BATON ROUGE -- Down by three runs with three outs remaining in the history of Alex Box Stadium, No. 2 LSU completed a comeback for the ages by plating five runs in the top of the ninth inning to square the 2008 NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional at a game apiece with a 9-7 win over UC Irvine on Sunday.
“That was one for all the ages,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “I will always remember this no matter what happens in the future. I know it seems like I say the same things over and over again but these kids don’t know how to quit. I can honestly tell you that everyone in that dugout believed we could do it and there was no quit in anybody. One guy after another just kept doing it and it was an amazing thing.”
The Tigers (47-17-1), who saw their 23-game winning streak come to an end Saturday, forced a winner-take-all game to be played at 6 p.m. Monday. LSU will serve as the home team after winning a coin flip prior to Sunday’s contest. The winner of the third game will advance to the College World Series which gets underway next Saturday and Sunday.
LSU junior left-hander Blake Martin (5-3, 4.88) will take to the mound in hopes of sealing the Tigers’ 14th appearance in Omaha and the program’s first since 2004. UC Irvine will start sophomore right-hander Bryce Stowell (8-2, 2.77).
LSU recorded its 29th come-from-behind win of the year, and the Tigers plated seven runs in the final two frames after being stymied by Anteater starter Daniel Bibona for over seven innings.
Bibona took a comfortable 7-2 lead into the top of the eighth when left fielder Jared Mitchell sparked the rally with a leadoff solo home run. First baseman Matt Clark closed the deficit to 7-4 with an RBI single.
Right-hander Louis Coleman (7-0), in relief of starter Jared Bradford, worked a scoreless seventh and eighth to hold the deficit at three runs heading into the top of the ninth inning.
Centerfielder Leon Landry worked a leadoff walk on ace closer Eric Pettis, and second baseman Ryan Schimpf doubled down the right field line. Third baseman Michael Hollander then loaded the bases with a single to deep short. Mitchell walked to drive in Landry and cut the lead to 7-5.
With the bases loaded, pinch hitter Nicholas Pontiff drove in Schmipf with a fielder's choice to third base. Trailing 7-6, designated hitter Blake Dean hit an RBI single to right field to tie the game at 7-7 as Mitchell dove in ahead of the throw.
Catcher Sean Ochinko, who entered for Micah Gibbs in the eighth inning, hit a chopper over the third baseman's head to score Pontiff for the game-winning run and give the nearly 7,000 fans in attendance another incredible moment in Alex Box Stadium history.
The Tigers weren't done. After Clark was walked intentionally, shortstop DJ LeMahieu hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Dean for the final margin.
“We’ve been talking about this the whole season that this is a 25-man roster,” Mainieri said. “Landry made a nice running catch in right field. Ochinko comes in with a big hit. These kids might be the superstars. They know that all those players are vital to this club.”
Coleman benefited from a diving catch up against the wall by Mitchell to start the ninth. The right-hander pitched around a one-out double to record the final two outs and maintain his undefeated record with three scoreless innings of relief.
“Louis Coleman, there are not enough words to describe him,” Mainieri said. “What he has done for our team over the course of this season is absolutely remarkable and that’s why I started (Jared) Bradford because I knew I would have Louis at the end.”
Pettis (4-3), who entered the game with a 1.65 ERA, suffered the heart-breaking loss after allowing five runs on five hits in an inning of work.
UC Irvine touched Bradford for seven runs on 10 hits in a six-inning start, and the Anteaters seemed to find every hole on hits in the middle frames.
UC Irvine turned a 2-1 deficit into a five-run lead with six runs in the fourth inning. Designated hitter Brock Bardeen homered, and catcher Aaron Lowenstein provided a two-run single. Ollie Linton and Ben Orloff each provided RBI singles.
LSU scored its first two runs on an RBI single from LeMahieu in the second and a run-scoring double by Clark in the third.
LSU 9, UC Irvine 7 (Jun 08, 2008 at Baton Rouge, La.)
LSU................... 010 100 025 - 9 14 0 (47-17-1)
UC Irvine........... 001 600 000 - 7 11 0 (42-17)
Pitchers: LSU - Jared Bradford; Louis Coleman(7). UC Irvine - Bibona, Daniel; Calahan, Tom(8);
Pettis, Eric(8); Bergman, Christian(9).
Win-Louis Coleman(7-0) Loss-Pettis, Eric(4-3) T-3:11 A-8029
HR LSU - Jared Mitchell (6).
HR UCI - Bardeen, Brock (6).
Weather: 94 degrees and mostly sunny
Actual attendance: 6,971
Calahan faced 1 batter in the 8th.
LSU vs. UC Irvine
NCAA Baton Rouge Regional-Game 2
June 8, 2008
LSU HEAD COACH PAUL MAINERI
“That was one for all the ages. I will always remember this no matter what happens in the future. I know it seems like I say the same things over and over again but these kids don’t know how to quit. I can honestly tell you that everyone in that dugout believed we could do it and there was no quit in anybody. One guy after another just kept doing it and it was an amazing thing. One big at bat after another, then Louis Coleman goes out there in the ninth inning and get’s the job done. It was just a tremendously courageous game and I know it’s a tough lost for Irvine but we were not ready to say goodbye to Alex Box.”
