LOS ANGELES - Trey Watkins scorched a walk-off double in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the No. 2 seed LSU Tigers to a 11-10 victory over third-seeded UC Irvine in the opening round of the NCAA Los Angeles Regional Friday at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
After UC Irvine scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th on a suicide squeeze, the Tigers were down to their final out before Anteater reliever Eric Pettis walked Austin Nola, gave up a single to Alex Edward and walked Leon Landry to load the bases for Watkins, who pinch ran for Matt Gaudet in the 10th. With a 1-2 count, Watkins ripped a fastball over right fielder Sean Madigan's head to score Nola and Edward, giving the Tigers an 11-10 win.
With the win, the Tigers (41-20) improved to 23-1 all-time in NCAA Regional opening games. LSU will face top-seeded UCLA, the 15-1 winner of Friday's nightcap over No. 4-seed Kent State, on Saturday at 8 p.m. CT in Jackie Robinson Stadium. The Anteaters (37-20) will face Kent State at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday.
LSU will be the home team against the Bruins.
Regional games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday (if necessary) will be televised live by Cox Sports Television, and simulcast online by www.espn3.com (blackouts apply in CST markets).
LSU reliever Ben Alsup (5-0) earned the victory after pitching the final two innings and allowing one run on one hit. Tiger starter Austin Ross enjoyed another solid outing as the junior right-hander threw 6.1 innings, allowing five runs with no walk and five strikeouts. Pettis (9-4) was charged with the loss after allowing the double to Watkins.
"I'm so proud of our kids for making two comebacks with two out and nobody on in the ninth inning and again in the last inning," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "It was a great effort, and we played the way that championship teams are supposed to play when they faced adversity. UC Irvine is such a difficult team to play; they're relentless and they slap the ball all over the field. It's a credit to the determination of our players that we were able to win this game."
UC Irvine took a 2-0 lead in the second after designated hitter Drew Hillman was hit by a pitch and catcher Francis Larson followed two batters later with a two-run homer off Ross. The homer was Larson's sixth of the season.
In the third, LSU cut the deficit to 2-1 when Mikie Mahtook lifted a deep sacrifice fly to left to score Matt Gaudet from third. Gaudet reached third after a single by Katz, who moved up to second on Mahtook's sacrifice. The next batter, Gibbs singled to the left side to score Katz from second and tie the score at 2-2.
The Tigers took a 3-2 lead in the fourth when third baseman Alex Edward launched a solo homer to left off UC Irvine starter Daniel Bibona. Edward's homer was his second of the season; his first was against Mississippi State on May 20.
The Anteaters tied the score at 3-3 in the fifth when left fielder Ryan Fisher hit a solo homer to right. The homer was Fisher's fourth of the season. Ross had retired nine-straight batters before facing Fisher.
LSU broke the tie and went ahead 4-3 in the bottom of the frame when Tyler Hanover roped an RBI single through the right side to score Katz, who doubled to lead-off the inning. Mahtook, who also singled in the inning, advanced to third on Hanover's single.
The next batter, Gibbs, blasted a three-run homer to center off Bibona to give LSU a 7-3 lead with no outs in the fifth. After Bibona retired Blake Dean with a groundout, UC Irvine brought in right-hander Evan Brock to pitch.
Ross left the game after forcing one out in the seventh. Senior right-hander Paul Bertuccini came on in relief of Ross with runners at the corners and one out. The first batter he faced, third baseman Brian Hernandez, singled up the middle to plate one run and cut the deficit to 7-4. First baseman Jeff Cusick followed with a bloop single to center to score another run making the score 7-5.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers added another run when Gibbs lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Mahtook and extending the LSU lead to 8-5.
UC Irvine responded in the eighth when Larson led off the inning with a solo homer to left, his second homer of the game, to make the score 8-6. Later in the inning, Casey Stephenson beat out an infield single off reliever Zach LaSuzzo and a run scored from third to pull UC Irvine within one at 8-7. LaSuzzo forced the next hitter, Hernandez, to ground into a 5-4-3 double play to escape the Anteater rally in the eighth.
In the top of the ninth, pinch hitter Jordan Leyland ripped an RBI double to tie the score and Ryan Fisher followed with a go-ahead RBI single to give UC Irvine a 9-8 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.
