LSU, Stony Brook headed for deciding game
“I told our kids after the game that this is what you have worked all year for: an opportunity to go to Omaha (Neb., for the College World Series), and they will remember what happens (Sunday) for the rest of their lives.” PAUL MAINIERI, LSU coach
LSU coach Paul Mainieri was holding an ace and decided to play it twice during the second day of the Baton Rouge Super Regional against Stony Brook on Saturday in Alex Box Stadium.
Mainieri sent ace right-hander Kevin Gausman to the mound for the resumption of Game 1, which was suspended after 11 innings Friday because of rain, and brought him back as scheduled to start Game 2. The first part worked out just fine as Gausman threw a perfect 12th and Mason Katz singled home the winning run in the bottom half as the Tigers prevailed 5-4.
But Seawolves right-hander Tyler Johnson (12-1) trumped Gausman (12-2) in the second game, holding LSU to one unearned run on three hits in a complete game as Stony Brook won 3-1 in Game 2.
The Tigers’ first NCAA tournament loss in the new Alex Box Stadium set up a noon showdown Sunday in the best-of-three super regional.
Gausman had gotten a victory in each of his previous five appearances, including the cameo Saturday morning, before giving up six hits and three runs in seven innings. He walked one and struck out six.
“It was two warriors going at it, toe-to-toe, pitch-to-pitch and you can tip your hat to their kid,” Mainieri said. “He was phenomenal. He deserves all of the accolades that he receives, but so does our guy. It is a shame that our guy had to lose that game because he pitched his heart out.”
After Gausman only threw 12 pitches in Game 1, Mainieri said he “had no qualms about starting him for the second game,” calling Gausman’s 110-pitch day “really heroic.”
Gausman retired the first seven batters of Game 2, striking out four, before running into one-out trouble in the third as rain arrived and alternated between light and heavy.
Kevin Courtney doubled to center and moved to third on Gausman’s wild pitch. Sal Intagliata singled home Courtney for the game’s first run and Travis Jankowski signed Intagliata to second. One out later, William Carmona singled home Intagliata.
Gausman said the wet conditions weren’t an excuse, but he did use rosin, which he doesn’t normally do, to try and improve his grip.
“I was having trouble having that feel for my pitches,” he said. “I just couldn’t find it, and I felt like I didn’t have that pin-point accuracy. Usually, I can throw my fastball on both sides, and that inning I felt like all I could do was throw it down the middle, hoping it went where I was trying to throw it.”
Gausman gave up a solo homer to Courtney leading off the fifth to make it 5-0, then he retired eight in a row before Courtney singled with two out in the seventh.
“I think that’s when I started to find my groove,” Gausman said of the middle innings. “(Earlier), I was kind of inconsistent hitting my spots, and I got into some hitter’s counts and had to throw fastballs. I was living down for the most part in the game, and I think the three pitches I left up were the ones that hurt me.”
Gausman said he took a moment during the seventh, his final inning, to look at the crowd, knowing it was almost certainly his last appearance at The Box after being selected by Baltimore with the fourth pick in the Major League Baseball draft five days earlier.
“This has been my home for the last two years,” Gausman said.
“It was kind of emotional.”
Johnson, meanwhile, allowed just two walks and one hit batsman in the first four innings. He gave up his first hit when Jordy Snikeris opened the fourth with a single.
With a full count on Tyler Moore, Mainieri started Snikeris trying to avoid a double play. Moore took ball four, but Snikeris couldn’t hear the home-plate umpire’s call and slid into second. As he slid in the soggy dirt, his hand slid off the bag and shortstop Cole Peragine tagged him out.
Alex Edward was hit by a pitch, but Tyler Hanover and Austin Nola grounded out.
The Tigers finally scored a run in the sixth. JaCoby Jones led off by getting an infield hit on a dribbler up the third-base line and continued to second when Johnson threw the ball past first. One out later Raph Rhymes singled him home.
Johnson walked Ty Ross before getting Snikeris to hit into a double play. Johns had a perfect eighth and sidestepped a two-out throwing error by Carmona at third to get his third NCAA tournament victory in eight days.
“Tyler just keeps outdoing himself every time he gets the ball,” Seawolves coach Matt Senk said.
LSU’s offense, which produced three tying homers Friday, is batting .200 in the NCAA tournament and have not had back-to-back hits in their last 30 innings.
“We need to be better in every aspect of our offense,” Katz said. “The last few days have not been good. (Friday) we had those clutch innings late but you’re not going to pop one out three innings in a row often to save yourself. Our approach needs to be better — get guys on, move them over and then get them in.
“We can’t start now with big swings. We’ve got to keep our simple approach.”
Things are certainly simple for Sunday’s game, as the winner goes to the College World Series and the loser goes home. The Tigers (47-17) are seeking their 16th CWS appearance and seventh title. The Seawolves (51-13) are playing in their first super regional.
“We are a very tough-minded group, a gutsy group,” Senk said. “They love playing the game, they love playing together, and they just keep on playing to keep on playing.”
Which is exactly what Sunday is all about.
“I told our kids after the game that this is what you have worked all year for,” Mainieri said, “an opportunity to go to Omaha, and they will remember what happens tomorrow for the rest of their lives.”