Dean, Clark Star in Baseball's Latest Heart-Stopper, 5-4

LSU's Blake Dean hit his 14th home run of the season to win it.
LSU's Blake Dean hit his 14th home run of the season to win it. (@LSUsports) (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

HOOVER, Ala. -- Designated hitter Blake Dean launched a walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the 10th inning Wednesday to lift No. 8 LSU to a 5-4 victory over No. 19 South Carolina in the first round of the SEC Tournament at Regions Park.

No. 2 seed LSU (40-16-1), which won its 17th-straight game, advanced to play at 5 p.m. Thursday against sixth-seeded Vanderbilt, a 7-3 winner over third-seeded Florida. No. 7 seed South Carolina (37-20) will play Florida at 10 a.m. Thursday.

The 17-game win streak is the third-longest in LSU history, trailing only a 19-game streak in 1997 and an 18-game streak in 1986.

LSU improved to 5-2-1 this season in extra-inning games with Wednesday’s victory.

Facing a 4-0 deficit, LSU rallied for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game into extra innings.  South Carolina reliever Will Atwood walked Dean and catcher Micah Gibbs before striking out rightfielder Derek Helenihi for the first out of the frame.

However, first baseman Matt Clark then unloaded a three-run blast to close the gap to 4-3.

Atwood was lifted for right-hander Brandon Todd, who walked shortstop DJ LeMahieu and struck out leftfielder Nicholas Pontiff. Second baseman Ryan Schimpf then lifted a two-out bloop double just inside the left-field foul line to score LeMahieu with the tying run.

LSU reliever Jared Bradford blanked the Gamecocks in the top of the 10th, setting the stage for Dean’s heroics. South Carolina left-hander Alex Farotto fanned centerfielder Jared Mitchell to begin the inning, but Dean blasted Farotto’s 2-0 pitch over the right-centerfield wall to give the Tigers the dramatic win.

“It was an amazing comeback,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri.”It was probably one of the best I have witnessed as a coach. This is a self-motivated team. They believe in each other, and they know how to win. This has been exciting, so I hope it keeps going. It’s been fun.”

“We started out sluggish,” Dean said. “It wasn’t like usual, but we believe in each other. We know that if one person doesn’t get it done, then the one coming behind him will. Coach (Mainieri) always tells us to play the full game. So we played all nine innings. We kept battling and battling.”

Bradford (10-4) was credited with the victory after pitching a scoreless 10th inning with one walk.

Farotto (0-1) was charged with the loss after allowing the home run to Dean.

South Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when catcher Phil Disher launched a solo homer, his 17th dinger of the season.

The Gamecocks extended the lead to 3-0 in the sixth when rightfielder Harley Lail blooped a bases-loaded single to plate two runs.

Each team received strong outings from its starting pitcher. LSU left-hander Ryan Verdugo worked six innings, allowing three runs on four hits with five walks and a career-best 10 strikeouts.

South Carolina starter Sam Dyson, making his first appearance against an SEC opponent, fired 6.2 scoreless innings, limiting the Tigers to two hits with four walks and two strikeouts.

LSU 5, South Carolina 4 (May 21, 2008 at Hoover, Ala.)
South Carolina...... 000 102 001 0 -  4  6  0      (37-20)
LSU...................... 000 000 004 1 -  5  5  0      (40-16-1)
Pitchers: South Carolina - Sam Dyson; Will Atwood(7); Brandon Todd(9); Alex Farotto(10). LSU -
Ryan Verdugo; Paul Bertuccini(7); Louis Coleman(8); Jared Bradford(10).
Win-Jared Bradford(10-4)  Loss-Alex Farotto(0-1)  T-3:25 
HR SC - Phil Disher (17).
HR LSU - Blake Dean (14); Matt Clark (20).




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