Baseball: UVU draws LSU in NCAA Tournament debut

Photo by David Roura

Photo by David Roura

OREM, Utah—After claiming the WAC championship Saturday night, the UVU baseball team punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament where they will face the LSU Tigers in the Baton Rouge Regional at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. UVU is making their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history. The Wolverines and Tigers will be joined in the region by the Rice Owls and Southeastern Louisiana Lions.

“It’s just very surreal,” said UVU coach Eric Madsen. “I think when it hit, you don’t recognize, you don’t realize it. Just all the work and everything that goes into it. And it being our first one was just so outstanding for us as a program and for the players was just terrific for them. They deserve it.”

The Wolverines enter the tournament riding a seven-game winning streak, including four-straight in the WAC Tournament. Of the 64-team field, UVU boasts a 5-3 record against fellow tournament participants Utah, Arizona and Minnesota, including a three-game sweep of Pac-12 champion Utah. Jordan Schlehuber thinks UVU can draw on that experience in a matchup against LSU.

“It helps us a lot,” said Schlehuber. “We’ve played in big games this year … We’ve played big games, we’ve won big games and we’re excited to go down there.”

LSU comes into the tournament with a No.8 seed at 42-18 after falling to the Florida Gators in the SEC Tournament semifinal game. One of the Tigers’ 18 losses came at the hands of the WAC’s Sacramento State, who took 1-of-3 from LSU at Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers completed the season with a 19-11 conference record, which put them in third in the SEC West Division.

Despite the tough draw, the Wolverines are excited for the opportunity and look forward to the challenge.

“LSU is college baseball in most of our eyes,” said Kyle Valgardson. “Because they were the team to beat when most of these kids were in high school and middle school. And so seeing that come up, hearing all the stories about the crazy LSU fans and all that, it’s going to be exciting. It’s really, really exciting.”

Mark Krueger hit .369 and drove in 24 RBIs in WAC play. Photo by Linsey Craig
Mark Krueger hit .369 and drove in 24 RBIs in WAC play. Photo by Linsey Craig

Mark Krueger is one Wolverine who is excited to see LSU and Baton Rouge, because he says he’s never been to Louisiana.

“Never. Never been,” said Krueger. “So I’m very excited to see LSU, go experience this, this is going to be unbelievable.”

In addition to the players’ excitement for the stage, venue and opponent, Coach Madsen says he has confidence in his players entering such a big game for the Wolverines.

“The thing is, I really trust these guys and the way they go at it,” said Madsen. “They’ve been trained tough, they’re tough kids, we’ve done hard things throughout the year … I’m not nervous about them, I know these kids will give it their best effort and that’s what we want.”

UVU’s first-ever NCAA Tournament game will be Friday, June 3, at 1 p.m. MT at LSU’s Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. The game will be streamed live on ESPN3.

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