May 30, 2009

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Ranaudo, Nola Lift LSU Past Baylor

By Robert Stewart
Special to

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU freshman shortstop Austin Nola stole a little bit of the spotlight from teammate Anthony Ranaudo on Saturday.


With the score tied at 2 in the top of the 10th inning and one out, Nola smacked a bases-loaded single to right field, driving in junior outfielder Jared Mitchell for the go-ahead run in a 3-2 victory over Baylor at Alex Box Stadium in the winners’ bracket game of the Baton Rouge Regional.


Nola saved what was a brilliant pitching performance by Ranaudo.


The sophomore right-hander went nine innings, surrendering only three hits with a whopping 14 strikeouts.


“I’ll keep it brief. Anthony Ranaudo. Story of the game. Period,” Mainieri said. “It would’ve been one of the biggest shames of all time if we hadn’t pulled that one out after that kind of pitching performance.”


Ranaudo threw 130 pitches and allowed just one walk and two runs, one of which was earned, while picking up the victory.


“I probably felt better in the ninth than I did in the first,” Ranaudo said. “For some reason that’s just the way I work. I feel like I go stronger as the game goes on.”


LSU put two men on the base paths in the 10th in Mitchell and sophomore shortstop DJ LeMahieu after they drew back-to-back walks. Junior Sean Ochinko pinch-hit for LSU and grounded a ball to Baylor shortstop Shaver Hansen. Hansen tried to flip the ball to second baseman Joey Hainsfurther but threw it over his head, loading the bases with one out.


Then came Nola, who also hit a game-tying RBI single against Southern on Friday in the seventh inning.


“I was trying to throw some good pitches and get some outs,” said Baylor reliever Kendal Volz, who gave up the eventual winning hit. “I ended up walking some guys on very close pitches. Really, I was trying to get a ground ball with Ochinko who got that hit off that bat.”


LSU led for most of the game, but Baylor kept the game close despite failing to score for the first five innings. The Bears broke their scoreless drought in the sixth inning with a solo home run by catcher Gregg Glime that just made it left of the right-field foul pole.


“Of course it sparked us when you are down 2-0,” Hansen said. “To see Gregg hit a home run in a big-time situation was big for us, and it really got us excited.”


But Ranaudo stood tall after the home run, retiring three of the next four batters in the inning with only a single from the third batter.


The right-hander fared much better in the seventh inning with a three-strikeout inning that fired up the LSU crowd. And the momentum appeared to carry over for LSU into the bottom half of the frame.


With one out and a man on, LSU freshman center fielder Mikie Mahtook drilled a ball to Hansen. Hansen appeared to have a play on the ball but couldn’t make the grab, putting runners at first and second with one out. After a Mitchell pop out to Hansen, LeMahieu reached first on an error by Hainsfurther. But LSU third baseman Tyler Hanover struck out to end the inning, the third time the third baseman ended an inning for LSU.


“I get as frustrated as the people watching the game, believe me,” Mainieri said. “I’m sure the coach gets more frustrated than the players do. The players are unbelievable. They have such a great attitude.”


Baylor crept back on LSU in the bottom of the eighth inning. Freshman pinch-hitter Brooks Pinckard reached on a leadoff walk and was moved to third on back-to-back sacrifice groundouts. A walk and a stolen base by first baseman Dustin Dickerson gave Baylor runners at second and third with two outs. Hainsfurther grounded to Hanover, but Hanover bobbled the ball, allowing Pinckard to score what would be Baylor’s final run.


Freshman Matty Ott closed the game for LSU in the ninth, earning a school-record 15th save on the season.


“The guy in unbelievable,” Mainieri said of Ott. “I don’t even know what to say about him anymore.”


Mitchell kick-started all of the scoring with a solo home run to right field off Baylor sophomore starter Shawn Tolleson, his ninth homer of the season. He finished the day 2 for 3 with one RBI, two walks and two stolen bases.


“I thought Jared was really the story for us offensively with his home run and then his clutch steals,” Mainieri said. “He just played a tremendous ball game for us.”


A turning point for Baylor happened when coach Steve Smith brought in junior Aaron Miller — the starting designated hitter — to pitch in the fifth inning.


The move worked in the top of the fifth. After giving up a leadoff walk and a single, Miller struck out the side with all three batters swinging on the third strike.


Miller finished with six strikeouts in 3.1 innings of work, allowing three hits and two walks.


“The only thing I would’ve liked to have gotten out of Aaron was more innings,” Smith said. “But he was pretty good. He’s going to be an interesting guy professionally I think. His strengths are the same. His strength at the plate is power, and his strength on the mound is power.”


The Baylor pitching staff also pitched a gem of its own. Three pitchers combined for 10 strikeouts while scattering nine hits and allowing three earned runs. Tolleson pitched four innings, giving up four hits with two strikeouts, while Volz took the loss after pitching the last 2.2 innings.


But it was dwarfed by Ranaudo’s performance.


“If there is a difference between a horse and a stallion, I’d call [Ranaudo] a stallion,” Smith said. “I just thought it was a tremendous effort on his part.”



Paid attendance for the game was 9,936, actual attendance was 9,149 (school record)…Game time was 3 hours, 17 minutes…Baylor will start sophomore right-hander Jon Rigenberg (2-0, 5.76 ERA) tomorrow against Minnesota at 1 p.m., while LSU will go with senior right-hander Louis Coleman (11-2, 2.84 ERA) against the Baylor-Minnesota winner.