Big Innings Move Baseball into SEC Tournament Driver's Seat

LSU's Derek Helenihi
LSU's Derek Helenihi (@LSUsports) (@LSUsports)
LSU Sports Interactive

HOOVER, Ala. -- Junior left-hander Blake Martin limited No. 21 Vanderbilt to one earned run in seven innings Thursday night to lead eighth-ranked LSU to an 8-2 SEC Tournament victory at Regions Park.
The Tigers, who extended their winning streak to 18 games, advanced to play at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against either Alabama, Kentucky or Ole Miss. Vanderbilt will face South Carolina at 3 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.
The Tigers’ 18-game streak is tied for the second-longest in LSU history. The 1986 LSU squad also won 18 consecutive contests, and the 1997 club posted a school-record 19 straight victories.
Fourteen wins in the Tigers’ 18-0 run have come against SEC teams. LSU, which trailed 1-0 through three innings, won for the 26th time this season after facing a deficit.
The Tigers also won for the 12th straight time when wearing their gold jerseys.
“It was a big win tonight for the Tigers,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This was a pivotal game for us. It puts us in the final bracket where someone has to beat you twice to keep you out of the championship game. That’s a very comforting thing, because it takes some pressure off of your pitching staff. This team amazes me more every day.”
Vanderbilt took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning when designated hitter Parker Hanks launched a two-out solo homer off of Martin.
However, LSU erupted for four runs against Vanderbilt right-hander Caleb Cotham in the fifth to grab a 4-1 advantage.
Rightfielder Derek Helenihi was hit by a pitch to start the rally, and he moved to third base on shortstop DJ LeMahieu’s one-out single to right field. Centerfielder Leon Landry followed with a single to score Helenihi, and LeMahieu scored when Vanderbilt rightfielder Dominic de la Osa’s throw sailed into the stands above third base.
Second baseman Ryan Schimpf belted a triple into right field to plate Landry, and Schimpf scored when second baseman Alex Feinberg’s relay throw landed in the LSU dugout.
The Tigers extended the lead to 7-1 in the sixth when Helenihi unloaded a three-run blast, his third dinger of the year. The homer scored designated hitter Blake Dean and catcher Micah Gibbs who led off the frame with consecutive singles -- and signaled Cotham’s exit from the game.
Martin (5-3), meanwhile, held the Commodore bats in check, allowing just two runs one earned -- on four hits with three walks and one strikeout. Vanderbilt pushed across an unearned run in the seventh on Hanks’ sacrifice fly, but LSU added a run in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Schimpf.
“I just came in and tried to get as deep into the game as I could,” Martin said.  “In tournaments, you want to save your pitching as much as possible. I just tried to throw strikes. I thought our defense was amazing. Once we got those seven runs, I still tried to throw strikes and let them put the ball in play.”
Cotham (7-5) was charged with the loss as he surrendered seven runs on eight hits in five innings with one walk and five strikeouts.
LSU 8, Vanderbilt 2 (May 22, 2008 at Hoover, Ala.)
LSU.................... 000 043 001  -  8  9  1      (41-16-1)
Vanderbilt.......... 001 000 100  -  2  5  3      (38-19)
Pitchers: LSU - Blake Martin; Paul Bertuccini(8); Jared Bradford(9).
Vanderbilt - Caleb Cotham; Mark Lamm(6).
Win-Blake Martin(5-3)  Loss-Caleb Cotham(7-5)  T-2:46 
HR LSU - Derek Helenihi (3).
HR VU - Parker Hanks (4).
Cotham faced 3 batters in the 6th.




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