Tigers tracking a sixth national title

Editor's note: Baseball America contacted professional area scouts and college assistant coaches familiar with the College World Series teams for analysis.

An in-depth look at the LSU Tigers, one of the eight teams competing in the College
World Series, which starts Friday at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha,

LSU Tigers
Record: 46-17
Coach: Smoke Laval (third season at LSU; two trips to Omaha)

How LSU Got Here: Swept through the Baton Rouge Regional, beating College of Charleston in the final; Defeated Texas A&M at Alex Box Stadium in one slugfest and one pitchers' duel to win the Super Regional.

CWS History: Laval's second consecutive trip raises LSU's tally to 13 in 19 seasons, a time span in which the Tigers have captured five crowns (1991, '93, '96, '97 and 2000) to tie for second on the all-time list.

Players To Watch: Jr. OF J.C. Holt (.390-6-51 with 20 steals and 18 doubles); Jr. OF Jon Zeringue (.387-12-55 with 19 doubles); Jr. OF Ryan Patterson (.340-14-64 with 22 doubles); Jr. LHP Lane Mestepey (7-3, 3.43 with 41 strikeouts and 26 walks in 94 innings); Sr. RHP Nate Bumstead (10-3, 3.59 with 52 strikeouts and 19 walks in 90 innings); Jr. SS Blake Gill (.344-5-41).

Tiger tracks

The Tigers are making their 13th appearance in Omaha -- all in the last 19 years. But all the success enjoyed by previous coach Skip Bertman, which includes five national titles, doesn't mean much to Smoke Laval, who went 0-2 last season in his first CWS as head coach.

  • LSU's five CWS titles all came in years in which the Tigers were either the SEC regular season or tournament champs. This year, LSU tied for third in the regular season, then went two-and-out in the SEC tournament.

  • No university has ever won the major-college football and basketball titles in the same school year, but the football-baseball combination has been achieved four previous times. It hasn't happened in more than 30 years, but LSU can put an end to that drought with a few more wins. USC was the last school to win the football and baseball title in the same year, pulling off the double in 1972-73.

  • In case LSU and South Carolina cross paths in Omaha, it should be noted that LSU was 6-0 against fellow SEC teams at the College World Series before being eliminated by South Carolina last year. The Tigers are 4-0 against Florida and 1-0 against both Alabama and Mississippi State.

  • LSU is 36-0 when leading at the end of the sixth inning this season.

    Scouts on the Tigers

    "Their defense is good, not great. Compared to last year with Aaron Hill and even Ryan Theriot before him, the shortstop isn't as good, but there's going to be more pressure on (the opposing) shortstop than LSU's because of they way they hit. Next to South Carolina, LSU has the deepest lineup in the SEC and puts constant pressure on you.

    "One through nine, everybody can beat you, but I just don't think they're as scary as LSU of the mid-90s. They are definitely not as powerful as those teams. They have some guys with 13, 14 homers, but should have more in that park. They are very aggressive swingers, especially early. If you mix it up early, you can get ahead. I think you can jam a lot of their guys, and they'll chase breaking balls in the dirt and changeups away if you get ahead of them. You can get in on (Jon) Zeringue, he's got some holes in his swing. Good lefties can get Holt, too.

    "LSU's pitching staff is real average. (Nate) Bumstead is just away, away, away -- all sliders and changeups. Get on top of the plate and take the outer half away from him and you've got a chance. (Left-hander Lane) Mestepey, he just competes. He's so emotional on the mound, and when he doesn't pitch he's always the first one running out of the dugout. If he pitches and wins the first night, they've got a great chance. They're real reluctant to go to the bullpen. Basically, there are one or two guys they're comfortable with. If you can get to their starters early, you'll be business. But you're going to have to hit because they will score their runs."

    Omaha outlook

    The fans in Baton Rouge feel Omaha is an entitlement, and openly questioned Laval's coaching abilities as the team lost seven SEC series openers. LSU rallied to win six of those series before sweeping through the first two rounds of the tournament to put that talk to rest. Back in Omaha, the Tigers resemble most of their recent CWS teams with a deep, powerful lineup. However, the other three teams on LSU's side of the bracket have the ability to score just as frequently, so an inconsistent pitching staff must deliver a strong performance. Mestepey, who struggled to regain his 2001-02 form after missing 2003 with shoulder surgery, has done so in allowing four earned runs in 24 1/3 postseason innings, including a complete-game shutout against Texas A&M. The Tigers will need at least two more starters to follow that lead if they are to advance out of their bracket.

    Will Kimmey covers college baseball for Baseball America.

    ESPN researcher Brad Edwards contributed to this report.