LSU sophomore Tyler Moore had one of the best seats in the house Friday as Aaron Nola and Jonathan Gray locked up in a pitchers’ duel for the ages.
But as Moore stayed seated in the LSU dugout for the first seven-plus innings, the reserve first baseman said he watched every pitch Gray threw and studied every one of the Oklahoma right-hander’s tendencies.
“I had eight innings to watch this guy throw 100-plus pitches,” Moore said. “It doesn’t give me an advantage, but it definitely shows me his tendencies.”
So when Moore went from spectator to batter in the biggest moment of LSU’s opener in the Baton Rouge Super Regional, he was ready. His pinch-hit double in the bottom of the eighth scored JaCoby Jones from third base, highlighting a two-run inning by the Tigers and pointing the way to a 2-0 victory.
“You have to be ready for a moment like that,” Moore said. “You’ve got to be mentally ready for a moment like that.”
Moore’s moment came after Jones roped a triple to the wall in right-center. It suddenly gave LSU life on only the fourth hit of the game off Gray, who a night earlier had been taken by the Colorado Rockies with the third pick of the MLB draft.
Jones was down 0-2 in the count with the game scoreless and one out in the eighth. LSU had not gotten a runner to second base.
Tagging a fastball Gray intended to leave out of the strike zone, Jones rounded second base as right fielder Taylor Alspaugh struggled to get a grip on the ball after it rolled to the wall. With his first triple of the year, Jones put the go-ahead run 90 feet from home.
“You’re seeing the ball well tonight,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he told Jones, a third-round pick Friday by the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the early innings. “You’re going to get this guy.”
Jones finally did, but nine-hole hitter Andrew Stevenson — with his .180 batting average — was due to follow.
Mainieri instead found Moore, a logical choice given the former Dunham star’s penchant for coming through in the clutch.
Two weeks earlier, with LSU one strike from elimination in the Southeastern Conference tournament, Moore laced a game-tying double against Alabama to kick-start a two-run, ninth-inning rally.
Moore had an even bigger moment in the super regionals last year, launching a game-tying homer in the 10th inning of LSU’s series-opening, rain-interrupted win against Stony Brook. A day later, he continued the rally with a single to start the 12th inning of the same game and eventually scored the winning run.
His latest dramatics came on a night when Nola allowed only two hits in pitching his fifth complete game of the year.
But it took until the bottom of the eighth for LSU to get its ace the lead.
As he reached second base having delivered the go-ahead RBI, Moore slapped his thighs as the stadium around him roared.
“Ever since you’re a little kid,” Moore said, “those are the moments you dream of. All the guys out here are prepared for that kind of moment.”
Moore’s big hit got Gray out of the game having thrown 118 pitches.
LSU freshman Mark Laird — who had two of LSU’s five hits against the Oklahoma ace — greeted reliever Ralph Garza with a single to right that scored Foster for the final margin.