HOOVER, Ala. - LSU starter Austin Ross threw a magnificent eight innings and the eighth-seeded Tigers pounded 15 hits to beat fifth-seeded Vanderbilt, 7-5, in the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday night at Regions Park.
Ross (5-4) tied his career-high in innings pitched with eight and allowed four runs on only four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. The junior right-hander had retired 14-straight batters between the second and ninth innings, and his two walks came in the first frame of the game.
"I thought Austin Ross was phenomenal," LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. "It's so much fun to coach when you get great starting pitching like that because it allows the offense to be very aggressive. We've had good starting pitching these past two nights so we'll see if we can have a good third performance on Saturday."
On Saturday at 9:30 a.m., the Tigers (38-20) will face the winner of the Ole Miss-Auburn game, which takes place at 3 p.m. Friday. Vanderbilt (41-16) will face Florida in an elimination game Friday.
For the second consecutive game in the tournament, the LSU offense exploded with double-digit hits. Center fielder Leon Landry and first baseman Blake Dean led the Tigers with three hits and an RBI apiece. Catcher Micah Gibbs also had a pair of hits, including a solo homer in the third that broke a 3-3 tie.
The Tigers wasted no time jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Mikie Mahtook singled to lead off the game and later scored on an RBI single by Blake Dean. After Dean reached second on a hit-and-run, Austin Nola drove Dean in with a double to left field to make the score 2-0. The next batter, Leon Landry, singled to right scoring Nola and increasing LSU's lead to 3-0.
Vanderbilt tied the game at 3-3 in the second when Connor Harrell singled home Joe Loftus, and was followed by a two-run homer by left fielder Mike Yastrzemski. The homer was the second of the season for Yastrzemski.
In the third, Micah Gibbs launched a solo homer with two outs to regain the Tigers' lead at 4-3. The homer was Gibbs' ninth of the season.
"I was proud of our guys for responding after Vanderbilt tied the game in the second inning," Mainieri said. "There was no head-hanging in the dugout. We remained focused and responded, and that shows signs of a mature team."
The Tigers increased their lead to 5-3 in the fifth when Tyler Hanover doubled and scored from third on a wild pitch from Vanderbilt starter Taylor Hill (5-5). Hill was charged with the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings.
Right-hander Matty Ott entered the game for Ross in the ninth and allowed back-to-back RBI hits before striking out Yastrzemski to secure the 7-5 victory for LSU.
SEC Baseball Tournament Game Notes
Game 8 - LSU 7, Vanderbilt 5
May 27, 2010, 8:00 p.m.
Regions Park, Hoover, Ala.
-- For the third straight year the eighth seed has won the first two games of the tournament. In both of the last two years that team has gone on to be the runner up (Ole Miss, Vanderbilt).
-- LSU pitcher Austin Ross set a season best and tied his career high with 8.0 innings pitched. At one point Ross retired thirteen consecutive hitters.
-- Vanderbilt freshman Mike Yastrzemski hit his second career home run the bottom of the seventh inning. Mike is the grandson of Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski.
-- LSU is the winningest team in SEC Tournament History, compiling a 61-35 record. They also have the most Tournament titles with eight, and now have won six of the seven games they have played against Vanderbilt. The only Vanderbilt victory came in the first round last year.
-- Leon Landry and Blake Dean both had three hits for the Tigers who totaled 15 as a team. LSU has had 15 or more hits in 12 games so far this season.
-- The first six players in the LSU batting order combined to go 13-27 (.481) with four extra-base hits and all five of the Tigers' RBIs.
SEC Baseball Tournament Game Quotes
Game 8 - #8 LSU 7, #5 Vanderbilt 5
May 27, 2010, 8:00 p.m.
Regions Park; Hoover, Ala.
LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri:
"You can't give up on kids that have done good for you all year, you have to keep believing that one day they are going to figure it all out. You might as well believe in the kids that have proven that they are committed already. I don't know who we are going to start next. The first and second starts were a mystery; so will be the third and fourth. All I know is that it is a good thing that we have a day off to rest. We are just going to see how it plays out now. Two days in a row we have swung the bats well and I am really happy 'bout that.
LSU P Austin Ross:
"Early on I was kind of struggling and fighting through about three innings. After we got the lead back, started adding on and got a three run cushion, I was able to settle in, make adjustments and get in a groove all the way through.
Vanderbilt Head Coach Tim Corbin
"He's (Austin Ross) a good pitcher. Basically threw a no-hitter until Westlake and Yastrzemski came up. What he did really well was throw it at our ankles. He really kept the ball down. He's pitched against us three times: last year in Hoover, this year in Baton Rouge, and tonight. He's a great pitcher."
On changing lineup:
"We shifted a few guys and changed things up tonight. We had a few balls drop, but really, it's all about how well LSU played tonight. They're hot right now and you can see it. They're seeing the ball pretty well and they have momentum right now."
Vanderbilt RF Joe Loftus
On LSU's Austin Ross:
"You have to give him some credit. He made pitch after pitch. He kept us on our toes. He threw strike after strike. We weren't given a lot of pitches to hit and you can't win a game if you can't hit a pitch."
On losing offensive streak:
"I'm not too worried about it because LSU is kind of on a roll right now. None of us are going to be too worried about it. We know what we can do as a team and we're going to give our all tomorrow against Florida."
Vanderbilt CF Bryan Johns
On 9th inning rally:
"That's kind of in our nature. We have had a lot of comeback wins throughout the season and we just fell a little short tonight."
On LSU's Austin Ross:
"He did a good job, attacked the zone, and threw a lot of strikes. He kept the ball down which was tough for us to get a bat on it."