BATON ROUGE -- LSU starter Louis Coleman allowed only three runs in eight innings, and the top-ranked Tigers completed a two-game sweep of No. 6 Rice with a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium to advance to the College World Series for the 15th time in school history.
A record crowd of 9,651 was on hand to watch the Tigers advance to Omaha in its inaugural season at the new stadium.
LSU (51-16) extended its win streak to 10 games and improved to 117-44 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, which is the highest winning percentage (.727) in tournament history. The Tigers will be making back-to-back trips to the CWS for the first time since 2004.
“Omaha, here come the Tigers,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We’re going to go up to Omaha and I know our fans are going to go up. We’re going to have a lot of fun up there. This year we’re going to go up there with seven great ball clubs. I figure one team has to win, so it might as well be us. We’re going to go up there with the idea that we’re going to put another trophy in the trophy case and give it our best effort.
“I don’t know if I feel great or relieved. This has been a real grind to get to this point because this season started with such promise for our team. Our kids have been under the microscope all year, and a lot has been expected of them. They just are so remarkable in their consistency, poise, composure and how they have been able to handle those expectations. I’m just so happy for all of them. They deserve it. Now we go get to have a great experience together in Omaha.”
Coleman (13-2) earned his fourth straight win as the SEC Pitcher of the Year allowed nine hits and struck out five batters. Freshman closer Matty Ott secured the victory with his 16th save of the season.
Rice starter Ryan Berry (7-2) suffered only his second loss of the season after giving up five earned runs on eight hits and four walks in five innings of work.
Third baseman Derek Helenihi led the Tigers at the plate with two hits and two RBI. The senior also blasted his fourth home run of the season. Designated hitter Blake Dean also had two hits on the afternoon, and catcher Micah Gibbs and center fielder Mikie Mahtook each drove in one run apiece.
The Tigers got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a double down the right field line, and left fielder Ryan Schimpf and Gibbs each walked to load the bases with one out. Mahtook then followed with an RBI grounder to bring home LeMahieu.
Rice second baseman Brock Holt tied the game at 1-1 in the third with a solo shot over the wall in right center field.
LSU regained the lead with a run in the top of the fourth to go up, 2-1. Following a double by right fielder Jared Mitchell and a base hit by first baseman Sean Ochinko, Helenihi singled through the middle of the infield to plate Mitchell.
However, the Owls came back to tie it at 2-2 in the bottom of the frame. Designated hitter Diego Seastrunk doubled into the gap in left center and reached third on a fielding error before left fielder Michael Fuda drove him in on a perfectly placed bunt single down the first base line.
The Tigers added two runs in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 advantage. Schimpf walked to lead off the inning, and Dean drilled a double into the gap in left center to put two men in scoring position.
Gibbs then drove in Schimpf on an RBI grounder to second, and Dean later scored on a wild pitch by Berry.
Helenihi launched a solo homer to the opposite field to give LSU a 5-2 lead in the sixth inning, but Seastrunk returned the favor with a solo dinger of his own in the bottom of the frame to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Meanwhile, Coleman remained strong deep into the game, allowing only one hit in the seventh and eighth innings and keeping the Owls off the scoreboard.
Ott entered in the ninth and retired three of the four batters he faced. The right-hander fanned Holt to end the game.
COLLEGE WORLD SERIES TICKET INFORMATION
Requests will be taken for all games that LSU may possibly participate in at the College World Series.
Requests will be taken on-line 24 hours a day or over the phone on Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
LSU will only receive a limited amount of tickets only for the games in which LSU plays.
Tickets are $20 for all games except the Championship Series which is $27 per game.
Due to expected high demand, LSU encourages fans to only request tickets for the date(s) they will be able to attend a game at the CWS.
There is a $1 application fee for placing a request. If LSU is able to fill the request, LSU will automatically charge the card for the games in which LSU plays.
ONLY THE TICKET HOLDER OF RECORD MAY PICK-UP THE TICKETS IN OMAHA. VALID PHOTO ID WILL BE REQUIRED.
All requests will be filled based on the LSU Priority Point System. If demand exceeds supply for any or all games, limits may be placed on the amount of ticket issued and tickets will be awarded based on the LSU Priority Point System.
More information can be found at http://www.cwsomaha.com/.
