BATON ROUGE -- Houston scored seven runs in the bottom of the third inning to break a 2-2 tie and end the LSU baseball team's season in the NCAA Regional final, 12-2, on Monday night at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
LSU (46-16-1) led 2-0 in the after the first frame, but Houston (48-16) scored 12 unanswered runs to advance to the NCAA Super Regional against Texas next weekend.
Cougars reliver Jared Robinson (5-1) entered to squelch a rally in the third and stymied the Tigers for the better part of the next six innings. He faced 15-straight Tigers without allowing hit until the eighth inning. Robinson threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Monday, allowing only four hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. He also threw 6 2/3 innings on Friday in an opening-round win over Southeastern Louisiana.
In the top of the first, LSU came out swinging against Houston starter Andrew Lantrip. With one out, both Alex Bregman and Jake Fraley singled through the left side and advanced on a double steal. McMullen's single through the right side scored both runners and gave LSU a 2-0 lead.
Houston answered immediately against LSU freshman starter Alden Cartwright, who was unable to get an out. Cartwright gave up a hit batter and two walks before being taken out. Righthander Parker Bugg (2-2), another freshman, entered and allowed a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded that cut LSU's advantage to 2-1. A sacrifice bunt by Caleb Barker tied the game at 2-2, and Bugg overcame an error with a strikeout to end the inning.
The Tigers put two runners on base by virtue of walks in the top of the third to chase Lantrip, but Robinson entered and struck out Cade Scivicque to end the threat.
In the deciding home half of the third, 10 Cougars reached base consecutively with only a fielder's choice to the Tigers' credit. Seven-straight crossed the plate against two LSU pitchers, as Bugg allowed a walk, a single and a hit batter to load the bases. After stopping a grounder up the middle with his foot and throwing out Casey Grayson at home for the first out, Bugg hit Landon Appling on the next pitch to drive in Frankie Ratcliff from third and give Houston a 3-2 lead.
Bugg was lifted in favor of Brady Domangue, who saw his first action since May 4. The junior righthander allowed a two-RBI double to Connor Hollis before giving up an RBI single to Ashford Fulmer. A stole base and an intentional walk loaded the bases once again, and two-RBI single by Michael Pyeatt put Houston ahead 8-2. After a single by Grayson, Domangue was lifted for Nate Fury, who allowed a sacrifice fly by Ratcliff before striking out Barker to mercifully end the inning. The Tigers trailed 9-2.
Meanwhile, Robinson retired 13 of 15 Tigers and didn't allow a hit until Bregman led off the eighth inning with a single to left field. The junior pitcher was able to work around a single by McMullen - and another credited to pinch hitter Chris Chinea on a ground ball that hit Bregman between second and third - to get Tyler Moore out quietly and end the inning.
Houston added its final runs in the bottom of the eighth, as Grayson walk and Ratcliff singled to chase reliever Hunter Devall. Kurt McCune then gave up a one-out walk to load the bases before Grayson scored on a passed ball. Appling's single to left scored Ratcliff, and a sacrifice fly by Fulmer drove in Vidales to put Houston ahead 12-2.
