Stony Brook drops LSU in super regional finale
For LSU’s proud baseball program and its loyal fans, this will be a difficult loss to get over.
In what will go down as a historic upset, Stony Brook qualified for its first College World Series with a 7-2 victory Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium in Game 3 of the best-of-three NCAA Baton Rouge super regional.
In the process, the upstart Seawolves became the first team in nine tries to beat the Tigers in a do-or-die regional or super regional final game at LSU.
Stony Brook improved to 52-13 with the win, while LSU’s season ended at 47-18. The Tigers won the SEC regular season championship but came up one frustrating win short of their annual goal: a College World Series appearance.
The Seawolves will play No. 2 national seed UCLA on Friday in Omaha, Neb., at a time to be determined. The Bruins won their super regional over Texas Christian University in two games, beating the Horned Frogs 6-2 on Friday and 4-1 on Saturday in Los Angeles.
The Seawolves are only the second No. 4 seed to reach the College World Series after Fresno State, which won the CWS in 2008.
Stony Brook was the No. 4 seed in the Coral Gables regional at Miami last week, but stormed through the opposition there averaging 10 runs per game. The Seawolves had seven players selected in last week’s major league draft to LSU’s five, but Stony Brook might not have even been invited to the NCAA tournament had it not earned an automatic bid by winning its America East Conference tournament.
In a series plagued by rain, Sunday’s game was moved back seven hours because of the expectation of more severe weather at or near the game’s projected noon start time. Despite the change, an Alex Box Stadium record 10,620 fans showed up to watch.
Game 1 started Friday but ended Saturday morning with a 5-4 LSU win that lasted 12 innings.
That turned out to be the only time the Tigers led in the entire series.
Stony Brook came back from that defeat behind a complete-game three-hit pitching performance by Tyler Johnson to win Game 2, 3-1, and force a decisive game on Sunday.
Often this season, the Tigers have played their best games at night, but that clearly wasn’t the case for LSU this time after a hopeful first inning.
Stony Brook batted first to start the game and took a quick 1-0 lead on a single by Willie Carmona to drive in lead-off hitter Travis Jankowski.
The Tigers tied it with a solo home run to left in the bottom half of the first by Mason Katz, his team-leading 13th of the season. After that, though, LSU put up a string of zeroes until the seventh while the Seawolves scored three runs in the third and two more in the fourth to put the Tigers in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
In one of the few bright spots for LSU, left fielder Raph Rhymes held on to the NCAA batting lead, though barely.
Rhymes, who had just one hit in the series, went 0-for-4 Sunday to drop his season average to .431, one point ahead of Hofstra’s Danny Poma, whose team has finished playing this season.
Jankowski is a threat to Rhymes, however, now batting .422 with a guarantee of two games left to play.
Rhymes is trying to become the first LSU player to lead the nation in hitting.