LSU HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI
“Omaha. Here come the Tigers. We’re going to go up to Omaha, and I know our fans are going to go up. We’re going to have a lot of fun up there. This year we’re going to go up there with seven great ball clubs. I figure one team has to win, so it might as well be us. We’re going to go up there with the idea that we’re going to put another trophy in the trophy case and give it our best effort. I don’t know if I feel great or relieved. This has been a real grind to get to this point because this season started with such promise for our team. Our kids have been under the microscope all year, and a lot has been expected of them. They are so remarkable in their consistency, poise, composure and how they have been able t handle those expectations. I’m just so happy for all of them. They deserve it. Now we go get to have a great experience together in Omaha.”
On how pitching and defense contributes to championship baseball...
“It always begins with your pitching and defense. I know Skip Bertman won championships here with guerrilla ball. You go back and look at his teams I guarantee you he had great pitchers. You can’t win in this sport without pitching. Fortunately, we’re very blessed with two top-of-the-line guys. We’ve got a great closer, but we’ve got a lot of other guys who have contributed. It all starts with the pitching and the defense goes along with the pitching.”
On team’s ability to play with confidence...
“The confidence and being able to play with the looseness that you need to is a very essential thing. I thought we played better today. I watched our batting practice today, and I was in awe. That was the best batting practice we’ve taken all year. We come out and D.J. (LeMahieu) leads off with the double, and as a result we got something going. We got the bases loaded against the kid, and we were making the kid throw pitches. I just thought we were one hit away from just blowing the game open right away. It was reminding me of last year’s final game in the Super Regional. We just didn’t quite get that hit that we needed and let them stay around, and they fought back... It’s a constant challenge trying to get the kids to calm down and be focused. It’s a controlled aggressiveness that’s a goal.”
On Coach Mainieri reaching certain goals at LSU...
“First of all, it’s not about me; it’s about the kids... When Karen and I talked about this job, the reason we decided to take it was because we knew that if we didn’t we would regret it for the rest of our lives. We felt that we could make a difference. For me, the challenge was getting great kids and great coaches around us. I knew we would have great support...What happened here in the 90s showed a lot of schools out there what a great college baseball program can do for a community and a university. Now, we have a lot of schools out there that are making a strong commitment to college baseball. It makes the sport a lot healthier, but it also makes it a lot more difficult for an individual school to continue to advance. I’d like to see us go to Omaha several times and win championships. You’re never going to see me satisfied, but I do feel very proud right now.”
On Louis Coleman’s performance...
“As a coach, it’s very important that you don’t play favorites with kids, but I have to admit after what this kid has gone through in his career, you see why the kid is great. First of all he has a lot of talent, but he is such a passionate person. I love passionate people. I love people that feel alive and want to do great things. I’ll remember these conversations I had with him last summer until the day I die. When he decided he was going to come back, I said, ‘Louis, you will make all the difference in the world with our team. You are the final piece of our puzzle for next year’s team. We’re going to go back to Omaha because of you.’ Every time he’s given the ball he gives the greatest effort that any human being could possibly give for his school. He’s certainly going to go down in history with me and my coaching career as one of my all-time favorite kids.”
LSU Player Quotes
2B D.J. LEMAHIEU
On his double to lead off the game...
“I think we had a lot of momentum coming off yesterday’s win and we wanted to start the game out right, especially being the visiting team. We got a good scouting report and I got a good pitch to hit and it fell for me.”
On how quickly they figured out Rice P Ryan Berry was having a tough time...
“I think (we figured it out) after the first inning. We had the bases loaded and could have gotten a few more runs even though we only got one. We could see his location wasn’t as good as we’ve heard and his numbers are unbelievable. It was good to get to him early and make him throw a lot of pitches.”
On if the team discussed fielding better after the errors in the first game...
“I don’t think so. It was yesterday, the nerves or the situation... We just got some bad breaks and we knew that we were going to overcome that and be better today.”
3B DEREK HELENIHI
On his performance at the plate (2-for-4, HR, 2 RBI)...
“It was good to get in there and get a chance to swing today. (Rice P Ryan) Berry had such good numbers that you just hope to get a good pitch to hit and then take advantage of it. I got a couple of good pitches to hit early in the count and I put some good swings on them. It worked out well for me.”
On if he was sitting on a fastball when he hit his home run...
“I wasn’t necessarily sitting on a fastball, but looking for a pitch up (in the strike zone). He didn’t get his curveball over most of the game and that’s huge for us. When he has that on, he has four pitches that he can throw for strikes. One pitch less makes it a lot easier for us to go up there and see a fastball. It seemed like it was his second-best pitch. It felt good to go out late in the game and be able to expect fastball. He seemed like he was getting a little tired late in the game and his velocity slowed down. He seemed like he threw more fastballs and we got some more hits later in the game, so that was good.”
