LSU showed the value of getting the #1 seed and winning the first two games of the regional today, as LSU still had one of its aces available, and he pitched a heck of a game. Meanwhile, Minnesota used up the last of its good pitchers to beat Baylor earlier in the day. Tiger batters teed off of Minnesota starter Allen Bechstein, who entered the game sporting an ERA near 9.0, and scored 7 runs in 4 innings. The way Louis Coleman was pitching, we knew that was all we needed.
Coleman went 7.2 innings, allowing only one solo home run, and left to a standing ovation. Nolan Cain came in to get a little work and struck out the only batter he faced. Daniel Bradshaw finished out the game, and gave up a single to one of the best hitters in the country, Derek McCallum, and then a two-run home run to Nick O'Shea. It was too little, too late.
Offensively, the Tigers had a quiet first inning as Jared Mitchell hit a single, but then was caught stealing. Schimpf and Dean then grounded out. We really started doing our damage in the second inning, when the Tigers plated 4 runs by stringing together hits by Gibbs, Ochinko, Lemahieu, and Helenihi. Then Jared Mitchell walked and Ryan Schimpf broke his slump with a double that scored Helenihi, but again Mitchell was thrown out on the bases, this time at home. It would not be the last out that the Tigers would make on the bases, and this one ended the inning.
It would have been nice to have Mitchell at 3rd and Schimpf at 2nd, because Dean laced a home run to the opposite field to lead off the next inning. The Tigers manufactured another couple runs with a single by Gibbs, a hit-by-pitch, a single by Ochinko, and a sac fly from Lemahieu.
Bechstein only made it through one more inning before Minnesota went to the pen to bring in a right-handed submarine pitcher in Tim Ryan. Ryan was effective through 3 innings, especially against righties, but LSU got to him in the 6th when lefties Mitchell, Dean, and Gibbs put together a string of hits to plate two more runs. Schimpf would add a solo home run in the 8th to finish off the Tiger scoring.
Meanwhile, Coleman cruised against the Minnesota hitters. He got out of a 2-on 1-out jam in the first with a pair of strikeouts, and then did not allow another baserunner until the 5th inning. Coleman got another strikeout followed by a groundout to end a Minnesota threat that had gotten a runner to 3rd with one out. Why the Golden Gophers bunted a runner from second to third when down 7 runs will forever elude me.
Minnesota should have threatened in the 6th when they led off the inning with a single and got a base hit from Derek McCallum that was ruled a fly out. Jared Mitchell dove for the sharply hit liner, but it scooted out of his glove and then Mitchell rolled over the ball and grabbed it when it was behind him. The umpire completely missed what happened and only saw that Mitchell had the ball in his hand when he got up, and called McCallum out. The runner on first was doubled off because he had run upon seeing the ball drop. Instead of runners on first and second and no outs, Minnesota had the bases empty and two outs and the inning ended quietly.
Louis Coleman is a joy to watch when he is on his game, and he is usually on his game. He has great command of his pitches and good velocity on his fast ball. He can get people out in a variety of ways, but always seems to come up with the strikeout when he needs to keep a runner from advancing. Last night, he went 7 2/3 with 8 strikeouts and gave up only 5 hits. If we had needed him to go further, he would have gone further, but it was time to get the bullpen a little work, as neither Cain nor Bradshaw had pitched in the regional to that point.
Personally, I would have taken him out earlier, but that's just me.
So we advance to the Super Regional, which we will host. We don't know yet who we will be playing, as Rice and K-State have to play a second game today. We'll have thoughts on the Super Regional another day, and I will continue to complain about us making outs on the bases, but for now let us just celebrate another win.