Sunday, June 1, 2008

LSU Over USM 13-4

Top-seeded LSU launched five home runs, including two from junior first baseman Matt Clark, as the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional championship round with their 22nd straight win, 13-4, over second-seeded Southern Miss on Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
A season-high actual attendance of 7,498 fans watched LSU improve to 45-16-1 on the season and tie the Southeastern Conference single-season record for consecutive victories. South Carolina won 22 straight games to open the 2000 season. “I thought tonight was a great ballgame by our team,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “This one felt a lot like the Friday night game against South Carolina way back when. I thought we played about the same caliber of game as we did that Friday night against South Carolina. Back then I said I thought that was our best game of the year, and I thought this one rivaled it.”
The Tigers will await the winner of an elimination game between Southern Miss and UNO. The Golden Eagles and Privateers play at 1 p.m., and the winner will take on LSU at 6 p.m. Sunday. Should the Tigers be defeated, a second game will be played at 1 p.m. Monday to decide who advances to super regional play. “We still need one more win this weekend to win this tournament and advance,” Mainieri said. “We will enjoy it until midnight and then when the clock strikes midnight and a new day begins our focus will shift to tomorrow and we will get ready to play.”
Junior left-hander Blake Martin (5-3, 4.94) will take to the mound on Sunday in hopes of securing the 17th regional title in LSU program history.
Seven of LSU’s 13 runs Saturday came via a homer as the Tigers connected for their most blasts in a contest since hitting six homers against Duquesne on March 2. Clark finished with four RBI and moved into a tie with Gary Hymel (1991) for seventh place in LSU single-season homers with 25. His total represents the most homers by an LSU player since Brad Cresse had 30 in 2000.
Sophomore designated hitter Blake Dean extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI. LSU improved to 10-1 when both Dean and Clark homer in the same contest. Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored three runs, and freshman centerfielder Leon Landry added three hits. LSU junior left-hander Ryan Verdugo (9-2) tossed five innings to record the win as he allowed four runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four.
Southern Miss right-hander Todd McInnis (6-3) took the loss after surrendering five runs on five hits in four innings of work. McInnis walked two and struck out four before being lifted in the fifth inning.
LSU second baseman Ryan Schimpf brought in the game’s first run in the third on his RBI double-play groundout. LaMahieu, who opened the frame with a leadoff walk, scored to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Dean and Clark helped extend the lead to 5-0 as part of a four-run fourth inning. Dean homered for the fourth straight game and the sixth time in the past six contests when he connected with a 1-0 McInnis offering for a blast over the right field wall.
Three batters later and after a Helenihi walk, Clark unloaded for a two-out, two-run blast off “The Intimidator” billboard in right field. Landry closed the two-out rally with an RBI double down the right field line that plated LaMahieu, who reached on a sharp single to centerfield.
LSU took a 5-1 margin into the top of the fifth when Dean continued his postseason tear. This time the junior drove a timely, two-out double over the centerfielder’s head to the wall, which allowed Schimpf to come in and make it a 6-1 Tiger advantage.
Southern Miss finally got to Verdugo in the bottom of the frame with three runs to cut the deficit to 6-4. Third baseman Chris Matesich doubled to open the inning. Verdugo then walked catcher Keith Winstead, and right fielder Michael Ewing drove in Matesich with an RBI double. Verdugo was nearly out of the inning, but second baseman James Ewing ripped a two-run single to centerfield.
Clark continued his power surge and recorded his fifth multi-homer game when he sent a towering, two-run shot deep over the right field wall in the top of the sixth. The homer plated Helenihi and increased the LSU lead to 8-4. The Tigers added five runs over the final two innings to put the game out of reach. Senior third baseman Michael Hollander belted a two-run, opposite field home run as part of a four-run eighth. Schimpf added a two-run double, and pinch hitter Sean Ochinko closed the scoring barrage with a solo shot in the top of the ninth.
Junior right-hander Louis Coleman entered in the sixth for LSU and worked three effective innings as he limited the Golden Eagles to two hits. Coleman and freshman right-hander Anthony Ranaudo held Southern Miss scoreless over the final four frames to preserve the win.

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