June 5, 2009

click here for Super Regional Scores, Recaps and Capsules


Six-Run Fifth Inning Leads LSU Past Rice

By Robert Stewart

Special to CollegeBaseballInsider.com


Robert Stewart is a Baton Rouge native and rising junior at LSU, where he just finished his third semester in The Daily Reveille’s sports department and is going into his second summer term at the paper as a contributing writer. He has worked in the past as a sports contributor, sports staff writer and deputy sports editor. He will move up to sports editor in the fall. Robert has covered a variety of sports at LSU. Besides baseball, he has covered football, basketball, softball, track and field, soccer, tennis and volleyball. He has no allegiances to any professional baseball team but is a fan of North Carolina Tar Heels basketball, the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans Hornets and the Indianapolis Colts. He is still waiting for a Saints berth in the Super Bowl...and will be waiting for a long time…


BATON ROUGE, La. – The bottom of the fifth inning was not kind to Rice against LSU on Friday.


Rice led 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth after center fielder Steven Sultzbaugh knocked a solo home run to left field, his eighth of the year. But the Owls gave up six runs on six hits in the frame in a 12-9 loss to the Tigers in the first game of the Baton Rouge Super Regional at Alex Box Stadium.


“LSU outhit us; they did a great job of hitting so you have to give them credit for that,” Rice coach Wayne Graham said. “I thought we competed well, but we had too many mistakes.”


After LSU third baseman Tyler Hanover led off the fifth with a double to left, and Austin Nola was hit by a pitch, DJ LeMahieu ripped a RBI single to left to bring the score to 4-2. LeMahieu and Nola advanced to second and third on a wild pitch, and Rice starter Mike Ojala was pulled after the pitch for freshman left-hander Taylor Wall (7-6).


Ryan Schimpf (left) then blasted a three-run home run to right field, his 19th of the season, on the second pitch Wall threw for a 5-4 Tigers lead.


“I wasn’t looking for a home run, I was just trying to drive something up the middle and stay through it,” Schimpf said.


Wall lasted only a third of an inning, giving up three hits and three runs, all earned. He was replaced by freshman right-hander Matthew Reckling, who gave up a two-run double to Sean Ochinko to the left-field corner to make it 7-4.


“I knew when they brought the right-hander in they were going to throw me sliders,” Ochinko said. “Coach [Paul Mainieri] told me they would throw [a slider], and I think it was a 1-0 pitch that I was able to hit down the line.”


Ojala, the Owls’ starter, didn’t fare much better than Wall. He lasted four innings, giving up four earned runs on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. In all Rice (43-17) used five pitchers: Relievers combined to give up eight runs on eight hits in five innings.


“I thought I should have got myself out of many of the situations out there tonight,” Ojala said. “I couldn’t. There isn’t much to say about it.”


The LSU bats picked up a defense that almost let the game get away from the Tigers in the early goings. LSU (50-16) made four errors in the game, its most since a 2001 Regional game against Virginia Commonwealth (a 13-9 Tigers win).


The Tigers were 18th in the nation in fielding percentage (.974) entering the game.


“I don’t think our game tape would be taken and put in an instructional video library,” Mainieri said. “We made several mistakes early in the game. As this team has done repeatedly, they played very courageously. They didn’t give up when things weren’t going well.”


Rice freshman sensation Anthony Rendon smacked a double to right-center to lead off the second inning and later scored on an error by Nola. Rendon got caught in a pickle between second and third base after Owls right fielder Chad Mozingo grounded the ball right back to LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo. Ranaudo tossed the ball to Nola to try to get Rendon out, but Nola’s throw toward third base sailed over Hanover’s head and into the Rice dugout. Mozingo eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Rice left fielder Michael Fuda for a 2-0 Owls lead after two innings.


“You don’t expect that from two strong teams. Things happen,” Graham said of the mistakes. “We got an early break when they threw the run down away, a big break. I thought things looked good because of that. I didn’t think we swung the bat badly at all.”


Rice had another threat on Ranaudo (10-3) in the top of the third after Rick Hague dropped a single into right. But Hague was caught trying to steal second base by LSU catcher Micah Gibbs.


LSU brought the score to 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth on a RBI fielder’s choice by Ochinko with the bases loaded and one out – Rendon fielded the ball and stepped on third base but couldn’t make a throw to first or second base.


Rice scored again in the top of the fourth inning thanks to a pair of LSU errors. Rendon reached on an error by Hanover then advanced to second when Ranaudo’s pickoff attempt went past Ochinko at first. Fuda drove Rendon in again, this time on an RBI single.


Ranaudo (left) gave up four runs on four hits in the first four innings but shook off the slow start to pitch 7.2 innings, giving up five runs on five hits with nine strikeouts. He was replaced in the top of the eighth by junior right-hander Paul Bertuccini, leaving to a standing ovation from the LSU crowd.


“I don’t know what it is, but the deeper the game goes, the more comfortable I get,” Ranaudo said. “I don’t know if it’s just that I’m up there in my pitch count and I feel comfortable in my delivery and my release point or what it is. As the game goes on, I try to get a lot more focused and hopefully it’s been helping me out.”


Schimpf struck again in the bottom of the sixth with a RBI double to right that scored LeMahieu. He advanced to third on an error by Sultzbaugh. Designated hitter Blake Dean followed Schimpf with a sacrifice fly to center field for a 9-4 LSU lead.


Schimpf finished 2 for 4 with four RBI after striking out in his first two at-bats.


“I had two terrible at-bats previously in the game and I just tried to … get it out of my mind,” Schimpf said.


Rice scored again in the top of the eighth on a towering home run to the scoreboard in left-center field by Rendon, his 20th home run of the season, to cut the deficit to 9-6.


But LSU struck back in the bottom of the eighth. LeMahieu singled and stole second to start the inning and later scored on an error by Rice first baseman Jimmy Comerota. Rice then brought in right-hander Jordan Rogers, who surrendered a bases-loaded walk after hitting LSU center fielder Mikie Mahtook. Tigers right fielder Jared Mitchell brought in another run on a RBI fielder’s choice.


Rice wasn’t done until the final out. The Owls scored three runs in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by pinch-hitter Jess Buenger and a two-run home run by Brock Holt, his 11th.



Paid attendance for the game was 9,923, actual attendance was 9,375 (LSU record) … Game time was 3 hours, 27 minutes … LSU will start senior right-hander Louis Coleman (12-2, 2.72 ERA) tomorrow, while Rice will counter with junior right-hander Ryan Berry (7-1, 2.00)


(photos by Jimmy Jones)