Jun 13, 201708:05 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
LSU Tigers return to the College World Series
all photos by the associated press
Baton Rouge rejoice! Even though the skies opened up above Alex Box Stadium it turns out the sky wasn’t falling after all and the LSU baseball Tigers are on their way back to Omaha and the College World Series.
But, this is LSU baseball, so of course there was plenty of drama along the way.
This one is going down into the history books. Yet, for much of the night, it felt like a game that the Baton Rouge faithful would want to forget.
LSU rolled out its ace, Alex Lange, in hopes of getting the crucial first win in the best-of-three series. Even though Lange (9-5, 2.92 ERA) didn’t pick up the decision, the right-handed stud pitched an absolute gem that kept the Tigers within reach on a night where the team was frustrated by missed opportunities and seemingly couldn’t get a runner across home. Lange would tally 10 strikeouts on the night and kept the Bulldogs at bay allowing only three hits.
But Lange would plunk a batter in the first inning with the bases loaded to allow the Bulldogs to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. A lead the Bulldogs wouldn’t give up and, after Mississippi State plated two runs in the top of the eighth to extend their lead, Lange’s night was done and Baton Rouge was left watching the scoreboard in disbelief.
That’s when the fun started.
Going into the bottom of the eighth the Tigers needed something, anything to get the tricky muse that is Momentum to swing back into their direction. The boys, along with 11,000 plus fans, responded.
Kramer Robertson worked the count and walked to first. After an out, Antoine Duplantis singled. Greg Deichmann, who never met a rally he didn’t love, drove in the first two runs for the Tigers with a double and Alex Box Stadium was on fire. Mississippi State’s Riley Self, and his eight saves on the year, couldn’t stem the tide and as Michael Papierski’s deep sacrifice fly ball to center field scored Zach Watson for the 4-3 lead, magic was in the air. The Tigers would not be denied.
What. A. Game.
At first, it seemed that Mississippi State had lost all of their steam from the previous night’s loss. The Tigers jumped all over Jacob Billingsley and chased the starter out of the game before he could record an out. At the end of the first inning it was 2-0 LSU and Tiger eyes were-a-shinin’. But after extending the lead to 3-0 in the second, Mississippi State got on a tear. This is SEC baseball after all.
The Bulldogs made LSU pitcher Jared Poche pay for a couple of walks and knocked Poche out of the game in the third inning on the way to a 4-3 lead in the third inning. It looked like the game was headed to another dramatic finale. That is, until relief pitcher Caleb Gilbert walked to the mound.
Gilbert (6-1, 2.42 ERA) matched Lange’s pitching performance from the night before, essentially putting the Bulldogs’ bats to sleep for 5.2 innings. Gilbert, struck out six and scattered two hits and one base on balls and the Bulldogs offensive attack would never threaten. But, LSU still had work to do.
The storms that were threatening Baton Rouge were no match for the offensive reign of LSU in the fifth inning. Walks were followed by hits and they all came around in a relentless at bat that would see the Tigers put up six runs in the fifth inning to roar to a 9-4 lead and that was that. Mississippi State would never answer and their dreams of going to Omaha whisked away down the Mississippi river.
The rain would come and go and come and go. It was well past 1 a.m. before the Tigers recorded the last out in the ninth, so I’m going to assume there are 11,000 Baton Rouge residents who — cough cough — couldn’t make it in to work today.
And they shouldn’t go into work. It’s time to celebrate.
LSU, riding a nasty 16-game winning streak, will appear in its 18th College World Series. The LSU Tigers (48-17) will battle Florida State (45-21) in the first game on on June 17, at 3 p.m. The winner of that matchup will advance to play either #1 Oregon State (54-4!) or #20 Cal-State Fullerton (39-22).
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Tin Roof’s “Bayou Bengal” Lager
Playlist Recommendation: Bruce Springsteen – “Nebraska”
Around the Way
You all know I love an underdog. Hell, I write about Tulane, right? So, I have to give a shout out to Sam Houston State out of the Southland Conference. I have big love for the Southland and while I root for the UNO Privateers during the regular season, I basically root for all of them in the post-season.
Sam Houston State, a team that might have not made the NCAA regional field without winning the conference tournament, defied expectations by winning the Lubbock regional with two wins over the #18 Arizona Wildcats and then knocked off mighty #5 Texas Tech Red Raiders twice to advance to the team’s first super regional.
If you want to see what sports are really about, then check out this post-game press conference held by Coach Matt Deggs and his players. It’s all good stuff, but if you’re short on time skip to the 13:30 mark in the video to hear an awesome speech by Coach Deggs. It’s beautiful.