Retiring LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri doesn't want the spotlight on him as his Tigers continue to advance in the NCAA tournament.
He may not get that wish during this weekend's super regional at Tennessee.
Following LSU's early ouster from the Southeastern Conference tournament late last month, Mainieri announced that he would be stepping down at the end of this season. The Tigers received an at-large bid to the 64-team NCAA field and are now among the final 16 teams following a 9-8 topping of Oregon in the Eugene Regional that ended early Tuesday morning.
"It's not about me at all," Mainieri said Tuesday morning on a Zoom call. "It's about these young men. They're the reason I coach. A lot has been made about my career coming to an end, but I've had 39 wonderful years. These kids only get three or four in college, so I would really prefer the focus just to be on them.
"This is a good experience for them."
LSU (38-23) and Tennessee (48-16) will open the best 2-of-3 series Saturday night at 7, with ESPN2 televising the matchup.
The 63-year-old Mainieri is one of five baseball coaches in NCAA history to amass 1,500 career victories and win at least one national championship. His national title occurred with LSU in 2009, and he guided the Tigers to a runner-up finish in 2017.
LSU is in its ninth super regional during Mainieri's 15-year run in Baton Rouge, but it will be tough for him to avoid being the focus after comments he made following Tennessee's sweeping of the Tigers inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium in late March.
During an interview with ESPN 104.5 FM in Baton Rouge, Mainieri said, "Even though there wasn't a huge, huge crowd at Tennessee, it was an extremely hostile environment. They were nasty fans — nasty, nasty." Mainieri then took aim at Tony Vitello's Volunteers, adding, "The other team was not handling things with a lot of class, quite frankly."
Tennessee's wins over LSU in late March transpired by the scores of 3-1, 9-8 and 3-2. Vols starting pitcher Chad Dallas racked up 11 strikeouts in the series opener, and Tennessee won the final two games in walkoffs, with Drew Gilbert's home run deciding the middle contest in 11 innings.
The series sweep was the first by the Vols over the Tigers since 2008, but there have been countless emotion-packed moments for each program since, with more expected this weekend. Sunday's game will be either at noon or 3 (ESPN2 or ESPNU), with Monday's if necessary contest either at 4 or 7 (ESPN2 or ESPNU).
"We're going to go to Tennessee and give it everything we've got," Mainieri said. "Hopefully we can come out victorious."
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