P Aaron Nola, LSU
P Jared Robinson, Houston
C Caleb Barker, Houston
1B Sam Roberson, Southeastern Louisiana
2B Jacob Williams, Southeastern Louisiana
SS Alex Bregman, LSU
3B John Mullen, Bryant
OF Kyle Survance, Houston
OF Andrew Godbolt, Southeastern Louisiana
OF Carl Anderson, Bryant
DH Sean McMullen, LSU
Most Outstanding Player: Kyle Survance, Houston
LSU Head Coach Paul Maineri
“I’d like to congratulate the University of Houston for playing great baseball here. They deserve the championship, and I wish them well. They are a really scrappy team, and they have an excellent pitching staff. The season coming to an end is the worst day of the year. When you enter the NCAA tournament, you know the season is either going to end with a loss or holding the trophy in Omaha. Winning the championship is our standard at LSU and it’s what we shoot for. When we come up short of that goal, it’s always disappointing. The thing that makes it most disappointing is having to say goodbye to guys like Nate Fury, Sean McMullen, Christian Ibarra and Kurt McCune. Also, you look at guys like Aaron Nola and Joe Broussard who will probably be going into professional baseball. When those kids leave, part of you leaves with them because you’re invested in their lives. It has been an honor and privilege to coach all of these guys. It’s so hard to say goodbye to some wonderful young men who have given so much to this school and this baseball program. This game today was not indicative of our season. We won 46 ball games, the SEC Tournament Championship and we were a national seed. We were 2-0 in this tournament and seemingly in the drivers seat yesterday. Unfortunately we just didn’t get it done when we needed to. When I think of the 2014 season, I’m not going to think about this game. I’m going to think about all the great things that these guys accomplished throughout the season. They gave us everything they had from April 1 to now. They’ve done remarkable things and played great ball. They left it all on the field, and I’m so proud of them. I thought we were ready to play today. Unfortunately we just got ourselves into a hole early in the first inning. We limited the damage, but the third inning was a nightmare. Seven of the men that we walked or hit scored runs. You can’t win baseball games against good teams when you do stuff like that. It was a tough one to take, and I feel bad for all of our loyal fans that came out this whole weekend. I can assure you our guys did their very best. We’ll have to move forward now.
On the pitching…
“I wasn’t set on taking out Alden (Cartwright) early. The ball came out of his hand great to start. He then hit the guy on the next pitch. After that he seemed out of rhythm and he couldn’t make an adjustment. I didn’t think he would come back from that. I thought Parker (Bugg) came in and did such a great job. He gave up the two runs, but he limited the damage. It was still a ball game at this point. In the third inning we just unraveled with walks and hitting guys. Brady (Domangue) came in and was throwing balls over the plate, but they were just hitting them. Going into the game, (pitching coach) Alan Dunn and I talked about just hanging in there. It didn’t work out as we planned. It was as poorly of a pitched game we had all year.”
SS Alex Bregman
On the game and the season…
“I think we came out hot in the first inning. We scored two runs right off the bat. We just did not really do anything after that. Houston did a good job. I do not think this game was a reflection of our season at all. We know that we are a much better team than that.”
On the emotions after tonight’s loss…
“We show up in the fall each season and we know that our goal is to be holding up a trophy at the end of the year. Our goal is to win a national championship and obviously we were not able to do that. It is a disappointing feeling. I think we were a better team than what we showed today, but we left everything on the field. I am so proud of our team.”
DH Sean McMullen
On his first at bat…
“I felt like we had some good momentum. We had some runners on base and we did a good job of stealing. I just wanted to be able to hit Alex Bregman in with a ground ball, luckily it got through.”
On his experience at LSU…
“To see Skip Bertman walk in this room right now, I am speechless. This is a program that I have dreamed to play for my whole life and it is now at an end. I am just really blessed to be a part of this family, this fraternity of LSU baseball. There is really not much more I can say to explain my time here.”
RHP Nate Fury
On his outing…
“I came in and was just trying to keep us in the game. Houston was up pretty big at that point. I knew if we were going to come back I was going to have to put up zeroes. I did not want to come out of the game. I was tired but I wanted to pitch all night. I wanted to stay out on the mound.”
On his time here at LSU…
“I came to LSU not even knowing if I was going to be on the team. I have had two great years. I made a lot of new friends and a lot of great memories. It is just a shame that it has ended.”
