Record Crowd Lifts Baseball Into Regional Final
Game 3: UL-Lafayette def. Jackson St., 15-1
Game 4: LSU def. Sam Houston St., 8-5
BATON ROUGE -- In front of a record crowd of 10,752 at Alex Box Stadium, the LSU baseball team fought back from a 5-1 deficit to advance to the regional final, 8-5, over Sam Houston State on Saturday night.
LSU (54-9) committed three of its five errors in the bottom of the first inning that forced starter Aaron Nola to throw 42 pitches in the frame and led to five unearned runs.
This came on the heels of an Alex Bregman home run that was ruled a double, taking away a 2-0 advantage in the top half of the inning.
However, Nola (11-0) recovered and threw another masterful performance for the overflow crowd. The Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year allowed six hits with six strikeouts and three walks in seven innings. SEC Tournament MVP Chris Cotton gave up a hit and a walk in the final two innings but kept the Bearkats scoreless to earn his school record-tying 16th save of the season.
The Tigers battled to within 5-4 after three innings but couldn't muster a run against Jason Simms, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Caleb Smith. In the top of the eighth, LSU touched bullpen ace Alan Scott (2-1) - who entered with a 0.60 ERA in 30 innings - for four runs that provided the final margin.
LSU will face the winner of the losers bracket final between Louisiana-Lafayette and Sam Houston State (2 p.m. CT)
First pitch of the regional final is set for 7 p.m. CT on www.ESPN3.com (no over-the-air television). Pregame on the LSU Sports Radio Network is available free on www.LSUsports.net/live starting at 6:30 p.m.
In the top of the first inning, LSU third baseman Christian Ibarra gave the the Tigers an early 1-0 lead on a bases-loaded walk that scored Bregman.
Sam Houston State then took advantage of the LSU errors in the bottom of the frame to post five unearned runs. Tigers centerfielder Andrew Stevenson ended the Bearkats rally in the first with a spectacular diving grab in centerfield.
LSU cut the Sam Houston State lead to 5-3 in the second inning with a fielder’s choice by Jared Foster and an RBI single from Bregman, who finished the night 3-for-6.
The Tigers pulled within a run in the third inning on a groundout by designated hitter Sean McMullen that scored JaCoby Jones. Simms entered to strikeout Foster and kept the Tigers off the scoreboard before leaving with one out in the seventh inning.
With one out in the eighth, Bregman connected on his third hit of the night with a line-drive single to center that sent the capacity crowd to its feet. Bregman moved to second on a walk of Katz, then tied the game at 5-5 when Bearkats shortstop Carter Burgess wasn't able to field a chopper on the infield by Rhymes.
The comeback complete, LSU continued to feed off the crowd and the Bearkats reliable pitching staff withered. Ibarra was hit by pitch to load the bases and send Scott to the showers. Sam Houston State reliever Michael Burchett's first pitch deflected away from the catcher and Katz scored to put the Tigers back on top, 6-5. Two more runs came home on a RBI single to left by catcher Ty Ross (2-for-4) and Alex Edward's bases loaded walk.
Cotton took the mound in the eighth, retiring three of four hitters faced. He then returned to the hill in the ninth, shutting the door while allowing one hit in two innings of work while striking out three. In the lefty's past 13 outings (14 2/3 innings pitched), he's allowed only three hits and two runs (one earned) with a walk and 14 strikeouts.
LSU Head Coach Paul Maineri
“This was one of the craziest games we’ve had. I told the players at the end of the game that it was one of the most gratifying and enjoyable wins I’ve had since I’ve been here. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong in the first inning. We had extremely uncharacteristic defensive plays in the first inning. Aaron (Nola) was giving everything he had but balls were finding holes. Everything that could go wrong did. Aaron threw 42 balls in the first inning and stayed under control. I grouped the team together after the first inning and told them to start this game all over. I knew we’d come back and win this game because I know Aaron Nola. He will keep us in the game. We will get after this guy and chip into their lead. It took the whole game to do it, but I had no doubt about these kids. It turned out to be a phenomenal win. We’ve played a lot better before but as far as the gratification of being down and coming back with so much at stake it is so satisfying. There were so many key moments over the course of the game. (Andrew) Stevenson made a great catch in centerfield to save a run, and you forget about those. Later in the game so many critical things happened beginning with (Alex) Bregman starting the rally. It started with Aaron Nola coming back after the first inning and getting six scoreless innings to keep us in the game.”
