PREGAME PRIMER: Previewing No. 2 LSU Baseball’s Game with Rice Tonight in Texas

LSU takes it No. 2 national ranking and 7-1 early-season record on the road starting tonight against Rice. PHOTO By Michael Bacigalupi

LSU baseball’s first game of the season away from Alex Box Stadium is tonight as the Tigers take on Rice from Reckling Park in Houston, Texas.

Tonight’s game is the first of four that LSU will play in away from home. The Tigers will play three games over three days from Minute Maid Park for the Astros Foundation Classic after their matchup with Rice.

“We’re excited about traveling to Houston for a number of reasons,” head coach Jay Johnson said. “With the alumni base LSU has there, I really appreciate the support we receive when we play in Houston. The game on Wednesday has our attention and our focus, and we’re looking forward to that. Houston is one of our most important recruiting areas, so we’re excited to play Rice on Wednesday and then three games in Minute Maid Park over the weekend.”

LSU is coming off a weekend where it dropped its first game of the season in a 5-2 loss to Stony Brook. The Tigers bounced back to win its next two games to advance to 7-1 on the season.

Rice has a 3-4 record and is coming off a 2-1 series win over UL Lafayette. The Owls started the season by getting swept by Notre Dame but have since gone 3-1.

LSU leads the all-time series against Rice 17-12. Tonight’s meeting will be the first game between the two teams since LSU beat the Owls 5-0 in the championship game of the Baton Rouge Regional in 2017. LSU hasn’t paid a visit to Reckling Park since 2002.

Rice is starting righthander Robert Fernandez on the mound and LSU will start lefty freshman Kade Anderson. Anderson started in LSU’s 4-3 win over Central Arkansas on opening weekend. He went 4.0 innings and gave up three hits, three walks and one earned run while recording six strikeouts in his only start.

As a team, LSU has posted a 4.43 ERA while holding opponents to a .211 batting average. The Tigers have recorded 99 strikeouts over 70.0 innings.

Fernandez’s one appearance this season came in the Owls’ win over Sam Houston. Fernandez came in for starting pitcher Ryland Urbanczyk in the fourth inning with the game tied at 0-0. He gave up two unearned runs and three hits before being taken out to start the sixth inning.

On the offensive side of the ball, Nathan Becker and Jack Riedel lead the way for Rice. Becker is batting .375 with four doubles and four RBI and Riedel leads the team with three home runs and nine RBI. As a team, the Owls have seven homers this season and are batting .215.

Jared Jones leads the LSU offense with 10 RBI and four homers this season while batting .286. Of the players with at least 10 at bats, Steven Milam leads the tigers in batting average. Milam is batting .409 with six RBI.

Paxton Kling has a .618 on base percentage while batting .400. Kling also has five RBI and one homerun this season. Overall, LSU is batting .331 this season with 12 home runs and 74 RBI.

LSU’s game with Rice will start at 7 p.m. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.


No. 2 LSU Tigers (7-1) at Rice Owls (3-4)


Wednesday, February 28 @ 7 p.m. CT


Reckling Park in Houston, Texas (6,193)


LSU – No. 2 Baseball America; No. 2 USA Today; No. 3 D1 Baseball

Rice – unranked


·        LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates

·        Live audio at; Live stats at


The game will be streamed live on ESPN +


LSU leads the all-time series versus Rice, 17-12, and Wednesday’s game marks the first meeting between the schools since June 4, 2017, when the Tigers posted a 5-0 win over the Owls in the championship game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field … Wednesday’s game marks LSU’s first trip to Reckling Park since June 7-8, 2002, when Rice swept the Tigers in two straight NCAA Super Regional games to advance to the College World Series … LSU and Rice have met on 14 occasions in the NCAA Tournament, and each team has won seven of those contests … two of the NCAA Tournament meetings came in the College World Series – a 5-4 LSU win in the opening round of the 1997 CWS, and a 6-5 LSU victory in an elimination game of the 2008 CWS.


