Tigers Sweep Sooners; LSU Is Going Back To Omaha

USA TODAY Sports

LSU faced a tough final obstacle on it's road back to Omaha. Oklahoma presented possibly the best starting pitching duo in the country, both of whom had been drafted in the first 2 rounds the night before the Super Regional had even started. The Tigers had a few draft picks of their own, however, and they shined brightest on their final night in Alex Box Stadium.

Friday was the masterful pitching matchup we had anticipated all week. Aaron Nola went toe to toe with 3rd overall pick Jonathan Gray and proved he was the better arm, pitching possibly his best performance of the year with a 2 hit, 6 strikeout, complete game shutout. Gray was no slouch, fanning 9 Tigers over 7 1/3 IP. It wasn't until JaCoby Jones sent a liner into the right center gap and sped through for a triple that Gray began to lose his stuff. Tyler Moore scored Jones easily on a double to right and Gray was pulled for Garza. Mark Laird followed up with a ground ball into right that scored a pinch running Foster before OU could get out of the inning. The 2 runs were all that LSU needed to secure the first win of the Super Regional.

Saturday appeared to be an even more evenly matched pitcher's duel, featuring two prospects who were both drafted within minutes of each other in the 2nd round in Ryan Eades and OU's Dillon Overton. As has happened often in his career, Eades struggled a little bit out of the gate. OU struck in the bottom of the first with a lead off single, sac bunt, single sequence that plated the Sooner's first run of the Super. With OU's leading hitter Oberste up, Eades was able to induce an around the horn double play to get out of the inning.

LSU's offense responded immediately and began to steadily attack Overton and the Sooner defense. The Tiger's scored 1 run each of the next 3 innings using a combination of singles, sac bunts, and 3 OU errors. LSU wasn't hitting particularly hard of of Overton, they were just able to hit where his defense wasn't. Meanwhile, Eades was able to settle into a rhythm, facing the minimum in the 3rd and 4th.

And then the tarp came out. I've heard many complaints about this, but I agree with the move. There was lighting in the area, and the radar at the time appeared to show a massive amount of water on the way. Fortunately, the rain threat never came. After less than an hour, the game was back under way. In the 5th inning, OU decided to stick with Overton who had his first scoreless inning since the 1st, while LSU went with Will LaMarche, who had already been warming before the delay. LaMarche would go just 1 2/3 IP, but would get credit for the win, only his 3rd of the year, thanks to the LSU offense continuing to chip away at Overton, chasing him after another run in the 6th. LaMarche was pulled with 2 on, 2 outs as Rumbelow came in to put out the fire and pitch a quite 7th that was punctuated with a stellar leaping catch at the outfield wall by Rhymes that saved an extra-base hit .

It was about this time, with the score 4-0 LSU, that the crowd began to sense victory was at hand. While OU began between inning warmups before the top of the 8th, a loud cheer came from the 3B line as Chris Cotton jogged down to the bullpen. With 2 outs and no one on, and possibly sensing that it might be his last at bat in Alex Box, JaCoby Jones blasted a souvenir into the left field bleachers. Jones would eventually end up 4 for 4 on the night with that homer and a very smart base running move for a double earlier in the night being the highlights. Cotton came in for the 8th to a standing ovation and sent OU up and down.

The 9th inning became the stuff of legend as OU, already using their presumed Sunday starter Fisher as a reliever, finally ran out of arms. The Tigers batted around, scoring 6 runs on 5 hits as Coach Mainieri took the opportunity to make multiple curtain calls for his seniors. Up 11-1, Cotton's easy up and down 9th sealed the victory, sending LSU to it's 16th College World Series.

It was a momentous weekend, with records being broken left and right as LSU appears to be on a collision course to become the greatest Tiger team ever. At 57-9, LSU has tied it's record for victories in a season, set by the 1997 team. Chris Cotton remains tied for the season saves record. Alex Bregman has set a new record for hits in a season by a Freshman at 104, beating 2000's Mike Fontenot. The most impressive stat, however, is one I was made aware of by viewing the replay on Sunday. Since 1986, every incoming class at LSU has been to the CWS at least once.

That final task is all that remains. Two weeks in Omaha for the National Championship.

Game 2 Results

Score by Innings                    R  H  E
-------------------------------------------
LSU................. 011 101 016 - 11 16  1
Oklahoma............ 100 000 000 -  1  5  4
-------------------------------------------


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