On the comeback...
“It was close when you think about what was at stake. When we went to the World Series against Rice we had a rally in the bottom of the ninth and I guess that one could compare. The thing about it is that Irvine is an outstanding club. They play their game as well as anyone I’ve ever seen. Every member of that roster plays their role. They do their job and they put a lot of pressure on the defense. We didn’t have a lot of composure or poise that one inning on defense. Then we got that big double play to limit the damage at six runs. At that point you don’t know if it’s going to matter. We were playing hard and we made some mistakes but this comeback is remarkable. I can’t be shocked anymore because these kids seem to do it all.”
On Louis Coleman and the pinch players...
“We’ve been talking about this the whole season that this is a 25 man roster. Landry made a nice running catch in right field. Ochinko comes in with a big hit. These kids might be the superstars. They know that all those players are vital to this club. That’s what makes it so special they way everyone contributes. Louis Coleman, there is not enough words to describe him. What he has done for our team over the course of this season is absolutely remarkable and that’s why I started Bradford because I knew I would have Louis at the end. Bradford really gutted it out and gave us two more innings. I didn’t have to bring Louis until the seventh so he had a lot of gas in him.”
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
DH Blake Dean
On making his hits count...
“I think I was getting myself in a bind again and I knew that at some point in the game I’d have to have a big at-bat come around. I came up to a big situation when we had the momentum, we had it flowing and the pitcher seemed to be a little shaken. He put a pitch over the plate that I could handle. I just hit it hard and hoped it found a hole.”
On the team mentality...
“The main thing is that no matter what anyone else thinks, every person in our dugout knows it’s never over. We are never going to quit. We are never going to stop fighting. We are never going to give up. It doesn’t matter if we have two outs, two strikes, in the bottom of the ninth and down eight runs; we still think we can do it. That is the biggest key for us. We keep believing, keep pushing and keep fighting.”
P Louis Coleman
On closing the game...
“I came in when we were down 7-2 and I just wanted to give our guys a chance to get the bats going. I stayed down in the zone to try to get some ground balls. They made great plays behind me. The sinker ball for a pitch was working really well today. It helped out a lot.”
On the team motto...
“The saying we have in the locker room is ‘Refuse to lose.’ I’ve heard it several times. We go out and everyone believes in everyone, from one to nine. Anyone that comes from the bull pen, we have faith that they are going to get it done. I think it’s a team chemistry that we have going together that helps us through.”
LF Jared Mitchell
On his home run...
“I just wanted to get on base some kind of way. We couldn’t get it all back at once. It got down to two strikes. I told myself to stay inside the baseball and try to go the other way. I hit the ball hard and it just carried it out of the ball park.”
UC IRVINE HEAD COACH MIKE GILLESPIE QUOTES
“Hats off to LSU for exploiting and taking advantage of the opportunities that they got in the last couple of innings. I thought that this was a mirror image of the game yesterday when we had opportunities, base on balls and came up with clutch base hits. That is what happened here today, and as we all know, they (LSU) can really swing it. When they got those chances, they did it.
“I’m happy because it was one more in a full string of well-pitched games by Danny (Daniel Bibona). I was really proud of the way our guys filled it up and executed. We did a lot of good things. Again, they did what a good hitting club does when they get those kinds of opportunities.”
On who will pitch tomorrow in game three ...
“Bryce Stowell will be the starter tomorrow.”
On if he felt comfortable with a five-run lead entering the eighth inning ...
“I think comfortable would be a stretch. I don’t think anybody in college baseball or even the big leagues would think it’s over when there are still six outs to get. It’s the metal bat. It’s this ballpark. It’s that (LSU’s) offense. I thought we were in good shape. I was smart enough to think that way, but we certainly had not begun to count any chickens.”
UCI Player Quotes
P DANIEL BIBONA
On his performance...
“It felt good to get out there and feed off the fans a little bit. I got tired towards the end. It was tough out there and it was a tough loss.”
C AARON LOWENSTEIN
On his defensive and offensive play...
“When I picked the guys off at first base and third base, I just saw that they were jumping out there pretty aggressively. We called a pitchout and I got lucky that [LSU LF Jared Mitchell] was out on his front foot and I picked him off. Then I saw at third base that [LSU 2B Ryan Schimpf] was really aggressive trying to read a ball in the dirt or a passed ball and I got a good pitch from [P Daniel Bibona] and I made a good throw.
“I came through today with a good hit and Coach told me he thought I was going get a slider and that we were going hit-and-run on the first pitch. Sure enough, it was a slider and the first pitch hit-and-run got it through.”
On why he thinks relief pitcher Eric Pettis had a rough outing...
“He didn’t have his stuff. He’s been unreal for us this year and he was a little out in front and leaving some pitches up and LSU punished the mistakes that he made. He fell behind in counts and they really took advantage of that.”