BATON ROUGE -- Three weeks after dedicating the field at Alex Box Stadium to legendary former coach Skip Bertman - who made Omaha an annual early-summer vacation for many Tiger fans - head coach Paul Mainieri and the LSU baseball team punched a 16th ticket to the College World Series by dominating Oklahoma, 11-1, on Saturday.
In the process, LSU (57-9) tied the school record for victories in a season and won its sixth NCAA Super Regional title in 10 appearances.
All six have come at Alex Box Stadium, which found room for a record 11,401 fans to watch the Tigers dogpile at the new stadium for the first time since its inaugural season season in 2009.
Using a core of upperclass leaders mixed with key newcomers, Mainieri earned his third trip to Omaha in his seven seasons at LSU. In 2009, he led the Tigers to the school's sixth National Championship after defeating Texas in the championship series.
"This room reeks of tradition and winning," Mainieri said from the Team Room where postgame press conferences were held at The Box. "The coaches before me have done amazing things and I get to be the custodian of it now. This team is special and I knew it before the year began. We added a few key pieces to the puzzle this year and we are fortunate that Mason and Raph came back. The team has just jelled and so much of the credit goes to Alex Bregman."
This year, Mainieri's Tigers will take on UCLA on June 16, taking the field at the new TD Ameritrade Park Omaha for the first time. The 24,000 seat stadium opened in April of 2012 and will play host to its second CWS. Game time will be either 2 p.m. CT or 7 p.m. on ESPN or ESPN2.
"You are always happy to go to Omaha and people don’t quite understand how hard it is to get there," Mainieri said. "It’s really quite an accomplishment to earn your way there any year but especially this year. Not just because of what happened last year but for guys like Mason Katz, Chris Cotton and Alex Edward. It just meant so much to all of our players to get those guys there.
"We are going there to win and I believe we can. We have a great group of guys that are very talented and are on a mission. We’ve got what it takes and we will show up Saturday against whomever we play."
A day after Aaron Nola tossed a two-hit shutout that gave LSU a lead in the best-of-three series, four Tigers combined to hold Oklahoma to one run on five hits.
Will LaMarche (3-0), who took over after a 52-minute lightning delay that forced starter Ryan Eades from the game, earned the victory. Eades gave up a run on three hits, but battled out of jams in the first and second innings and left the game with a 3-1 lead through four innings. LaMarche, Nick Rumbelow and Cotton held the Sooners scoreless for the remaining five frames, as LSU outscored Oklahoma in the series sweep, 13-1.
Junior second baseman JaCoby Jones powered the Tigers through the Super Regional, In his final five at bats in the series -- starting with Friday's eighth-inning triple off Jonathan Gray that ended up as the game-winning run -- Jones hit for the cycle.
Saturday, the third-round draft pick finished perhaps his final game at The Box with a 4-for-4 performance including a orginary hit to center that he legged into a double and a solo home run in the eighth. Jones scored three times and had two RBI.
Oklahoma left-hander Dillon Overton (9-3), who along with Eades was a second-round draft pick on Thursday, took the loss. He returned to the mound after the lightning delay to start the fifth inning but was lifted in the sixth after Ty Ross' safety squeeze scored Raph Rhymes and gave LSU a 4-1 lead.
In the first inning, the Sooners grabbed an early 1-0 lead on an RBI single to right off the bat of centerfielder Max White.
The Tigers quickly responded in the top of the second with a leadoff single from Rhymes. He later came home on an RBI single to centerfield from Jones, tying the score at 1-1.
With one out in the third, outfielder Mark Laird connected for a line drive that got past Oklahoma right fielder Hunter Hayley and into the corner, allowing Laird to reach third. He later scored on an RBI single off the bat of shortstop Alex Bregman, putting LSU ahead 2-1.
In the fourth, Jones hit a laser to center, and then showcased his base-running abilities by reaching second base on the play. With two outs in the inning, outfielder Jared Foster sent Jones home with an RBI single, extending the LSU lead to 3-1.
LSU tacked on another run in the sixth on a perfect squeeze bunt by Ross, scoring Rhymes from third base. In the next inning, Jones connected for fourth hit of the night and his sixth homer of the season into the bleachers in left field.
Jones’ long ball gave Cotton a 5-1 advantage heading to the bottom of the eighth. He retired the side with a spectacular leaping grab from Rhymes along the wall in left field.
The Tigers kept swinging into the ninth with an RBI double from Rhymes down the third base line. Later in the ninth Ross added two more runs with a two-RBI line drive to center, giving LSU an 8-1 cushion. Three more insurance runs came in the final frame on a wild pitch and RBI hits from Stevenson and Edward.
Cotton then took the mound in the ninth, giving the Tigers a trip to Omaha with an 11-1 victory with a 1-2-3 inning of work.
LSU baseball season ticket holders may apply for College World Series tickets online at http://www.lsutix.net/, in person or by calling (225) 578-2184 by 5 p.m. CT on Monday.
Postgame 2 Notes – NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional – LSU 11, Oklahoma 1
Attendance: For the second straight night an actual Alex Box Stadium Skip Bertman Field attendance mark was set – 11,401. The paid Saturday night was 12,153.
