Monday, June 2, 2008

Game 6: LSU Defeats Southern Miss 11-4

BATON ROUGE -- LSU designated hitter Blake Dean broke open a close game with a bases-loaded triple in the sixth inning as the top-seeded Tigers went on to capture the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, 11-4, over Southern Miss before a crowd of 7,161 fans on Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (46-16-1) extended its winning streak to 23 games and shattered the Southeastern Conference record for single-season consecutive wins. South Carolina held the previous mark after winning the first 22 games of the 2000 season. Southern Miss ended its season with a 42-22 record.
The Tigers will take on UC Irvine in NCAA Super Regional play next weekend at Alex Box Stadium. The best-of-three series begins either Friday or Saturday for the right to advance to the College World Series. The Ant Eaters (41-16) won the NCAA Lincoln Regional on Sunday with an 8-0 blanking of Oral Roberts.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri dedicated Sunday’s regional championship to LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman, who was admitted to a Baton Rouge hospital Saturday after experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack. Bertman is in good condition and is expected to be released from the hospital either Monday or Tuesday.
“We won that one for the ‘Skipper’ (Skip Bertman),” Mainieri said. “Obviously, my thoughts all day have been with Skip as he recovers from his heart attack yesterday. I hope this gave him a little bit of joy and maybe helps his recovery.
“I’m just so proud of my kids. They have responded to every challenge that has come their way. Somebody told me we broke the SEC record for consecutive games won. Obviously, this game had significance in a lot of ways but mostly because we won the regional championship now, and we get to advance to the next round. “
LSU claimed its 17th NCAA regional title on Sunday and first since 2004. The Tigers improved to 29-6 on championship day in NCAA postseason play, including a 20-2 mark in NCAA regional final rounds.
Dean extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his clutch triple and was named regional most valuable player for his efforts that saw him bat .455 (5-for-11) with three homers and nine RBI on the weekend. I’m going to go to bed tonight thinking of Blake Dean’s swing on that 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded,” Mainieri said. “That was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.”
Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored three runs, and freshman centerfielder Leon Landry added a two-run homer.
LSU sophomore right-hander Paul Bertuccini (2-0) entered in a jam in the fifth but struck out all five batters he faced during his 1.1 innings of work to register the win in relief. Bertuccini’s brilliant outing earned the sophomore all-tournament honors.
Junior left-hander Blake Martin started the contest, allowing two runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings with no walks and four strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Southern Miss starter Brian Leach (2-4) was touched for six runs on six hits in five innings. Leach had the Tigers off balance early, but he exited in the sixth after LSU eventually plated six runs.
LSU built a 3-0 lead after two innings of play. After Leach retired the first two batters in the first, Dean worked a two-out walk. Catcher Micah Gibbs then delivered with his first hit of the regional when he drove a double into the left field corner to score Dean.
In the second, LeMahieu extended his hitting streak to nine games with a one-out single to centerfield. LeMahieu swiped second base and Landry belted his fifth homer of the season – a two-run shot – over the left field wall.
Leach was able to quiet the LSU bats over the next three frames without issuing a run. That opportunity allowed the Golden Eagles to climb back into the contest with a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
Martin gave up an RBI sacrifice fly to third baseman Chris Matesich and was chased from the game an inning later when first baseman Trey Sutton picked up a two-out RBI single that scored right fielder Corey Stevens.
With the Tigers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Bertuccini inherited a two-out jam but fanned left fielder Drew Carson to preserve the score. Bertuccini struck out the side in the sixth and fanned all four batters he faced before yielding to LSU ace right-hander Jared Bradford.
Bradford was given a seven-run cushion to work with when the Tigers struck for six runs in the bottom of the sixth. The first two batters of the inning reached allowing first baseman Matt Clark to drop an RBI double down the left field line.
USM reliever Collin Cargill was nearly out of the inning after Landry lined out to first for the second out, but third baseman Michael Hollander ripped a two-run single into centerfield to make it a 6-2 contest. Left fielder Jared Mitchell was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the hot-hitting Dean.
With 7,000-plus fans on their feet, Dean provided the clutch hit of the tournament when he deposited a triple into the right-field gap that cleared the bases and put the game out of reach, 9-2, in favor of LSU. Hollander drove in a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh with another single to centerfield.
Bradford allowed a run in the seventh and another in the ninth but the deficit proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles.

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