P LOUIS COLEMAN
On his pitching performance...
“Being my last start I’ll ever get at LSU, I wanted to go out there and do something special not only for the team, but for the fans, too. I wanted to give it everything I had. Rice is an unbelievable ballclub. it would have been nice to see them in Omaha because of how good they are. But at the same time, someone has to go to Omaha and I’m glad it’s us. IT was great to get out there and get a win, especially on my last day, and get it in two (games). “
On deciding to return for his senior season and going back to Omaha...
“It’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made in my life. I wouldn’t change it for the world. God’s blessed me with the ability to stay healthy for an entire year and get back to Omaha. I told Coach Mainieri when I decided to come back that I didn’t care how we did it, I just wanted to go back to Omaha and see what happens there. To be able to come back for my senior year and go back to Omaha is something that I’ll never forget. It’s something special that I won’t forget along with the other 24 guys.”
On if he felt the crowd was a factor for him...
“Our fans are the best fans in the country. Combine that with what I think is the best defense in the country and it’s hard to score runs. I don’t try to get all the strikeouts in the world when those guys are behind me. I just try to get some balls on the ground and fly balls. We’ve got some fast guys in the outfield and a great...infield. They have to really be fast and find a hole to get on base.”
RICE HEAD COACH WAYNE GRAHAM
Opening statement ...
“Obviously, LSU has some baseball team. I thought we competed well, today we just fell a little short, that’s all.”
On Rice’s season ...
“We had a great year, but we didn’t have our two best pitchers. To play with all the problems and have year they’ve had, winning two championships, the conference tournament and regional. Considering the adversities we had to overcome, it was a great year, and I love this team, for doing that, for hanging in there.”
On his plan after Rendon was injured ...
"Even through Anthony Rendon went down, we put another left handed batter in the lineup. Coleman’s problem in Omaha is going to be against a stacked left-handed line up. That would be the best way to get a double is to put left handed hitters in the lineup.”
On Rice’s pitching...
“On the field, we have as good of a team as we’ve ever had. We just ran a little short on pitchers. We got some bad breaks in recruiting. We lost two guys that we weren’t expecting to and our freshman popped a ligament in his elbow. I really think that we were better than we’ve ever been and some of those guys are coming back.”
On he believes LSU will do in Omaha ...
“I think they are good enough to win it, but when you get those eight teams (in Omaha), it’s hard to tell who is the best. I think they will do well against Texas. I think they are very competitive, particularly with their starters. These three pitchers are probably among the top-20 pitchers in the country. Then they have good left-handed hitters that can go both left and right. There are a lot of ingredients LSU is a good ball club.”
RICE PLAYER QUOTES
2B Brock Holt
On his batting today ...
“I’ve been seeing the ball very well this weekend. I’ve been putting good swings on the ball but nothing to show for it until the last at bat. Coleman is a great pitcher and made some great pitches. I was lucky to connect on a few. The last at bat was tough. The crowd in the stadium in very loud and everyone there wanted me to strike out. I gave them their wish. It was a good game and a hard fought fight. It’s a very tough loss for us.”
On Anthony Rendon’s injury...
“That was very tough to see Anthony (Rendon) be taking out the game. He has been our best player the whole season and we’ve been counting on him for big hits. But, we do have guys that can step in and play well. When Rendon came out, Jimmy (Comerota) moved over to third and Chad (Mozingo) moved over to first and made a really good play at first base. Every guy on our team is capable of getting a big hit. Losing Rendon was a very big loss for us. He’s been great for us all year.”
P Ryan Berry
On settling down after the first inning ...
“After getting the nerves out the way I was good. I could not hit the curve ball today. It was very embarrassing for me. I tried to do the best I could out there. When you can’t hit with a curve ball, change –up or any other pitch it’s easy for them to swing the bat. I think I walked four guys in five innings, that’s pathetic for me. I tired hard but you can’t win ball games if you don’t produce.”
On LSU hitters ...
“When you don’t throw a first pitch strike or any where near the zone it’s easy to take the first two or three pitches. We understood their weaknesses and we tried to exploit them. But when you can’t get ahead of them in the count they can sit back and wait all day. LSU is a very good SEC hitting team. Obviously, they were very patient at the plate because I allowed them to be. Coleman went out there and threw strikes but when you don’t throw strikes it’s easier for them to hit.”