May 29, 2009

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LSU rides seven-run seventh to 10-2 victory

By Robert Stewart
Special to

BATON ROUGE, La. – A pitchers’ duel quickly turned into a rout for LSU in the first game of the Baton Rouge regional Friday afternoon.


LSU sophomore right-hander Austin Ross (left) and Southern junior left-hander Chase Richard had nearly identical performances, each going 6.2 innings and allowing seven hits.


But Southern’s chances faded after Richard was pulled. LSU scored seven runs in the seventh inning – all with two outs – in a 10-2 victory that was closer than the score indicated.


“For six and a third innings, we played solid baseball,” Southern coach Roger Cador said. “We had a multitude of opportunities to really score some runs… it goes back to part of our trademark we’ve had during the course of the year, just having a problem hitting guys in from third with less than two outs.”


LSU tied the game at two when freshman shortstop Austin Nola singled to right-center field, scoring senior pinch-runner Chris McGhee from second.


The Tigers took the lead on back-to-back hits by second baseman DJ LeMahieu and left fielder/first baseman Ryan Schimpf. LeMahieu hit a single up the middle to score Nola and advanced to third on an error by Southern center fielder Toddrick Stevenson, and Schimpf then drove him in with a single.


“All hell broke loose at that point,” Cador said.


LSU catcher Micah Gibbs’ grounder was booted by first baseman Frazier Hall, allowing two more runs to score.


After center fielder Mikie Mahtook was hit by a pitch, senior outfielder Derek Helenihi racked up two RBI on a double but was thrown trying to reach third base.


Southern’s relief pitchers took most of the blow from the LSU offense, giving up seven runs on seven hits in 1.1 innings. Sophomore right-hander Kyle Wahl gave up five of those runs on four hits in one-third of an inning


Cador said Wahl told him after his outing he hurt his foot warming up in the bullpen but wasn’t told how it happened.


“I don’t want to know in the heat of the battle how he hurt it,” Cador said. “He should have told me before he went out there that he was hurt.”


The Tigers had more bad luck than the Jaguars early in the game. Ross gave up a single on his first pitch of the game. The third pitch of the game went sailing over the right-field fence when junior designated hitter Victor Franklin belted a two-run home run for a 2-0 lead.


But Ross settled in after that, tying a career-high with 10 strikeouts and allowing one walk in a no-decision effort. He received a standing ovation from the mostly purple and gold crowd after a three-pitch sixth inning.


“That was great, but we didn’t give the crowd much to get fired up about,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said. “That was a good inning for us, and we had just reached a point in the game when I said, ‘Let’s go boys with a little sense of urgency now. It’s time for us to make something happen.’”


Richard’s stat line was similar to Ross – he also gave up seven hits and one walk in his 6.2 innings. But unlike Ross, Richard didn’t record any strikeouts.


Richard was charged with the loss, leaving the game tied but with the go-ahead run on the base paths.


“It took a little pressure off when Victor [Franklin] hit the two-run home run,” Richard said. “I was able to go out there and try to mix it up and keep them off balance.”


The two teams combined for only nine hits in the second through sixth innings.

Southern’s offense struggled after Franklin’s homer with only five hits after the shot. LSU had six hits in the seventh inning alone.


Franklin didn’t fare so well after his home run, striking out in his next three at-bats.


“[The home run] was a great momentum starter. It was a great feeling, but at the end of the day it was irrelevant because I struck out twice with runners in scoring position,” Franklin said. “For us to win the game, when a guy is on second, we have to drive them in and I have to drive them in.”


LSU got its first runner in scoring position in the sixth inning when Schimpf hit a double to right. Schimpf scored when he stole third and Southern catcher Michael Thomas’s throw went into left field.


“I was trying to get something going for the team and try to get on base somehow to get something started,” Schimpf said. “I got a good jump and was fortunate enough to have a ball go to the outfield.”


LSU picked up two more runs in the eighth inning. Hanover hit a leadoff triple in the eighth inning and was brought home on a single by Mitchell, who advanced to third on an error by Stevenson.


Junior right-handed reliever Paul Bertuccini picked up the win for LSU, going 1.1 innings with two strikeouts.



Attendance for the game was 9,874 paid, 8,641 actual…the game lasted 2 hours, 42 minutes…LSU will play the winner of the Baylor-Minnesota game tomorrow at 6 p.m., Southern plays the loser at 1 p.m…Sophomore RHP Anthony Ranaudo will start for LSU tomorrow…Southern has elected to go with freshman RHP Jeremy Morrison.


(photo by Jimmy Jones)