It was the match the whole country wanted to see, but not as it was originally planned. Both LSU and Vandy were dealt losses early on in the tournament and were forced to fight their way out of the losers bracket without the benefit of a day off, playing every day from Wednesday to Sunday. As such, the long awaited matchup between aces Aaron Nola and Tyler Beede would have to wait for another day. Both teams entered Sunday's contest with depleted bullpens and in LSU's case missing key injured starters JaCoby Jones and Mark Laird. It looked to be an offensive slugfest, with both teams attempting to beat the other's remaining pitching staff into submission.
LSU struck early in the 2nd, feeding off of Vandy's defensive miscues. LSU had 2 runners on when Jared Foster hit a liner into right. Foster had run past the bag at 1st before realizing that the runners in front of him had only advanced 1 base and stopped. Foster appeared to be caught when Vandy 2B Tony Kemp picked up the ball and sent a sharp toss to 1B. Unfortunately for Vandy, no one was covering 1B and the throw went to the fence, scoring Christian Ibarra and moving Foster to 2B. LSU followed that with a RBIs from Stevenson and McMullen before Vandy was able to close out the inning.
The Dores struck back immediately, tagging Brent Bonvillain for 2 runs off of 4 hits in the bottom of the 2nd. Bonvillain would settle down for 2 more innings before being pulled for a series of arms who had varying levels of success against the Dores lineup. Nate Fury pitched the 5th and appeared to be headed for disaster. The Dores had loaded the bases off 2 hits and a walk with their stellar SS Vince Conde at the plate. Conde blasted a screaming liner to deep center, but Andrew Stevenson bolted for it to catch what might have been a bases clearing double at the center field track and end the inning. McCune had a relatively calm outing in the 6th with 2Ks and a heads up catch on a liner right to the mound. Rumbelow pitched the 7th and also ran into a bases loaded jam with Conde at the plate. Unfortunately, Conde got a ground ball past the infield into right for a single, scoring 2. Rumbelow followed that up by walking the next batter to reload the bases. Vandy catcher Spencer Navin then hit what appeared to be a sac fly to right, but thanks to a tremendous throw by Foster, Ty Ross was able to catch Vandy DH Zander Wiel at the plate.
At that point, the game entered it's stalemate. LSU and Vandy were both able to get a handfull of baserunners on but couldn't get them home. Bourgeois held his own in the 8th, but when he gave up a one out single with the game tied in the 9th, Coach Mainieri called on Chris Cotton to shut down the Dores. Cotton began mowing down Vandy batters, en route to retiring all 17 batters he faced this week, a performance that would earn him the SEC Tournament MVP award. LSU would continue to struggle at the plate against Vandy's sidearm closer Brian Miller and the ump's wavering strike zone. Multiple times in the same at bat in the 10th, Mason Katz appeared to have gotten a 4th ball, only to have the ump make a late call for a strike. In the Top of the 11th Foster had gotten on after getting hit. Mainieri took a chance and pulled Stevenson at the plate for Chris Sciambra. After Foster stole 2nd, Scimbra hit a hard ground ball into center to score the winning run. Cotton forced Vandy into ground outs in the bottom of the frame and the dogpile ensued.
The story of the game is without a doubt the much maligned outfield proving it's worth. Stevenson and Foster have more than enough ability as defenders to justify their sometimes lackluster plate performances and this game was their highlight reel. Today was also their chance for redemption at the plate as they and Sciambra, who's spent all season trying to get back to where he was before that serious neck injury he suffered last season, accounted for 3 RBIs and the game winner. LSU gritted out a tough, nasty win against the #1 team in the country on the backs of a depleted bullpen and 2 missing starters. Just imagine what this team will look like when the regular starters get back in the game.
LSU has been confirmed as a hosting site for Regionals next week. The NCAA will announce the seeding and teams for the Regional tomorrow at 11am on ESPNU
Score by Innings R H E ---------------------------------------------- LSU................. 030 100 000 01 - 5 10 0 Vanderbilt.......... 020 000 200 00 - 4 11 1 ----------------------------------------------
2013 SEC BASEBALL TOURNAMENT ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
P - Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt
P - Chris Cotton, LSU
P - Daniel Mengden, Texas A&M
P - Ryan Stanek, Arkansas
1B - Conrad Gregor, Vanderbilt
2B - Tony Kemp, Vanderbilt
3B - Christian Ibarra, LSU
SS - Adam Frazier, Mississippi State
OF - Connor Harrell, Vanderbilt
OF - Jared Foster, LSU
OF - Hunter Renfroe, Mississippi State
OF - Tyler Spoon, Arkansas
OF - Matt Vinson, Arkansas
DH - Sean McMullen, LSU
DH - Zander Wiel, Vanderbilt
MVP - Chris Cotton, LSU