On the hit and run call…
“I just felt like we needed to try something. That was a courageous move by their coach (David Pierce) to pitch (Jason Simms) who is their closer (in the third inning). He did a great job, and he threw across his body. It gave our right-handed hitters a hard time. I almost pinch hit for Jared Foster. When Sean McMullen strained his hamstring, we lost the flexibility to do anything. I just felt if we get the runners started, Raph (Rhymes) might find a hole. The base runners did a great job too.”
On having the pitchers carry the load…
“I expected Aaron to carry the load for us, but the first inning was not good. I told him he had to regroup, but I couldn’t imagine him going for more than five innings. He ended up with 111 pitches. It was the Aaron Nola we know and love. He was going to go back in the eighth inning, but we got the rally inning. Once we got the lead, I felt like we have the best closer in college baseball (Chris Cotton). It was time to give the ball to him. Chris closed it down and gave us the most important win of the regional.
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
On recording his 16th save on the season, tying Matty Ott’s school record…
“It’s an honor to be holding a record here at LSU. It’s the most prestigious baseball school in the world and it’s just truly an honor. I was just able to go out there and get ahead. My defense backed me up and the hitters put me in a situation for a save and we did a great job bouncing back after the first inning and I was just put in the right position and I was able to get it done.”
SS Alex Bregman
On his hitting performance tonight…
“I was just fortunate enough to put some good swings on balls and our guys got on base. I was seeing it well today and I was trying to use the right side of the field because I needed to get back to doing that. I just got some pitches I could hit today and I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on it.”
On his base hit in the eighth inning…
“I was just trying to get something started and get some energy going. After I got on base, Mason [Katz], Raph [Rhymes] and Christian [Ibarra] all did great jobs. It was kind of like déjà vu when I was on the hit and run because I saw Coach [Will] Davis waving me again and once I scored that run, it was like déjà vu. I was just really happy and it was a great team win.”
On his performance in the first inning…
“That was the longest first inning that I’ve ever experienced. My biggest thing through the whole game was to give the team a chance to win and that’s what I did and I threw up six zeros and I knew I was going to get the run support behind me.”
Sam Houston State Head Coach David Pierce
“I just thought it was a very competitive game and LSU is a great team. I really think Coach Paul Mainieri would think they played sloppy early. I think it was a combination of poor defense and us squaring up some balls. Aaron Nola really battled through that; he never lost his composure. Aaron Nola just did a nice job and really hung in there after our big first inning. It was tough for Caleb [Smith] tonight, he got behind in some counts and we were thinking there that Jason [Simms] is probably one of our best strike throwers. We had to come to Simms a little earlier than we really wanted to but I thought it was the right thing to do. Our guys played hard, I was very proud of the way they competed. I just wish we could have made a few plays there in the end but we will be ready to go in the morning.”
On Nola’s pitching…
“I think early on he really pounds the strike zone, we did a pretty good job off some breaking balls that he is very good with. I thought Ryan O’Hearn had a tremendous at bat and did a great job of fighting off some breaking balls. I just thought we fought hard. Nola, he is just really something, just kept coming at us with great velocity. He really seemed to be throwing more curve ball – fastball versus change up. Nola was really good.”
On tomorrow’s game…
“Early on there were a lot of things that just took a lot of energy out of us. I thought we still played hard; it just took a lot out of us early. But we are going to get some rest and be ready to go. “
Sam Houston State Player Quotes
INF KEVIN MILLER
On his double and driving in the first runs of the game…
“Coach told us before going into the game he (Aaron Nola) was a big strike thrower. He hit the zone nearly every pitch. Our plan was to see balls in the zone and drive them. That is pretty much what we did. We squared balls up and they made most of the plays. You have to give them credit.”
