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June 11, 2012LSU had history on its side when it took the field against Stony Brook in the rubber game of the Baton Rouge Super-Regional on Sunday night.
On five previous occasions at home, the Tigers were in a similar situation in which a berth in the College World Series would go to the winner of this one last game.
All five times, LSU came away with a victory and advanced to Omaha. However, the Stony Brook Seawolves from the tiny America East Conference put an end to that Tigers streak Sunday.
Stony Brook took the lead for good with a three-run third inning and cruised to a 7-2 victory against LSU at The Box.
The next stop for the Seawolves (52-13) will be a first-round matchup with UCLA in Omaha on Friday. Meanwhile, the Tigers (47-18) will have to be satisfied with Southeastern Conference and regional championships. There will be no College World Series appearance for the third straight year.
"Obviously, this is a tough thing for us to deal with," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "We all anticipated that we would win the super-regional and go off to Omaha this week.
"Stony Brook came down here and played great baseball. They deserved to win the super-regional. Stony Brook outplayed us in every phase of the game. They came down here and whipped us. We have no excuses."
The Seawolves collected 15 hits in this decisive game. Travis Jankowski and William Carmona combined for seven hits and four runs scored. Jankowski had eight hits, while Carmona had seven hits in the series. Jankowski and Carmona had as many hits in the three games as the entire LSU team.
Stony Brook put the game away with three runs in the third inning and two more in the fourth inning. The Seawolves had a 6-1 lead and were never in trouble the rest of the night.
"We gave it our best tonight," senior shortstop Austin Nola said. "We left it all out on the field. This will be hard to swallow for a few days."
Although Stony Brook displayed great hitting Sunday, the performance of starting pitcher Frankie Vanderka carried the Seawolves to the victory. Vanderka, who gave up the game-winning hit by Mason Katz in game one of the series, allowed two runs and three hits in nine innings.
"Their pitcher was phenomenal," said Katz, who homered in the first inning to tie the score at 1-1. "(Vanderka) did what the guy (Tyler Johnson) did yesterday. When he would get ahead in the count, there would be no fast ball down the middle. He'd flip a curve for a strike. He'd flip a slider for a strike."
The only other LSU hits besides the home run by Katz came in the seventh on a double by Alex Edward and a single by Tyler Hanover. That was the only time consecutive batters got hits against Stony Brook pitching in the series. Edward, who went to third on Hanover's hit, scored on Nola's sacrifice fly.
The Tigers only had two other runners got past first base all night. In the third, Vanderka walked Hanover and JaCoby Jones. Katz struck out and Raph Rhymes popped out to first base to end the inning.
In the fourth, Grant Dozar walked and Edward reached on an error by Carmona at third base. Hanover hit a fly ball to left field for the third out. Vanderka, who did have two other complete games, retired 16 of the last 18 batters he faced.
"Their defense was phenomenal," Katz said. "It felt like they were playing with five outfielders. Jankowski in center field could cover both gaps. He could run down anything."
Nola and Ty Ross were hitless in the series. Rhymes and Hanover had just one hit in the three games. No LSU player had a hit in each of the three contests.
"We didn't have a real dynamic offense this year, but usually it was good enough," Mainieri said. "This weekend, our offense went cold. Part of it was that our bats went cold. Part of it was their pitching. Part of it was their defense. It's very frustrating when you can't score enough runs.
"The way Stony Brook swung the bat, I felt that it would take seven or eight runs to win this game. We get three hits and two runs. We couldn't get anything going. All of a sudden, the season is over. The suddenness is awful. Now, it's the coaches' job to figure out a way to get better."