Houston Head Coach Todd Whitting
“First of all, I’d like to thank the folks at LSU. I’ve been fortunate enough to play in a few of these, and this is the best regional that I’ve been in. The hospitality was off the chart for me, my players, my staff and our fans so I really appreciate the effort from the folks at LSU. Wow – we came out of the gates, obviously got down two runs and it’s kind of how we are. We just come right back and answer them and then put up the big seven-run inning. Never really gave in – never really gave LSU a chance to get back in the thing. Jared Robinson, what do you say about that? That’s one of the best pitching performances that I’ve ever been a part of. I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some great pitchers. Up and down the lineup I don’t know where you even start with those guys. The whole regional it was different guys on a given night. Kyle Survance has a tough – I think it was the first day it all runs together – but a really tough first day, comes back, he’s MVP of the regional. We tried from day one at fall practice that the game is nine innings, the season’s long; you just keep grinding away and see what happens. You just try to go 1-0 every single day. This team to the nth degree has really done that. I’m really fortunate also – I have a tremendous coaching staff. These guys – I’ve said it all year long – I think I have the best coaches in the county. These guys are tireless recruiters, tireless workers and I truly appreciate everything they do for the University of Houston.”
On his pitching depth…
“Well we have tremendous depth in our bullpen, and that’s one thing that’s been a key for us the entire season. I felt like earlier in the season our starting pitching was carrying through most of our games and then have one or two innings in the back end with our relievers. As the season’s gone on, the middle relief, and there’s some of them that we didn’t throw this weekend that I’d have felt perfectly fine with them getting out there. But the Jared Robinson’s, the Tyler Ford’s, the Chase Wellbrock’s, Bubba Maxwell – I’m forgetting some – so on and so forth that have just been lights out for us in the last month.”
On the previous 5-4 win carrying over into tonight’s game…
“Momentum is a huge thing. To be able to steal momentum in this ballpark, which I think is the toughest place to play in college baseball, especially you’re facing an LSU team that was the hottest team in baseball – you know coming off of an SEC Championship. This place is rocking and rolling. To grab that momentum last night and be able to play it through to today, you just got to tip your hat to our club. I talk to them all the time about – will is an amazing thing. The will to win can make you do phenomenal things, and that’s what happened this weekend.”
On bringing Jared Robinson in after throwing earlier this weekend…
“Yeah – I mean at this time of year where it’s all hands on deck. ‘T-Ford’ [Tyler Ford] (and) Willbrock were ready to roll. Jared (Robinson) has the hot hand right now. You just do what you can to win the games.”
On if he thinks Houston will host Super Regional…
“I do. I don’t think there’s any question in my mind we’re going to host a Super Regional. I don’t know – our RPI has got to be around two or three. We came to a national-seed regional and won against an unbelievable team. I guess you can say we’re the 17th team when it came to hosting. I don’t know what else we can do to get to play at home next weekend. But you know what? We’ve been on the road four straight – is it four-straight weeks? Four-straight weekends in a row we’ve been on the road, going back to conference play, the conference tournament and now here. So if we have to go on the road to Texas, we’re ready for it. I don’t even know what my house looks like.”
RHP JARED ROBINSON
On coming in in the second inning..
“Coming into the game was fun. I was trying to take it one pitch at a time and let the defense work. They did exactly what they are out there for. Our offense did outstanding tonight. You can’t help to be happy about a seven-run inning.”
On his pitching against LSU…
“You go out and take it one pitch at a time. You read the hitters the best you can. For LSU, every one of those guys can swing the bat. You have to pitch backwards on occasion to shake them and keep them guessing. I tried throwing my off-speed more. Throwing it for a strike threw them off guard. I don’t think they expected it. It gets hitters off guard.”
SS FRANKIE RATCLIFF
On his hitting performance tonight…
“We take one pitch at a time at the plate. We try to get a good pitch and do what we can to help the team win. I got some good pitches to hit tonight. I was fortunate to hit them deep enough in the outfield to score some runs. We played extremely well. We did our job tonight.”
CF ASHFORD FULMER
On his hitting performance tonight…
“I have been working on my legs these past couple days, and it really paid off. Usually I’m not the guy who drives the ball to right field, but lately that has been working for me. I was seeing the ball well tonight. I was working mainly on my legs and seeing the ball.”