Homers keep Tigers going as weather postpones Game 1
e_SDLqYou’ve got to focus on the first game. I don’t see what other choice you have. When that game is over, you’ve just got to address it at that point. ... It is a weird dynamic.” PAUL mainieri, LSU coach
One of the most epic games in LSU’s storied baseball history became even more dramatic when heavy rains at Alex Box Stadium on Friday afternoon turned it into a multi-day affair.
The Tigers hit game-tying homers in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings to keep pace with Stony Brook in Game 1 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional. Shortly after Mason Katz tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the 11th and pushed the affair to the four-hour mark, the skies opened up, and 2½ hours later the game was suspended.
It will resume at 10:05 a.m. Saturday with the Seawolves coming to bat in the top of the 12th. The second game of the best-of-three super regional will begin 50 minutes after the conclusion of the opener. All of that is weather permitting.
“It is a heck of a tie ball game we have right now,” Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said. “It’s a credit to both teams and how badly they want this, how mentally tough both teams are and how gutsy they are.”
Top-seeded LSU (46-16) and fourth-seeded Stony Brook (50-12) both have a chance to win the regional with two victories Saturday. A split would set up a winner-take-all finale Sunday.
“I’ve coached more than 1,700 games, and I can’t remember them all,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, “but I think this is a first for me.”
Stony Brook took a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning, but JaCoby Jones led off by drilling a 2-2 pitch from James Campbell into the bleachers in left to tie the score.
“I asked coach if he wanted me to take the first pitch or swing away,” Jones said, “and he said to hit it out. I got down in the count, and he threw me a fastball in. It hit my barrel and went out.”
That sent the game to extra innings where the drama and storm clouds continue to build.
The Seawolves quickly regained the lead when Steven Goldstein hit a one-out home run off Chris Cotton in the 10th. In the bottom half, LSU was down to its last out when Tyler Moore worked the count full before hitting a high foul pop into the left-field bullpen. Goldstein said he lost sight of the ball as he hit the bullpen mound, and the ball dropped behind him. Moore fouled off two more pitches before hitting a line drive into the right-field bleachers to tie the score again.
“I was hoping the foul ball would go into the stands,” Moore said. “It didn’t, but fortunately he overran it, and I got another chance. I just tried to hit the ball hard somewhere. That second chance helped lot.”
The Tigers brought in closer Nick Goody to start the 11th, and Stony Brook grabbed the lead again. Travis Jankowski led off with a single and Pat Cantwell sacrificed him to second. William Carmona singled Jankowski to third and Maxx Tissenbaum walked to load the bases.
Kevin Krause hit a fly ball to shallow right-center and Jankowski, who has 36 stolen bases, tagged as Katz caught the ball and threw home. Krause beat Ty Ross’ tag by an instant, putting the Seawolves back on top 4-3.
“That kid can fly,” Katz said. “That’s one of the many reasons why he was such a high draft pick (No. 44). I knew he was going to go. I got behind it and made a pretty good throw, but he got a great jump, timed it perfectly and was able to beat the throw.”
Right-hander Jasvir Rikkar came on to start the 11th. He fell behind 2-0 on Katz, who was 1-for-14 in NCAA play before hitting Rikkar’s third pitch high and far beyond the wall in left his for his team-leading 12th homer to tie the score again.
Raph Rhymes followed with a drive down the left-field foul line that looked like it might be a game-winning homer, but it hooked just foul. The Tigers put two on, and Tyler Hanover had a chance to win it, but Jankowski chased down his liner in right-center for the third out.
The Tigers had barely taken the field to warm up for the start of the 12th before heavy rains arrived, the game was stopped and the tarp was placed over the infield.
A restart time was chosen twice, but lightning and more severe weather extended the delay until some 6½ hours after the game started before it was suspended.
“This is Stony Brook baseball,” said outfielder Sal Intagliata, who staked the Seawolves to a 2-0 lead when he hit his second homer of the season off LSU starter Aaron Nola in the second. “We are used to anything you throw at us. I don’t think anyone is too worried about it. I think we are going to get up early, have a good breakfast and go get them.”
Stony Brook starter Brandon McNitt maintained the 2-0 lead until the Tigers got an unearned run in the seventh. Rhymes reached for the second time on a two-base throwing error by shortstop Cole Peragine, moved to second on McNitt’s wild pitch and scored on Ty Ross’ grounder to make it 2-1.
Then the Tigers and Seawolves went back and forth until Mother Nature had the final say Friday, putting the teams in what Mainieri called a unique situation.
“You’ve got to focus on the first game. I don’t see what other choice you have,” Mainieri said.
“When that game is over, you’ve just got to address it at that point and say either, ‘hey, boys, we’ve got to win to stay alive’ or ‘hey, boys, this is it to go to Omaha (Neb.).’ It is a weird dynamic.”