Gausman pitches Tigers to 7-1 win over Beavers
Kevin Gausman battled through eight strong innings and four LSU players had at least one RBI as the top-seeded Tigers moved into the driver’s seat of the Baton Rouge Regional with a 7-1 win against second-seeded Oregon State in front of a record crowd at Alex Box Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory put the Tigers (45-16) in position to win the regional Sunday night by defeating the winner of Sunday afternoon’s elimination game between the Beavers (39-19) and fourth-seeded Louisiana-Monroe, which eliminated third-seeded Belmont 6-3 Saturday afternoon. Even if LSU loses Sunday night, it would still have a chance to advance to a super regional in a winner-take-all rematch Monday night.
“This is a pivotal game,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said. “We haven’t won anything and we have to come out tomorrow and play the way we’re capable of playing and keep doing the things that we’re doing well.
“But I’ve always felt that winning these first two games is so important because of the pressure it puts on the other teams and how it allows you to use your pitching.”
LSU, which will start Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.36 earned run average) on Sunday, has only used Nick Goody for one inning Saturday and Chris Cotton for one inning Friday out of the bullpen.
Gausman (11-1) needed a season-high 129 pitches to complete eight innings, but limited OSU to seven hits. He walked three and struck out a season-low three. Goody rebounded from four consecutive sub-par outings to pitch a perfect ninth, striking out two. He and the Tigers received a loud ovation from the crowd of the 10,367, the largest to ever see a baseball game at LSU.
“I didn’t have my normal command; it was something I had to fight the entire night,” Gausman said. “They were laying off pitches. Most teams will chase a pitch at 1-2 or 0-2, but they weren’t. They were waiting for a pitch to hit, and when it got to 2-2, I’d have to make a pretty good pitch.”
Austin Nola, who drove in two runs in a 4-1 victory against ULM on Friday, had an RBI single in a two-run second that gave LSU the lead for good. He added an RBI triple in a two-run eighth. Grant Dozar had an RBI single, Ty Ross and Tyler Hanover each had an RBI groundout and two Tiger runs scored on wild pitches.
“The whole lineup made it a point to have tough outs one through nine,” Dozar said. “Guys came through with some big hits and got that run in from third base with less than two outs.”
Gausman was less sharp than usual from the start. He allowed eight base runners and his only run in the first four innings, but finished strong by allowing just a single and two walks in his final four innings.
“I was going to take him out after seven innings, but he assured me that he felt great,” Mainieri said. “So I said I’d let him go for a couple of more batters in the eighth and he was awesome. His last couple of innings were his best.”
LSU took the lead for good in the second on Hanover’s groundout RBI and Nola’s RBI single for a 2-0 lead.
Gausman ran into two-out trouble again in the third as Michael Conforto, Danny Hayes and Ryan Dunn hit consecutive singles to close to 2-1.
The Tigers scratched out two runs in the bottom half as Ross’ grounder to second drove home Katz and Dozar’s soft fly to left dropped in for an RBI single and a 4-1 lead.
LSU added a run in the sixth with a lot of help from OSU. Hanover led off and reached on a throwing error by Dunn at third base. Arby Fields sacrificed and reached on pitcher Dan Childs’ fielding error, and Nola’s groundout advanced the runners. Reliever Dylan Davis struck out JaCoby Jones, who reached as the ball got away on strike three, but Hanover was thrown out on a fielder’s choice trying to score when the ball trickled away. Fields scored on another wild pitch.
In the bottom of the eighth, Fields was hit by a pitch and Nola tripled him home and scored on a wild pitch.
“We take a lot of pride in how we defend and how we pitch,” OSU coach Pat Casey said. “You win with pitching and defense, and that hurt us tonight.”
Goody started the ninth and looked like the reliever who was 9-for-9 in save opportunities before failing twice in three tries during the past two weeks. He struck out Ryan Gorton, got Barnes to pop to first and struck out Smith to end the game.
“We have all the confidence in the world in him, and it was a good opportunity to get him back out there,” Mainieri said of Goody. “I thought he threw the ball exceptionally well. He got back into a groove.”