Attendance for the Super Regional – the two game “paid” total was 24,160. The “actual” was 22,496. In 2012, the actual for the first two games was 18,668 and 29,288 for the three games.
LSU’s win upped their overall NCAA Tournament record to 132-49, the school’s Super Regional record to 14-10 (13-4 at home).
Alex Bregman’s single in the top of the 9th was the 104th hit of his freshman season, and stands as the top single-season total for a freshman in LSU history, Mike Fontenot had 103 hits during the 2000 season was the previous best. He’s tied with Brad Hawpe (2000) for sixth place in the single-season hit list, and is six hits from tying all-time leader Brandon Larson (110 in the 1997 season).
For the second consecutive year, a Super Regional game in Baton Rouge was delayed by rain. Saturday’s rain delay was slightly more than 50 minutes and resumed at the top of the fifth inning with LSU leading 3-1.
At 57-9, LSU heads into the College World Series for the 15th time with the best overall record in school history.
The 57 wins ties the 1997 team for most single-season wins. Skip Bertman’s 1997 CWS champions (13-6 over Alabama) finished the season 57-13.
When Ryan Eades yielded an earned run to Oklahoma in the first inning, it was the first earned run LSU pitching gave up since the Jackson State game to open the Baton Rouge Regional on May 31. LSU went through wins over Sam Houston State, UL-Lafayette and the two Super Regional wins over Oklahoma yielding only that one earned run (seven total runs).
LSU pitching has surrendered only 10 hits in the last three games (27 innings), the win over ULL and the two Super Regional wins; has given up only one home run in the last 10 games (a home run to Jackson State).
In the five NCAA Tournament games, LSU pitching has allowed 29 hits, 14 runs, 8 earned runs, walked 15 and struckout 35 in 45 innings.
Oklahoma Baseball Game Notes
Head Coach Sunny Golloway has coached OU to a 24-19 record in the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
The game marked the 11th meeting with LSU. The Tigers lead the all-time series, 8-3, since meeting for the first time in 1962.
Oklahoma is 79-69 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Max White tied Keith Drumright (1973-76) for most all-time games played with 239.
Craig Aikin has reached with a lead-off single in three of five NCAA Tournament games.
In the first inning, White singled home the game’s first run with his 21st hit in 21 career NCAA games.
The Sooners are 19-5 when scoring in the first inning and 28-5 when scoring first.
OU committed three or more errors for the ninth time this season and the first in 16 games (May 5 at West Virginia).
Dillon Overton threw 5.2 innings, matching his longest outing in his last four starts, since throwing six against New Orleans (April 20).
In the ninth inning, Adam Choplick made his first appearance since a start against Dallas Baptist (May 14).
White and fellow senior Jack Mayfield end their careers tied with the OU class of 2012 with 176 career wins.
In their last two Super Regional appearances, the Sooners have been knocked out by the 2010 CWS Champion and 2012 CWS Runner-Up (both South Carolina).
The Sooners have been outscored 23-2 in their last four Super Regional games.
LSU Head Coach Paul Maineri
“It’s been a long 365 days. The last time we were up here it was a pretty sad day for us. This doesn’t erase the hurt that we felt after the game for players like Austin Nola and Tyler Hanover. This does take away some of that bitter taste that we had. You are always happy to go to Omaha and people don’t quite understand how hard it is to get there. It’s really quite an accomplishment to earn your way there any year but especially this year. Not just because of what happened last year but for guys like Mason Katz, Chris Cotton and Alex Edward. It just meant so much to all of our players to get those guys there. Also, for the other guys who have given equal heart and soul to this program. These guys don’t even know what to expect. Omaha is such an amazing place. We are going there to win and I believe we can. We have a great group of guys that are very talented and are on a mission. We’ve got what it takes and we will show up Saturday against whomever we play.”
On the importance of defense…
“It’s something we take an awful lot of pride in. We have a great defensive player at every position and I thought our defense this whole weekend was suffocating for Oklahoma’s offense. Raph (Rhymes) made the tremendous catch against the wall and (Christian) Ibarra made a great play at third. We are used to seeing these plays and they aren’t accidental. They are talented kids and work extremely hard for it.”
On the pitching this year…
“All the credit in the world goes to Alan Dunn. He has been unbelievable and the way he works with our guys is amazing. He knows what each guy’s strengths are and what their limitations are. He’s done an amazing job with all those guys and everyone contributes. They’ve all found their role and we’ve been able to pitch effectively in our staff. We only gave up one run and seven hits over the weekend with this at stake. When you pitch and catch the ball you have a chance to win every day.”
On the intangibles…
“This room reeks of tradition and winning. The coaches before me have done amazing things and I get to be the custodian of it now. This team is special and I knew it before the year began. We added a few key pieces to the puzzle this year and we are fortunate that Mason and Raph came back. The team has just jelled and so much of the credit goes to Alex Bregman. He’s gotten a lot of accolades and deservedly so but his demeanor and personality has added so much character to this team. This team has just meshed so well and when you invest so much time together you don’t give up easily. It’s been such a great group to coach and going to the field every day is so enjoyable.”
