LSU is making its 16th appearance in the College World Series and its first since the Tigers won the 2009 national championship. The Tigers are ranked No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball, by USA Today, by Perfect Game and by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
The 2013 Tigers have tied the LSU and SEC record for most wins in season with 57. LSU also established school marks for most regular-season victories (48) and for most regular-season SEC wins (23).
LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who has directed LSU to the CWS three times during his seven-season tenure, said the Tigers
LSU has the highest all-time NCAA Tournament winning percentage (132-49, .729), and the Tigers are appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the 26th time. LSU has an 83-19 mark in regional games, a 14-10 record in super regional games and a 35-20 mark in the College World Series.
The Tigers have won 20 regional titles, six super regional titles and six College World Series championships (1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2009).
Sophomore right-hander Aaron Nola (12-0), a 2013 first-team all-American and the SEC Pitcher of the Year, will start Sunday's game on the mound for LSU. UCLA coach John Savage, who has guided the Bruins to the CWS three times in four seasons, will counter with junior right-hander Adam Plutko (8-3), a three-time All-Pac 12 selection.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said the Tigers have enjoyed a tremendous season and are eager to start play in the CWS. LSU enters the CWS No. 3 in the nation in team ERA with a 2.41 mark, and the Tigers are No. 5 in the nation in fielding percentage (.980).
"We're just really proud of the season we've had thus far; our kids have played remarkable all year," Mainieri said. "I feel like we have a pretty balanced team, and consequently each day has been a different type of game. Sometimes it's been high scoring, sometimes low scoring. But our pitching and defense have been pretty consistent, so generally speaking we've been in most of the ball games and found a way to win most of them, fortunately.
"The great thing about our team this year is it's just one of those teams that the chemistry is so outstanding. I don't know if the chemistry comes because of our winning or the winning is because of our chemistry, but it's been a great group of kids to work with. I'm so thrilled for our seniors that they had an opportunity to get here before their careers ended."
Mainieri said Savage has established a superb program at UCLA with an emphasis on pitching and defense.
"I know John from his days at Southern Cal as a pitching coach, then he started the program back up at UC Irvine and what he's done at UCLA has been absolutely remarkable," Mainieri said. "Their pitching has been the hallmark of the program at UCLA."
The Bruins have a 2.69 team ERA while allowing opponents to hit just .226 against them.
LSU is led at the plate by shortstop Alex Bregman, the National Freshman Player of the Year. Bregman is hitting .380 with 18 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 52 RBI. He has 104 base hits, which ranks No. 2 in the nation.
LSU senior first baseman Mason Katz, a first-team all-American, is batting .366 with 14 doubles, two triples, 15 homers and 68 RBI, while senior leftfielder Raph Rhymes is hitting .343 with 15 doubles, one triple, four homers and 46 RBI.
The Tigers are batting .308 as a team with 46 homers and 54 stolen bases in 80 attempts.
The Bruins enter Sunday's game with a .251 team batting average, and UCLA has recorded 19 homers with 66 stolen bases in 108 attempts.
The Bruins are led at the plate by sophomore infielder Kevin Kramer, who is hitting .279 with 11 doubles, two triples, three homers and 40 RBI. Sophomore outfielder Eric Filia is batting .278 with 13 doubles, one triple, one homer and 25 RBI, and junior infielder Pat Valaika is batting .257 with 13 doubles, three triples and team highs of five homers and 44 RBI.
LSU leads UCLA, 3-1, in an all-time series that began in 1988, when the Tigers defeated the Bruins, 7-1, in the Louisiana Superdome. LSU swept two games from UCLA in the 2000 NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional by scores of 8-2 and 14-8. The teams' most recent meeting came in the 2010 NCAA Los Angeles Regional, where the Bruins posted a 6-2 win over the Tigers in the second round.