After UC Irvine took a 9-8 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth, first baseman Blake Dean singled with two outs and Johnny Dishon came in to pinch run for Dean at first. The next batter, Austin Nola ripped a single to right in front of a diving Sean Madigan. The ball skipped past Madigan allowing Dishon to round third and beat Madigan's throw to the plate, tying the score 9-9 and forcing extra innings.
- LSU is making its 24th NCAA Tournament appearance and their 23rd in the last 26 seasons. The 2010 NCAA Los Angeles Regional marks the first time the Tigers will open NCAA Tournament play away from Baton Rouge since 1989 when LSU won the NCAA Central Regional at College Station, Texas.
- LSU and UC Irvine last met in the 2008 NCAA Super Regional in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers won two of three games over the Anteaters to advance to the College World Series.
- LSU starting pitcher Austin Ross started game 1 of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional in 2009 where he recorded a career-high 10 strikeouts in 6.2 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits against Southern.
- UC Irvine starting pitcher Daniel Bibona was the starting pitcher in Game 2 of the '08 Super Regional, and he limited the Tigers to three runs on nine hits in 7.1 innings with one walk and eight strikeouts. UC Irvine led the game 7-2 through seven innings, but LSU rallied for a dramatic 9-7 victory, scoring seven runs over the final two innings.
- Senior right-hander Paul Bertuccini made his 109th career appearance, making him LSU's all-time leader in appearances. He surpassed Mark LaRosa, who made 108 career appearances for the Tigers between 1988-91.
- The Tigers are now 23-1 in opening games of the NCAA Regional. LSU has not lost an opening game in a regional since 1985. The Tigers are now 77-17 in NCAA Regionals.
LSU Head Coach Pete Mainieri's opening Statement...
"Well, it was obviously a tremendous victory for us. That's probably an understatement. I don't know really how to describe it. You don't see games like that very often. Irvine played us as hard as we expected them to play us. They are just an impossible team to hold down. The way that they hit, they slap the ball all over the field. They are almost impossible to strike out. I thought we did a tremendous job against (Daniel) Bibona. I'm not sure that he has had many games like that in his career. We thought we were in pretty good shape there - we had a pretty good lead - and then we just couldn't hold them off. They just kept chipping away and chipping away. They never said die and they just got back in the game and tied it and then took the lead. But then what can you say about our kids? They just never gave up either. We had two rallies with two outs and nobody on base to tie the game and then ultimately win the game. It just reminded me a lot of our team last year where we scored a lot of two-out runs. And I think that's a sign of a championship team when you score a lot of runs with two outs. I'm just really proud of the kids."
On shortstop Austin Nola's game-tying hit...
"I'm sure if he (UCI right fielder) had it to do all over again he would've just taken the ball on one bounce. Mike Gillespie had him playing deep to prevent against the double and then the kid wants to be the hero and make the catch there. You can't blame him for feeling that. Fortunately for us he didn't quite get there, the ball got through. Fortunately we had a very fast runner on base. And you have to tip your hat to Javi Sanchez our third base coach who made a very aggressive and bold move to send the runner and fortunately it worked out for us."
On Trey Watkins who had the game-winning hit...
"I'm just so proud of that kid. First of all he had an injury earlier this year that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It had to be as painful an injury as there could possibly be. He dislocated his left elbow. And he's as tough a kid as I've ever coached. He's been swinging the bat great in batting practice. When I had the opportunity to put him in there to pinch run, I had no qualms at all about him being in that DH spot. And when he hit that ball I knew he got it good. Maybe the right fielder kind of misjudged his strength a little bit. But he hit it good."
LSU Outfielder Trey Watkins on his game-winning hit...
"When I got into the batter's box I didn't really know what to expect because I hadn't really hit in a long time. Like coach said, the guy was pretty wild from the few previous batters, so I wasn't going to go in there and swing at the first pitch. I wanted to make him throw a strike first. And then after the first few pitches I was like, wow, I need to get the bat off my shoulders. The runs aren't going to come in by themselves. I got a hint from the pitcher that he was going to throw a fastball there and fortunately I got a good swing on it and was able to hit the ball over his (the outfielder's) head."