June 18, 2008
Another Tiger Thriller
LSU scores four in bottom of ninth to
By Ben Trittipoe
OMAHA, Neb. – The “Kardiac Kids”
of LSU did it again.
The Tigers overcame a 5-0 deficit
and scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to stun
Rice, 6-5, before 19,103 in Game 7 of the 2008 College World
Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.
LSU (49-18-1) advanced to meet
the Fresno State-North Carolina loser on Thursday at 7 p.m ET.
Rice (47-15) was eliminated from the tournament with the loss.
The rally in the ninth inning
marked the second time LSU accomplished the feat in its last
four games. The Tigers scored five runs in the top of the ninth
June 8 to defeat UC Irvine, 9-7, in the second game of the Baton
Rouge Super Regional. (photo of D.J. LeMahieu courtesy of LSU
Media Relations Office)
“What a monumental win,” LSU head
coach Paul Mainieri said after his Tigers won for the ninth time
in their final at-bat and improved to 4-11 when trailing after
eight innings. “We’ve had a lot of games this season that have
looked like they were lost, but the kids just keep battling to
the end. There are so many heroes in a game like this. It was
just a total team effort.”
“If you’re going to play this
game, you’re going to be on the other side once in a while and
it’s going to be tough,” Rice head coach Wayne Graham said. “We
gave it our best shot and had some good performances. We went
with our best guys. Give credit to LSU for battling and coming
back. They did a real good job.”
Trailing 5-2 and facing Rice
left-handed closer Cole St. Clair (10-3) in his third inning on
the mound, Derek Helenihi got a one-out single and went to
second when pinch-hitter Sean Ochinko was hit by pitch. Michael
Hollander followed with a single to score Helenihi, then Jared
Mitchell loaded the bases as he reached on an error by Owls
shortstop Rick Hague.
The final hero for LSU turned out
to be designated hitter Blake Dean. Dean struck out against St.
Clair in the eighth, but in the ninth, he got a pitch he could
drive and hit it off the left-field wall. When the ball caromed
past Rice’s Aaron Luna, Dean had a double and Mitchell had
scored to complete the improbable comeback.
“I really don’t think these guys
know what ‘quit’ means,” Mitchell said. “At one point in time,
we were 6-11-1 in the SEC and basically at the bottom. We made a
decision right there to play better or get ready to go home.
It’s a pleasure to be in the dugout with these guys every day.”
The way Rice started, few in the
stands were thinking an LSU comeback would be possible. The Owls
got on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning as Hague
singled to drive in two runs, and they made it 3-0 in the fifth
as Jordan Dodson scored on a triple by Jared Gayhart. Luna added
a solo home run – his 10th – in the sixth and Diego Seastrunk
had a run-scoring single in the seventh to push the lead to 5-0.
Meanwhile, Rice right-hander
Chris Kelley was shutting down the vaunted Tiger offense. Kelley
blanked LSU on four hits, walking three and striking out two,
over 5.2 innings, and 10 of his 17 outs recorded came on ground
LSU finally broke through against
St. Clair. Pinch-hitter Nicholas Pontiff singled with one out in
the seventh, went to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a
bad hop single by Helenihi and scored on a balk. The Tigers
pulled within 5-2 in the eighth as Micah Gibbs brought home an
unearned run with a one-out double.
The late rally made a winner of
Tigers reliever Louis Coleman (8-0), who allowed one hit and
struck out two in two innings. Helenihi led LSU with three hits,
while Luna, Hague and Chad Mozingo each had two hits for Rice.
Mainieri believes the Tigers
still have not played their best in Omaha.
“I don’t think we played a great
game today,” he said. “We haven’t come close to playing the
caliber of baseball we’re capable of. There’s no doubt in my
mind we will be ready to play Thursday night. Hopefully, we’ll
find a way to win.”