On taking advantage of LSU’s errors during the game…
“We know LSU is one of the best teams in the nation, if not the best in the nation. Any chance we got to go up on them we had to take advantage of them. They made a couple mistakes and we came back and hit them in the mouth and took advantage of it. We knew that they weren’t going to lay down and they were going to fight back. I told the rest of the team to play for the name on the front of your jersey and play with heart.
P JASON SIMMS
On relieving the pitcher in the fourth inning…
“The plan was to go in the game and pull up the zone a little bit. We had a pretty tight zone. We wanted to fill up the zone and let the defense work. We made some good plays on some ground balls. We made some good plays on them. Overall we just wanted to let the defense work and make some plays.”
LSU vs. SAM HOUSTON STATE POSTGAME NOTES
LSU’s 8-5 victory means LSU is 129-49 in overall NCAA Tournament play; 82-19 in regionals; 72-14 in Baton Rouge regionals
Sam Houston State is 8-15 in NCAA Tournament games. The loss was only the second of the season for the Bearkats when leading after 7 innings (32-2 record). Sam Houston was ahead 5-4 after seven innings.
The 5 errors committed by LSU is the most in a game during the last two seasons.
Sam Houston catcher Anthony Azar extended his on-base streak to 14 games after he reached first on LSU’s second of three first-inning errors.
LSU reliever Chris Cotton tied the school’s single-season record for saves (16) with Matty Ott (2009). Cotton was the SEC Tournament’s MVP after retiring 17 straight batters in four tournament games.
After coming in to start the 8th in relief of LSU starter Aaron Nola (11-0), Cotton struck out Spence Rahm to start the inning, then walked Ryan Farney. It was the first baserunner for the opposition since Cotton gave up a single May 11 at Texas A&M, and the Texas League double he gave up in the ninth to Kevin Miller was the first hit Cotton gave up since that Texas A&M game.
In Cotton’s last 13 appearances, he has pitched 14.2 innings, allowed 3 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned run, 1 walk and 14 strikeouts.
Sam Houston State reliever Adam Scott came on in relief for their second straight night. He picked up the win in the Bearkats’ 4-2 win Friday night over UL-Lafayette. He worked 1 inning against LSU. It was the fourth time this season that Scott has worked in back-to-back games (April 6-7, McNeese State; April 20-21, Oral Roberts; May 3-4, Nicholls State)
Sam Houston will be the home team for the 2 p.m elimination game against UL-Lafayette.
Attendance:, Paid, Actual
Game 1, 11,577, 9,316
Game 2, 10,886, 3,851
Game 3, 10,632, 1,909
Game 4, 12,085, 10,752
TOTAL, 45,180, 25,828
The Game 4 “Paid” is the largest for a NCAA post-season figure for a Baton Rouge regional game. The Game 4 “Actual” is the largest single-game attendance in Alex Box Stadium history. The 2012 regional had 6-game totals of 64,343 paid and 34,239 actual.
BATON ROUGE – Right-handed ace pitcher Austin Robichaux tossed eight innings of one-run ball and the No. 2 seeded Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajun bats came alive in a 15-1 elimination game victory over Jackson State on Saturday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
UL-Lafayette (42-19) advanced to face the loser of Saturday night’s LSU-Sam Houston State contest at 2 p.m. Sunday on ESPN3.com. Jackson State, who made its first NCAA regional appearance since 2000, concluded its season with a 34-22 record.
Leadoff hitter Dex Kjerstad set the tone, going 3-for-6 with three runs scored. Tyler Girouard, Chase Compton and Ryan Leonards each collected three hits.
Robichaux (9-2) scattered nine hits and allowed one run while walking one and striking out eight.
The Ragin’ Cajuns erased a 1-0 deficit in the top of the fifth with four runs and followed with four more runs in the top of the eighth and a six-run ninth. After being held to four hits in an opening round loss to Sam Houston State, UL-Lafayette pounded out 19 hits.
