May 1, 2013 11:44 PM by LSU Sports Information
BATON ROUGE, La. - Third-ranked LSU (40-6, 16-5 SEC) begins a three-game Southeastern Conference series at 6:30 p.m. Thursday versus No. 19 Florida in Alex Box Stadium.
Game 2 of the series begins at 6:30 p.m. Friday, and first pitch for Game 3 is 12 p.m. Saturday.
The games can be heard on the affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 FM in Baton Rouge) and live audio and stats of the games may be accessed in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net. Live video is available at WatchESPN.com on Thursday and Saturday, and at ESPN3.com on Friday.
All three games of the series will be televised - Thursday on ESPNU, Friday on CST/CSS and Saturday on ESPN2.
First-place LSU holds a 2.5-game lead over Arkansas in the SEC Western Division, and the Tigers are in second place in the overall league standings, three games behind Vanderbilt.
The 2013 Tigers are the fastest to 40 wins in LSU history, surpassing the 40-7 mark of the 1986 team and the 40-8 mark of the 1997 squad.
"Our players have done a tremendous job in putting us in the position we're in now, and they're extremely excited about this series," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "Florida is a program that has enjoyed a great deal of success recently and they have a lot of tradition, and I like to think we've established a pretty strong tradition around here ourselves. Florida has great ball players, and so does LSU, and this shapes up as a highly competitive matchup."
Mainieri said sophomore left-hander Cody Glenn (5-1, 3.13 ERA) will start Game 1 on the mound for the Tigers, followed by sophomore right-hander Aaron Nola (8-0, 2.14 ERA) on Friday and junior right-hander Ryan Eades (7-1, 2.30 ERA) on Saturday.
Nola recorded his third straight complete-game victory Friday, defeating No. 10 South Carolina in Alex Box Stadiu. He limited the Gamecocks to two runs on six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. Nola became the first LSU pitcher to post three consecutive complete-game wins since Greg Smith accomplished the feat in 2005 against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. In 80 innings this season, he has recorded 12 walks and an SEC-leading 90 strikeouts.
LSU has the second-best team ERA in the SEC at 2.39, and the Tigers' staff is No. 3 in the league in strikeouts with 370.
Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan is expected to start junior right-hander Jonathan Crawford (3-5, 4.06 ERA) on Saturday, but he has not yet set his rotation for Thursday and Friday.
The Gators are No. 10 in the SEC with a 3.68 staff ERA, and Florida pitchers have recorded 314 strikeouts, which ranks eighth in the league.
Freshman shortstop Alex Bregman continues to lead the Tigers at the plate, batting .395 (77-for-195) this season with 11 doubles, seven triples, five homers, 43 RBI and 46 runs. Bregman leads the SEC in hits and triples, and he is No. 2 in the league in runs and total bases (117).
Senior first baseman Mason Katz is batting .379 with 10 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and an SEC-best 61 RBI, while junior third baseman Christian Ibarra is hitting .349 with 11 doubles, five homers and 30 RBI.
LSU is No. 2 in the SEC with a .307 team batting average, and the Tigers are second in the league with 34 home runs.
Florida is led at the plate by sophomore outfielder Justin Shafer, who is hitting .315 with a league-high 17 doubles, one triple, four homers and 21 RBI. Senior infielder Vickash Ramjit is batting .311 with six doubles, three homers and 23 RBI, while sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue is hitting .304 with 13 doubles, one triple, five homers and 30 RBI.
The Gators are No. 9 in the SEC with a .271 team batting average, and Florida is sixth in the league with 23 home runs.
LSU leads the overall series with Florida, 53-39-1, and the Tigers defeated UF in two of three games last season in Gainesville when the Gators were ranked No. 1 in the nation. Florida has won eight of the last 10 regular-season meetings between the clubs, including three-game sweeps of the Tigers in 2010 at Gainesville and in 2011 at Baton Rouge.