Tigers Close Out Regular Season Against Alabama 05/16/02 Series Notes BATON ROUGE -- LSU may have lost its opportunity to win the Southeastern Conference title last weekend, but there is still plenty for the Fighting Tigers to play for as they entertain league leader Alabama this weekend in a three-game series at Alex Box Stadium that will close out the 2002 regular season. The series gets underway Friday at 6:30 p.m., followed by games at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Sunday's contest will be the traditional senior day, as LSU will honor its 11 outgoing seniors in a pre-game ceremony. All three games can be heard on the full LSU Sports Network (WDGL-98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) and on the Internet at www.lsusports.net. The games on Friday and Saturday will be televised on a tape delay basis by WGMB-Fox 44 in Baton Rouge starting at 9 p.m. each day ,and Sunday's game will be televised tape delay by Cox Cable Channel 4 starting at 7 p.m. LSU (35-17, 16-10) is one of the SEC's hottest teams in recent weeks, as the Tigers have won five of their last six conference series and 18 of 23 overall since April 1 to move into position to possibly host an NCAA regional for the 13th consecutive year. The Tigers are ranked 15th by both ESPN/Baseball Weekly and Baseball America and are 19th in the Collegiate Baseball poll after winning two of three at Florida last weekend, handing the Gators their only home series loss of the year. The Tigers' rotation will remain the same as it has for the previous five conference weekends, as sophomore left-hander Lane Mestepey (9-3, 2.99) leads off on Friday, followed by sophomore right-hander Brian Wilson (7-4, 3.56) on Saturday and junior right-hander Bo Pettit (7-6, 3.60) on Sunday. Mestepey is ranked fourth in the SEC in earned run average, with Wilson coming in 11th and Pettit 12th. LSU relief ace Jake Tompkins (5-0, 3.06) is seventh in the league in ERA, making the Tigers the only club with four hurlers in the top 12. At the plate, LSU banged out 31 hits in last weekend's series victory at Florida, but was just 6-for-38 (.158) with runners in scoring position. The men charged with changing that statistic are senior right fielder Sean Barker (.392-5 HR-52 RBI), the Tigers' leading hitter, along with sophomore shortstop Aaron Hill (.368-7-40) and junior third baseman Wally Pontiff (.354-5-37). The Tigers' hottest hitter in recent games has been freshman second baseman J.C. Holt (.350-3-21), who enters this weekend on a 13-game hitting streak, batting .469 (23-for-49) during that stretch and .429 since April 1. For Alabama coach Jim Wells, this season marks a great comeback as the Tide enters the weekend at 44-9 overall and 20-7 in the SEC, having already clinched the SEC West division championship and holding a 1 1/2 game lead over South Carolina for the overall conference crown. Last year, Alabama did not even reach the SEC Tournament, finishing ninth in the league at 15-15 and 32-23 overall. The Tide's magic number to win the SEC crown is two, which would give Alabama its first title since sharing the crown with Florida and LSU in 1996, and its first outright title since the 1983 team which rode Dave Magadan's .525 batting average to a runner-up spot behind Roger Clemens' Texas club in the College World Series. Wells, a former assistant from 1987-89 at LSU under Skip Bertman, has led Alabama to three CWS berths (1996, 1997 and 1999) in his eight years in Tuscaloosa, finishing runner-up to LSU in 1997. Alabama's pitching rotation has been solid and consistent throughout the season, as they enter the weekend leading the league in ERA at 3.35. Wells will send senior right-hander Lance Cormier (9-2, 3.16) to the mound on Friday to face Mestepey. Cormier, a Lafayette native who was recruited by LSU, dropped a 4-2 decision to Mestepey in 2001 at Tuscaloosa. The Tide's remaining starters are sophomore Jeffrey Norris (4-0, 2.98) on Saturday and senior right-hander Shane Sanders (8-1, 2.88) on Sunday. At the plate, Alabama features three four-year seniors who starred on the Tide's last CWS team in 1999-catcher Jeremy Brown (.333-10-55), center fielder Scott McClanahan (.324-12-53) and second baseman Brent Boyd (.286-7-44). Brown is a two-time finalist for the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's outstanding catcher. Alabama's leading hitter is sophomore right fielder Peter Stonard (.416-4-32) who enters the weekend on a 12-game hitting streak. LSU swept the three-game series from Alabama last year in Tuscaloosa, winning 4-2, 8-7 and 8-3 to extend its winning streak in the series to five consecutive games. However, Alabama continues to hold a 180-130-1 all-time edge in the 96-year old series and is 8-8 since 1990 against the Tigers in Baton Rouge. Wells is 15-15 against LSU at Alabama and is 17-21 vs. the Tigers all-time, including a 2-6 mark as the coach for five seasons (1990-94) at Northwestern State in Natchitoches. LSU coach Smoke Laval, who was an assistant with Wells during his tenure in Baton Rouge, was 2-4 against Alabama while the coach at Louisiana-Monroe. Both LSU and Alabama will participate in the SEC Tournament starting Wednesday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium in Birmingham. The pairings and game times for the eight-team, double-elimination tournament will be set following the completion of play on Sunday.