LSU – Fr. LH Kade Anderson (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 4.0 IP, 3 BB, 6 SO)

Rice – Jr. RH Robert Fernandez (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.0 IP, 0 BB, 2 SO)


“We’re excited about traveling to Houston for a number of reasons. With the alumni base LSU has there, I really appreciate the support we receive when we play in Houston. The game on Wednesday has our attention and our focus, and we’re looking forward to that. Houston is one of our most important recruiting areas, so we’re excited to play Rice on Wednesday and then three games in Minute Maid Park over the weekend.”


LSU won three of its four games last week, and the Tigers this week are ranked No. 2 in the nation by Baseball America and USA Today, and No. 3 in the country by D1 Baseball.

Junior right-hander Luke Holman fired seven shutout innings Saturday in a win over Northern Illinois … Holman limited the Huskies to two hits with no walks and eight strikeouts … he needed only 77 pitches in the efficient seven-inning outing, recording 50 pitches for strikes … after hitting the lead-off batter with a pitch in the third inning, Holman retired 10 consecutive NIU hitters, and after allowing a one-out single in the sixth, he retired five straight batters to complete his outing … Holman is 2-0 this season with a 0.00 ERA in 12.1 innings … he has recorded one walk and 18 strikeouts, and he’s limiting opponents to a .125 batting average.

Sophomore outfielder Paxton Kling helped lead LSU to the 3-1 mark last week, batting .667 (6-for-9) with one homer, three RBI, five runs, six walks, three hit-by-pitches, two steals and a .789 on-base percentage … batting in the lead-off spot in the lineup, Kling reached base in all six of his plate appearances on Sunday versus Stony Brook with two singles, two walks and two hit-by-pitches … over the course of LSU’s four games, Kling reached base 15 times in 19 plate appearances, and he completed the week by reaching base nine consecutive times.

LSU’s win on Saturday over Northern Illinois was the 100th  victory for coach Jay Johnson as the Tigers’ head coach … now in his third season in Baton Rouge, Johnson is the fastest coach to earn 100 wins at LSU, accomplishing the feat in just 140 games … entering this Wednesday’s game at Rice, Johnson has a 101-40 (.716) record at LSU, including leading the Tigers the 2023 College World Series title.

LSU blasted five home runs in its win over Northern Illinois on Thursday, marking the first five-homer game for the Tigers since June 4, 2023, in the NCAA Regional versus Oregon State in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.

Second baseman/outfielder Josh Pearson launched two home runs in Thursday’s win over Northern Illinois, marking the third two-homer game of his career … he also hit two dingers versus Nicholls and at Mississippi State during the 2022 season.

Senior left-hander Nate Ackenhausen earned a relief win on Thursday over Northern Illinois, limiting the Huskies to one run on two hits in 3.2 innings with three walks and six strikeouts, just one strikeout shy of his LSU career high.

Junior third baseman Tommy White collected a team-best six RBI in the Tigers’ four games last week, and he unloaded his first homer of the season Thursday versus Northern Illinois … junior shortstop Michael Braswell III also collected six RBI last week, as he was 3-for-7 at the plate in three games with one triple, one homer and three runs.


Rice opened the 2024 season by dropping three straight games at home to Notre Dame, but the Owls have since won three of their last four contests, including capturing two of three games at UL Lafayette last weekend.

Rice is hitting .215 as a team through its first seven games with six doubles, one triple, seven homers and four steals in five attempts … the Owls are led at the plate by Nathan Becker, who is hitting .375 with four doubles and four RBI … Jack Riedel leads Rice in home runs (3) and RBI (9).

The Owls are coached by Jose Cruz Jr., who is in his third season at the helm of the program … Cruz Jr. was an outfielder from 1993-95 at Rice, where he earned first-team all-America honors … he played 12 seasons in the Major Leagues from 1997-2008 with the Mariners, Blue Jays, Giants, Rays, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Dodgers and Astros … his dad, Jose Cruz, was a two-time All-Star for the Astros and finished third in National League MVP voting in 1980.

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Will Nickel

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