critical for the Tigers on Friday as this is an offense that will wear a pitcher down with foul balls and hard grounders in the gap. 

For outfielder Dylan Crews, the primary goal is playing mistake free baseball behind Marceaux, knowing that runs have been up and down to come by this season for the purple and gold. 

"It's very important, we know Landon is gonna perform out there and do what he does," Crews said. "Now that we have the pieces coming together, we know these guys are gonna put the ball in play. They're very scrappy and when the ball is put in play we're gonna make those plays."

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The LSU hitters will be squaring off with Alek Jacob, who sports a 2.82 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 10 starts for Gonzaga this season. What makes Jacob so threatening for the Tigers isn't his velocity, which is nothing like what the Tigers' hitters are used to seeing in the SEC. 

His delivery is unusual as he has a little sidearm action to it and has some truly back breaking offspeed pitches that will fool the offense if its not careful. Mainieri said that the Tigers will need an outstanding approach against Jacob because of his unique way of pitching and that was something the team worked on in practice on Wednesday upon arrival in Eugene.

"They play with an awful lot of confidence when this kid is on the mound," Mainieri said. "We have studied this pitcher so much and he scares me honestly. He's got an unorthadox way of pitching, he's all arms and legs. We've gotta have a really good approach on him.

"Approach wise we're gonna try to let the ball get deep, go the other way and as long as we don't try to get big, we should be able to get to this guy," Tre Morgan said. "The way this guy pitches we're gonna have to be a lot more patient, can't try to get the big fly, we just gotta try and pick him apart."

Morgan said one of the preaching points from the older veterans who have been to the postseason before is just how quick these games can go by because of the stellar pitching. That's why it's been stressed to the younger players and team as a whole to jump on a team like Gonzaga early and take advantages of any opportunity given.

"You can blink and it's the seventh inning so we've gotta go out there and play every pitch hard," Morgan said. "That really could decide the game.

"I've been in this business a long time and you can start to get a good sense of the guys you can count on," Mainieri said. "The key is to put guys in situations that accentuates their strengths and hide the weaknesses. That doesn't guarantee anything but you've gotta give your team the best chance to be successful."