Blake Trahan tied the game with a hard infield single that bounced off the first baseman and into foul territory. Girouard then deposited a double into the left field gap, plating two runs. Compton’s RBI infield single capped the four-run fifth inning.
The Cajuns broke it open in the eighth culminating with Jace Conrad’s bases loaded triple to the right field gap.
JSU starter Desmond Russell (3-1) was charged with the loss, allowing nine runs on 12 hits in 7.2 innings of work.
Louisiana-Lafayette Head Coach Tony Robichaux
On today’s game…
“I thought Austin (Robichaux) set a very good tempo for us. Normally good pitchers give you a chance to settle in and give you time. He allowed us to give our hitters time. (Desmond Russell) was working really fast. He was tricking our rhythm and our timing. Austin could have let the game get away there. He had to pitch in some traffic two or three times.
On the team’s pitching plans…
“We will see what our matchup is after tonight’s game and then from there we will move forward. We have some guys that have had some limited starts. The one thing that we have been a little thin on all year is pitching. Guys are just going to have to step for us. We will start to lean on the bullpen heavily. We have (Cody) Boutte coming out in the next game. The bullpen will have to really help us out to get through this thing.”
On the team’s outlook on the rest of the tournament…
“The biggest message is just survive and advance. When you put your back on the wall like you did you just have to survive and advance. I don’t think you can look too far down the road. We just have to work to survive. I think we have enough hitting to get through this. We had enough to do this today without (Dylan) Butler and without (Seth) Harrison. There are almost 20 home runs between those two guys and they were benched because they are hurt. We are just going to have to survive and advance. Boutte has to get us off to a good start no matter who we play. Our hitters have to just work to try to do what they did today and just keep grinding this thing out. There are a lot of people heading back home now, and we’re not. We knew we were coming into one of the toughest regionals so we are going to have to be tough if we are going to get through this.”
Louisiana-Lafayette Player Quotes
P Austin Robichaux
On his performance…
“I just went in trying to give my team the best chance of winning and moving on in the tournament. It was hot out there but I just had to grind through it.”
On his defense…
“Our defense pulled through today in tight situations. There were a couple of innings where they rallied which kind of shook me up. I was able to get the ball on the ground and in my infield’s hands.”
3B Tyler Girouard
On the big inning…
“Before the big inning we had a meeting with all of the players. It helps when you get the guys together because it motivates us even more.”
On coming back after last night…
“Our coaches kind of joked last night about being here but showing up too late. We did a poor job last night of playing our game. We had runners in position but we could never bring them in. Today I think we did a great job of getting on top of the baseball and putting ourselves in position to get the big hit and get the job done.”
On having success in the last two innings…
“It gives us a lot of confidence. The last two innings today is what we have done all year. We had guys come off the bench with big hits which gave everyone even more confidence for the games to come.”
Jackson State Head Coach Omar Johnson
“That team came out loud, they must have had ten hits in the last two innings; ten clean hits. So you cannot take anything away from them, they are the best hitting team in the country stat-wise. They came out and performed like that today. We should have taken advantage of some situations that we didn’t. We did not get a couple bunts down and we did not get some situational hitting we when had some opportunities to. So, take your hat off to those guys, those guys swung the bats well today.”
On future seasons…
"Obviously, the more experience you have the better you are at things. So, getting to this point means a lot. It is a real special opportunity for some of our guys, especially some of the seniors that have been around here. We have had some really good teams in the past. Getting to this stage it makes you want to work a little harder and get back and have more success.”
JACKSON STATE PLAYER QUOTES
P Desmond Russell
On his outing…
“I came on pretty strong today, but we just made a few mistakes out there in the field. Next year, we need to worry about not making so many mistakes.”
On wearing down as the game progressed …
“Throwing a few extra pitches after we made some errors made me start to wear down a little bit. After the eighth inning hit, I was pretty tired.”
OF/P Aneko Knowles
On having a good year and a good tournament…
“I think I had a pretty good year. It was tough - the last two or three innings. We will have to think about it this offseason. That will leave a salty taste in my mouth.”
NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL – GAME 3 POSTGAME NOTES
With the loss, Louisiana-Lafayette is now 42-19 and will play the loser of Saturday night’s Sam Houston State-LSU game at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Jackson State, the winners of the SWAC Tournament to get the automatic bid for the league, finished the season at 34-22 for the season.
The lead at 1-0 for Jackson State marked the first time Jackson State has had a lead at the end of an inning in an NCAA Regional Tournament game.
Jackson State is 0-9 in NCAA Tournament games.
Dex Kjerstad’s leadoff single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 15 games which is the new team-high streak. Kjerstad entered the day tied with Tyler Girouard and Ryan Leonards for team-long streak honors at 14 games.
Dex Kjerstad’s 15-game hit streak is the longest by a Cajun since Chad Keefer produced a 22-game hit streak during the 2010 season. Kjerstad’s streak began May 3 vs. Arkansas State.
Dex Kjerstad picked up his 32nd multiple-hit game and 18th with at least three base hits with his 3-for-6 performance. Kjerstad has posted multiple hits in nine of the Cajuns last 10 contests.
Dex Kjerstad increased his season hits total to 99 moving him within two of the school single-season record 101 hits recorded by Nathan Nelson in 2000. Kjerstad’s hit total ranks him second on the single-season chart and leaves him one shy of joining Nelson as the only Cajuns with 100 hits in a season.
Tyler Girouard’s two-run double in the fifth inning increased his RBI total to 40. It his first season with 40 RBI and gives the Cajuns six hitters with at least 40 RBI (Caleb Adams, Seth Harrison, Dex Kjerstad, Michael Strentz, Dylan Butler, Tyler Girouard).
Tyler Girouard collected his 19th multiple-hit game and fourth game with at least three hits. His 3-for-4 performance marked his first three-hit game since April 10 vs. Northwestern State.
Ryan Leonards’ RBI single in the ninth inning provided him with his 30th RBI of the season. Leonards reaching 30 RBI gives Louisiana 10 hitters with at least 30 RBI.
Austin Robichaux pitched at least seven complete innings for the ninth time in 16 starts. He picked up his team-leading eighth quality start and earned his team-high ninth victory (9-2, 3.05 ERA).
Today’s win gives the Cajuns a 19-win improvement from last season (23 wins in 2012) surpassing the 1997 squad (25 wins in 1996 to 43 in 1997) for the largest turnaround in the Tony Robichaux era.
Louisiana-Lafayette turned three double plays, including a nifty 2-5-3 on a Jackson State sacrifice bunt attempt in the sixth inning, to increase the season total double plays turned to 64. The Cajuns are two off the school record 66 double plays turned in 2009.
The Cajuns 19 hits marked the 38th time in 61 contests that the squad reached double digits in hits. Louisiana improved to 34-4 when reaching double digit hits.
Louisiana-Lafayette out-hit Jackson State 19-9 and with the win improved to an impressive 36-1 when out-hitting the opposition.
The 14-run margin of victory marked the Cajuns largest margin of victory in the NCAA Baseball Championship surpassing the 11-run margin in a 19-8 win over Houston in the 1999 NCAA Houston Regional championship game.
With Seth Harrison and Dylan Butler out due to injury, the Cajuns made adjustments in their lineup. Usual starting catcher Michael Strentz started in left field, Ryan Leonards shifted from left field to center field and Nick Thurman started at catcher for Strentz.
Freshman Nick Thurman made the 10th start of his rookie campaign. He caught a full game for the first time since April 21 vs. Florida Altlantic.
Austin Robichaux became the second son of Cajuns head coach Tony Robichaux to participate in an NCAA Regional contest. Robichaux’s eldest son, Justin, took part in Cajuns regional round games in 2007 and 2010. Austin is the first of Robichaux’s sons to get a start on the mound in the NCAA’s postseason event.
Louisiana-Lafayette and Jackson State met on the baseball diamond for the first time since the two programs played a doubleheader on April 8, 1985 at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
With the 15-1 win over Jackson State in the first elimination contest of the 2013 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, the Cajuns all-time NCAA Championship record moved to 21-26 which includes a 16-21 mark in the regional round.