BATON ROUGE, La. -- An inside-the-park grand slam by first baseman Greg Deichmann was enough for starting pitcher Alex Lange, as the sophomore right-hander led the LSU baseball team to the NCAA Regional final, 4-2, over Rice late Sunday in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
In a rain-plagued weekend of play, LSU (44-18) moved on to face the winner of Monday's loser's bracket game between Rice and Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m. CT. The Owls and Lions square off at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.
If LSU wins the 7 p.m. game Monday night, the Tigers are the Baton Rouge Regional champions. If LSU does not win Monday night, another game would be played on Tuesday to determine regional champion.
Freshman right-hander Caleb Gilbert will start Monday night’s game on the mound for the Tigers.
All games of the Baton Rouge Regional are available on ESPN3.com.
In the bottom of the first inning Sunday night, Deichmann hit what looked to be a bases-clearing double down the right field line. However, when the ball went under the bullpen bench, Rice right fielder Charlie Warren attempted to retrieve the ball unsuccessfully. When he came to his feet without the ball and tried to call for time, Deichmann had rounded third and scored.
After a brief meeting about the ground rules, the umpires ruled the play an inside-the-park grand slam that gave LSU a 4-0 lead.
From Alex Box Stadium Ground Rules:
If the ball goes under the bullpen bench and remains under the bench, the ball is dead… un-less the defensive player goes in to retrieve it. A ball that goes under the bench and comes out remains live.
“Deichmann came through with a big two-out base hit,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “He smoked it down the line, and we were fortunate because their guy went for the ball. It’s clearly stated in the ground rules that the ball becomes live.”
Regardless of the ruling some deemed controversial, a single by Chris Reid two batters later likely would have given the Tigers the same advantage.
Meanwhile, Lange improved to 4-0 in NCAA postseason play with another brilliant outing. He pitched into the ninth inning - despite a 56-minute rain delay in the top of the sixth - allowing only two runs on five hits with a pair of walks and 10 strikeouts.
“We were a little frustrated because we couldn’t increase our lead,” Mainieri said, “ but when you have Alex Lange on the mound, you still have a good chance to win. I’ve run out of superlatives to say about him. He’s just an amazing competitor. Obviously, he has talent, but there’s something that makes him different from other pitchers, and that is his competitive zeal. He just has an ability to rise up and make a big pitch when he needs it in clutch situations.”
LSU closer Hunter Newman entered after a leadoff single in the ninth inning and recorded his seventh save of the season.
Rice starter Jon Duplantier (7-7), the 2016 Conference USA Pitcher of the Year, was charged with the loss as he allowed four runs on two hits in five innings with six walks and five strikeouts.
“I thought our guys did a great job against a tremendous pitcher,” Mainieri said. “We were very selective at the plate, and we made him work hard.”