LSU Player Quotes
JUNIOR 2B JaCOBY JONES
On having a big series at the plate …
“I mean my swing is the same. I just feel really comfortable in the box. I was just trying to do whatever I could to get on base for the team, use my legs and find some holes. I was just trying to do whatever I could to hit the ball hard and get on base. I got four hits tonight and it feels good.”
SENIOR LF RAPH RHYMES
On his big play in the seventh inning and what it means being a senior and going to Omaha …
“I think the ball actually found my glove. I don’t know if I really caught that. I just kind of jumped and the ball landed in there. I knew I needed to make a play for my team. I read it the whole way. Like I said, I think it just kind of fell in my glove. It was a big play. I’m glad I could be there for my team. As far as us being seniors and getting a chance to go to Omaha, this is why we came back. This is why you stick around. The goal when you step foot on campus is to get to Omaha. So, we got a chance and we took advantage of that tonight.”
SENIOR 1B MASON KATZ
On what it means to go to Omaha as a senior …
“Being surrounded by this group of guys, this team, it makes it easy. This is why we came back; Raph (Rhymes) said it. Being surrounded by freshmen who come in here everyday and say, ‘We want to get the seniors to Omaha.’ That makes it so much easier. You don’t have to convince guys about what the goal is around here. Everybody kept preaching how we were the only senior class, if we didn’t go to Omaha this year, that wouldn’t go in a four-year span. The freshman and the new guys just took that and ran with it. They did everything, and anything, all year long to get us to this point and in a position to go win a national championship.”
Oklahoma Head Coach Sunny Golloway
“First of all , we’d like to congratulate LSU and Coach [Paul] Mainieri. Outstanding Super Regional and wish them nothing but the best of luck in Omaha. I know it’s been since 2009 that Coach [Paul] Mainieri and the LSU Tigers have been there. Of course, we had the fortune of playing there last year in Rosenblatt. So they’ll be making their first trip to [TD Ameritrade Park] and hopefully we can get the Sooners to Ameritrade Ballpark and get to play in the new ballpark soon. It just wasn’t meant to be this year. I think that, for me, it was a good, hard-fought ballgame. We made a few mistakes early and they capitalized – that’s what good teams do. I thought we had a chance to get to their starter early on. We had a chance; we just needed a key hit here or there, but that’s baseball. I think they will compete very well. I really believe that the winner of this Super Regional will have a tremendous chance – I’m biased, of course – of winning the whole thing.”
On scoring only one run this weekend in the Super Regional…
“It’s pretty simple. [Aaron] Nola yesterday was just the same as Jonathan Gray – it was tough for them to score, it was tough for us to score. I know they got the second run yesterday but that run really didn’t matter the way the ballgame turned out anyways. I don’t think so much about yesterday; we just tip our cap to yesterday. Today, we score early and we felt like we were going to be able to score and we were able to get men in scoring position at second and third [base] early. Their bullpen was getting extremely hot in the second and third inning so we were a hit away from getting into their bullpen and that’s baseball and [LSU’s Ryan Eades] would get the outs when he needed to. Once he got those outs and they started tacking the single runs up, I think that made it easier for [Ryan] Eades to settle in and he pitched much better with the lead. So we had our opportunities and clearly the final score doesn’t dictate the competitiveness of the game, but they’re still very worthy champions.”
OKLAHOMA PLAYER QUOTES
P Dillon Overton
On his outing and Oklahoma’s season as a whole…
“It’s always tough to come out and throw in front of a crowd like this. On top of it, raining, having to stop for a while, you have to get cold and get hot again – it’s tough. I was just trying to give it all for my team and do my best for them. I have never had so much fun on a baseball team in my entire life as with these guys. It’s a blast coming to the yard everyday with them and I’m going to miss it. I wish the guys that are going to be on the team next year the best of luck. They are going to be great for this program. It’s fun to come into a program like this and win ball games the way we do.”
On having LSU on the ropes in the first few innings…
“Here at The Box, this atmosphere is unbelievable. Right when you think you have the momentum, we throw one ball and the crowd goes crazy. They take a really good swing and they miss, the crowd goes crazy. That’s easy for a ballplayer, especially in the game of baseball, to act on. We just couldn’t get over that hump. We’re a young ball club, but we have to keep getting better.”
OF Max White
On his career at Oklahoma…
“It’s emotional. Especially with this group of guys to end it on. I think I’m second all-time in this program in games played. It means the world. It’s been an honor to play for Coach [Golloway]. We’ve been to three super regionals in four years. This career has been fun. These guys have done amazing things for me. It’s been a great year.”
On LSU’s pitching staff limiting them to one run in two games…
“We have seen some good pitching. [Aaron Nola] is a pitcher. He really stayed down in the zone and that’s hard for a hitter to adjust to. He mixed it well- in and out. Early, we were going to get on [Ryan] Eades. It’s tough to get over that hump and keep the momentum on our side. We have to tip our caps, but at the same time we had our opportunities.”