courtesy MARY FOSTER
The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU seemed baffled by UC Irvine’s pitching for much of Sunday’s super regional.
Then Jared Mitchell helped the Tigers snap out of it with his home run over the left field wall in the eight inning. With that, LSU staged a huge ninth-inning rally to beat the Anteaters 9-7, hold off elimination in Sunday’s NCAA super regional and score one more chance to advance to the College World Series.
“I’ll always remember this no matter what happens in the future,” LSU coach Paul Maineri said. “I know it seems like I say the same things over and over again, but these kids don’t know how to quit. I can honestly tell you that everyone in the dugout believed we could do it.”
Trailing 7-4, LSU loaded the bases with no one out and Mitchell walked, forcing in a run. By the time D.J. LeMahieu lined out to center, the Tigers had scored five runs, securing the win.
“It doesn’t matter if we have two outs, two strikes in the bottom of the ninth and are down eight runs, we still think we can do it,” said LSU’s Blake Dean, who had two hits. “That’s the biggest key for us.”
“I thought we were in good shape,” Gillespie said. “I was smart enough to think that way, but we certainly had not begun to count any chickens.”
LSU (47-17-1) entered the super regional with a 23-game winning streak, the longest in the nation and a Southeastern Conference record. But the Tigers had trouble getting a read on UC Irvine’s pitching.
After scoring 36 runs while belting nine home runs during its three regional games, LSU only had nine hits in Saturday’s 11-5 loss to the Anteaters and struggled against UC Irvine starter Daniel Bibona.
Bibona scattered nine hits over 7.1 innings, struck out eight and walked one. The Anteaters were up 7-2 when he left the game.
Eric Pettis (4-3), one of three relief pitchers UC Irvine used, was the loser.
“He was a little out in front and leaving some pitches up and LSU punished the mistakes he made,” Anteaters’ catcher Aaron Lowenstein said of Pettis. “He fell behind in counts and they really took advantage of that.”
Trailing LSU 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth, UC Irvine (42-17) jumped on Tigers’ starter Jared Bradford for six runs after designated hitter Brock Bardeen hit a homer to left field. By the time LSU turned a double play to end the inning, the Anteaters led 7-2.
The Tigers even looked bad when they got runners on base. They had two picked off, one thrown out trying to steal third and one put out at home.
UC Irvine is trying to get there for a second straight season. LSU was last in the Series in 2004. The last of the Tigers’ five national championships was in 2000.