Sunday, June 8, 2008

One for the Ages': Super Regional Knotted After Thriller

Down by three runs with three outs remaining in the history of Alex Box Stadium, No. 2 LSU completed a comeback for the ages by plating five runs in the top of the ninth inning to square the 2008 NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional at a game apiece with a 9-7 win over UC Irvine on Sunday.
“That was one for all the ages,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “I will always remember this no matter what happens in the future. I know it seems like I say the same things over and over again but these kids don’t know how to quit. I can honestly tell you that everyone in that dugout believed we could do it and there was no quit in anybody. One guy after another just kept doing it and it was an amazing thing.”
The Tigers (47-17-1), who saw their 23-game winning streak come to an end Saturday, forced a winner-take-all game to be played at 6 p.m. Monday. LSU will serve as the home team after winning a coin flip prior to Sunday’s contest. The winner of the third game will advance to the College World Series which gets underway next Saturday and Sunday.
LSU junior left-hander Blake Martin (5-3, 4.88) will take to the mound in hopes of sealing the Tigers’ 14th appearance in Omaha and the program’s first since 2004. UC Irvine will start sophomore right-hander Bryce Stowell (8-2, 2.77).
LSU recorded its 29th come-from-behind win of the year, and the Tigers plated seven runs in the final two frames after being stymied by Anteater starter Daniel Bibona for over seven innings.
Bibona took a comfortable 7-2 lead into the top of the eighth when left fielder Jared Mitchell sparked the rally with a leadoff solo home run. First baseman Matt Clark closed the deficit to 7-4 with an RBI single.
Right-hander Louis Coleman (7-0), in relief of starter Jared Bradford, worked a scoreless seventh and eighth to hold the deficit at three runs heading into the top of the ninth inning.
Centerfielder Leon Landry worked a leadoff walk on ace closer Eric Pettis, and second baseman Ryan Schimpf doubled down the right field line. Third baseman Michael Hollander then loaded the bases with a single to deep short. Mitchell walked to drive in Landry and cut the lead to 7-5.
With the bases loaded, pinch hitter Nicholas Pontiff drove in Schmipf with a fielder's choice to third base. Trailing 7-6, designated hitter Blake Dean hit an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 7-7 as Mitchell dove in ahead of the throw.
Catcher Sean Ochinko, who entered for Micah Gibbs in the eighth inning, hit a chopper over the third baseman's head to score Pontiff for the game-winning run and give the nearly 7,000 fans in attendance another incredible moment in Alex Box Stadium history.
The Tigers weren't done. After Clark was walked intentionally, shortstop DJ LeMahieu hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Dean for the final margin.
“We’ve been talking about this the whole season that this is a 25-man roster,” Mainieri said. “Landry made a nice running catch in right field. Ochinko comes in with a big hit. These kids might be the superstars. They know that all those players are vital to this club.”
Coleman benefited from a diving catch up against the wall by Mitchell to start the ninth. The right-hander pitched around a one-out double to record the final two outs and maintain his undefeated record with three scoreless innings of relief.
“Louis Coleman, there are not enough words to describe him,” Mainieri said. “What he has done for our team over the course of this season is absolutely remarkable and that’s why I started (Jared) Bradford because I knew I would have Louis at the end.”
Pettis (4-3), who entered the game with a 1.65 ERA, suffered the heart-breaking loss after allowing five runs on five hits in an inning of work.
UC Irvine touched Bradford for seven runs on 10 hits in a six-inning start, and the Anteaters seemed to find every hole on hits in the middle frames.
UC Irvine turned a 2-1 deficit into a five-run lead with six runs in the fourth inning. Designated hitter Brock Bardeen homered, and catcher Aaron Lowenstein provided a two-run single. Ollie Linton and Ben Orloff each provided RBI singles.
LSU scored its first two runs on an RBI single from LeMahieu in the second and a run-scoring double by Clark in the third.

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