LSU scored four runs in the eighth inning to rally for an 8-5 victory against Sam Houston State and advanced to the championship round of the Baton Rouge Regional on Saturday night at The Box.
HOW THEY SCORED
LSU first inning - Sean McMullen beat out a ground ball to second base for a single. After Jared Foster forced McMullen at second on a bunt, Alex Bregman doubled. Foster was thrown out at the plate on Mason Katz' ground ball to third base. Raph Rhymes walked to load the bases. Christian Ibarra walked to force home Bregman. LSU 1, SAM HOUSTON STATE 0
Sam Houston State first inning - Jessie Plumlee reached on a throwing error by Ibarra at third base. Plumlee moved to second on a wild pitch by Aaron Nola and to third on Colt Atwood's ground out to Bregman at shortstop. Anthony Azar reached and Plumlee scored on an error by Bregman. Kevin Miller followed with a double. Azar scored on a sacrifice fly to leftfield by Ryan O'Hearn. Miller scored on an error by Ibarra on Luke Plucheck's grounder. Carter Burgess doubled home Plucheck. After Hayden Simerly walked, Ryan Farney singled home Burgess. SAM HOUSTON STATE 5, LSU 1
LSU second inning - Ty Ross singled and Andrew Stevenson walked. A single by McMullen loaded the bases. Ross scored when Foster forced McMullen on a ground ball to shortstop. Bregman singled home Stevenson. SAM HOUSTON STATE 5, LSU 3
LSU third inning - With one out, JaCoby Jones walked and Ross reached on an error by the shortstop Burgess. A bunt single by Stevenson loaded the bases. Jones scored when McMullen grounded out to second base. SAM HOUSTON STATE 5, LSU 4
LSU eighth inning - With one out, Bregman singled and Katz walked. Bregman scored when Burgess misplayed Rhymes' grounder. Ibarra was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Katz scored on a wild pitch by Michael Burchett. After an intentional walk to Jones, Ross singled home Rhymes. Following a strikeout by Stevenson, pinch-hitter Alex Edward walked to force in Ibarra. LSU 8 SAM HOUSTON STATE 5
LSU WASTED SCORING OPPORTUNITIES
Fifth inning - With two out, Ross reached on an error by the third baseman Miller and Stevenson walked. Pinch-hitter Tyler Moore struck out to end the inning.
Sixth inning - With two out, Katz and Rhymes singled. Ibarra forced Katz with a ground ball to third base.
After leaving Friday's game due to an outfield collision with Rhymes, Bregman returned to the lineup and collected three hits - two singles and a double. Bregman also drove in a run with a single in the second and scored runs in the first and eighth. Bregman started the four-run eighth inning rally with a one-out single. Bregman had his first multiple-hit game since the Southeastern Conference tournament opener against Alabama. Bregman had been 3-for-19 since that game against the Crimson Tide.
LSU STARTING PITCHER
Nola bounced back from a disastrous first inning to hold Sam Houston scoreless through the seventh. Nola gave up five first-inning runs, all unearned due to two errors by Ibarra and one by Bregman. Nola gave up two doubles and a single and walked a batter. A diving catch by Stevenson in centerfield with two out and two runners on base prevented the Bearkats from scoring more than five runs. Nola, who picked up his 11th victory of the season, had not allowed more than four runs in any of his previous starts this year. Nola, who threw 42 pitches in the first inning, threw fewer than 70 in the next six innings. During that stretch, he allowed three hits, walked two and struck out six. He pitched out of three jams. After a leadoff double by O'Hearn in the third, Nola struck out Plucheck, Burgess and Simerly. With the bases loaded and two out in the fifth, he got Farney to hit into a force play. With a runner on third and two out in the sixth, Nola got Miller to ground out to Ibarra.
Chris Cotton got the call after LSU took the lead in the eighth inning. Cotton, who threw two scoreless innings, tied the school record with his 16th save of the season. Matty Ott had 16 saves in 2009. Cotton walked a batter with one out in the eighth. He gave up a one-out double in the ninth when Bregman and Stevenson let a pop fly fall in. Cotton had retired 23 consecutive batters before walking Farney in the eighth.
