Gausman, Katz come through when game resumes
Virtually nothing went according to plan Friday as Game 1 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional went into extra innings, was delayed 2½ hours by rain at Alex Box Stadium, then postponed after 11 innings until Saturday morning.
When play resumed, virtually everything went the way Tigers coach Paul Mainieri would have drawn it up as LSU needed just 10 minutes to win a game that had started 23 hours earlier.
Mainieri sent scheduled Game 2 starter Kevin Gausman to the mound to start the 12th inning, and Gausman responded with a perfect inning that required just 12 pitches.
Those were all the pitches Gausman would need to get a victory as Mason Katz singled home Tyler Moore in the bottom half to give LSU a 5-4 victory.
“It was textbook baseball in the bottom half of the 12th inning,” Mainieri said. “We get a base hit, a sacrifice bunt and a clutch RBI hit and go away happy — at least in that game.”
The teams came back about 45 minutes later, and the Seawolves won that one 3-1 to push the best-of-three super regional to a decisive Game 3 on Sunday.
Gausman arrived at the ballpark around 8 a.m., and a couple of teammates asked him if he was going to pitch when Game 1 resumed a couple of hours later, and Gausman playfully dismissed the notion as “ridiculous.”
But a few minutes later, Mainieri told Gausman that he would be making the first relief appearance of his two-year career.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Gausman said, “but I’m competitive, so I wanted the ball.”
Mainieri said the weather forecast factored into his decision to use Gausman in the 12th. He said he spoke to a handful of meteorologists Saturday morning, and they all told him heavy rain was going to hit early in the afternoon.
His biggest fear was losing Game 1 without using Gausman, then having Gausman’s Game 2 start shortened by a lengthy rain delay and not having him the rest of the way.
“I have never slept on a decision as much as this one,” Mainieri said. “It was really a tough call. I just felt like our chances of winning the game today was going to take some boldness. When you get to postseason, you have to win a game when you have a chance, and that’s what we did. Gausman gave us the best chance to win.”
Gausman took over for closer Nick Goody and got Steven Goldstein, who had homered Friday, to fly out leading off the 12th. Kevin Courtney lined out to center, and Gausman struck out Sal Intagliata, who also had homered Friday.
The scoreless inning pumped up the crowd as LSU came to bat without facing a deficit for the first time since the first inning Friday morning.
Stony Brook coach Matt Senk sent in reliever Frankie Vanderka (2-3) to take over for Jasvir Rakkar and start the bottom half.
Tyler Moore, who hit the middle of three homers that extended the game for LSU in consecutive innings Friday, dropped a soft fly into right-center for a single leading off. Austin Nola sacrificed Moore to second and JaCoby Jones, who had hit the first of the Tigers’ game-tying homers Friday, was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play.
That brought up Katz, who had hit the third of the tying homers.
“When Tyler Moore got on base, coach looked at me and JaCoby and asked if one of us was going to drive that run in,” Katz said. “I said, ‘If he doesn’t, I will.’
“Thinking about it now, getting in a double-play situation was probably smart, but I wasn’t going to hit into a double play. I was going to lift something, at least to the gap.”
Katz lined Vanderka’s first pitch into left-center field and Moore raced home with the winning run.
“I wanted to get something early in the count to hit,” Katz said. “He threw me a curveball and left it up in the zone, and that was it.”
At least for Game 1.