Bregman and Rhymes were in the lineup at their normal positions. At first, Rhymes was listed as the designated hitter with Foster in leftfield and McMullen in rightfield. Then, it was changed with Rhymes in leftfield, Foster in rightfield and McMullen as the designated hitter. . .McMullen had to leave the game after hurting his right hamstring while running out a ground ball in the third inning, He was replaced by Moore. Coach Paul Mainieri said that McMullen has a strained hamstring and is day-to-day. . .Rhymes rebounded from the collision to collect two singles - his first multiple-hit game since the Ole Miss series. Rhymes entered Saturday's game in a 4-for-23 slide. . .Foster went 0-for-6 and had his hitting streak end at six games. . .Ibarra went 0-for-4 and had his hitting streak end at four games. . .Ross, who had two singles, was 1-for-12 entering the game. . .The Tigers were 4-for-16 with runners in scoring position. The only RBI hits came from Bregman in the second and Ross in the eighth. . .Sam Houston State starting pitcher Caleb Smith was walking nearly six batters per nine innings. He walked four in 2.2 innings Saturday. He yielded four runs and six hits. . .The Bearkats went to their closer Jason Simms in the third. He didn't allow a run in 3.2 innings. . .Alan Scott, who picked up the victory Friday against Louisiana-Lafayette, gave up the four eighth-inning runs. . .The five errors made by LSU were its most in a NCAA tournament game in 17 years. The Tigers also made five errors in a College World Series victory against Florida in 1996. . .Since the NCAA went to this format in 1999, the Tigers have won all seven regionals in which they won their first two games. . .LSU is 54-9, while Sam Houston State is 38-21. The Bearkats will play UL-Lafayette in an elimination game Sunday at 2 p.m. . .The actual crowd was 10,752 - the largest for any LSU home game. The paid crowd was 12,085 - the largest for any LSU postseason home game.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
Coach Paul Mainieri
"This was one of the craziest games we've had. That was one of the most gratifying and enjoyable wins since I've been here. Murphy's Law was present in the first inning. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. We had extremely uncharacteristic defensive plays. Aaron (Nola) was giving everything he had, but balls were finding holes. I told the team after the first inning to start this game over. It was like we spotted them a four-run lead. We had to chip away and get back into it. I never had any doubt we were going to win the game. It started with Aaron coming back after the first inning and getting six scoreless innings to keep us in the game."
(on pitching of Nola and Cotton) "I expected Aaron to carry the load for us, but the first inning was not good. He had to regroup, but I couldn't imagine him going for more than five innings. I never thought he would give us seven. He was going to go back in the eighth, but then we had the rally. Once we got the lead, it was time to give the ball to the best closer in college baseball. Chris closed it down and gave us the most important win of the regional."
(on LSU's offense) "It was a courageous move by their coach (David Pierce) to pitch their closer (Jason Simms) in the third inning. He did a great job. He threw across his body and gave our righthanded hitters a hard time. Our offense went stale in the middle innings because of their bullpen."
(on at-bats by Ty Ross and Alex Edward in the eighth inning) "Ty has hit the ball as well as anybody on our team in the past two months. He just doesn't have a lot to show for it. I don't worry about his batting average. He comes through time and time again in the clutch. That was a phenomenal at-bat by Alex Edward. He got down 0-2 and fought off some close pitches and worked a (bases-loaded) walk."
"That was the longest first inning that I've ever experienced. My biggest thing through the whole game was to give the team a chance to win. That's what I did. I threw up six zeros. I knew I was going to get the run support behind me. After the first inning, I remembered the Mississippi State game last year when I gave up five runs in the first and I think I threw up five or six zeros after that. The umpire (strike zone) was tight, but I overcame that."
"I was just fortunate to put some good swings on balls. I was seeing it well today. I was trying to use the right side of the field because I needed to get back to doing that. In the eighth inning, I was just trying to get something started and get some energy going. After I got on base, Mason (Katz), Raph (Rhymes) and Christian (Ibarra) all did great jobs. On the hit-and-run, it was like déjà vu (Alabama game in SEC tournament) when I saw (third base) coach (Will) Davis waving me around."
"It's an honor to be holding a record here at LSU. It is the most prestigious baseball school in the world. I was just able to go out there and get ahead. My defense backed me up and the hitters put me in a situation for a save. (Aaron) Nola did a good job bouncing back after the first inning."
LSU will play the winner of Sunday afternoon's game between UL-Lafayette and Sam Houston State on Sunday at 7 p.m. The Tigers will win the regional with a victory in that game. If LSU loses, a deciding game will be played Monday night. Mainieri is undecided on the starting pitcher for the Tigers.