LSU is going back to Omaha.
The Tigers (48-17) punched their ticked with Sunday night’s/Monday morning’s 14-4 defeat of Mississippi State (40-27) to win game two of the Baton Rouge Super Regional and take the series from the rival Bulldogs.
LSU immediately put two runs up right off the bat, jump-started by a Kramer Robertson single up the middle and a Cole Freeman walk, chased by back to back RBI singles from Antoine Duplantis and Greg Deichmann. Just four batters into the game, Mississippi State head coach Andy Cannizaro pulled Jacob Billingsley after LSU opened the game with two runs on three hits and a walk. He had thrown just 13 pitches.
LSU tacked another run in the second when Michael Papierski lead off the inning with his 38th walk of the year, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Jake Slaughter, and then to third on a single from Robertson to center field before scoring on a Trey Jolly balk to put LSU ahead 3-0. And again, the MSU pitcher didn’t see the end of it as Jolly was pulled after just 1.2 innings where he allowed one run, earned, off of one one hit and a walk while striking out three.
And then disaster struck for LSU.
After cruising though two innings effortlessly, Poche’ walked Josh Lovelady to start the Mississippi State third inning, and that walk would loom large when designated hitter Harrison Bragg slammed a no-doubter just right of the left field foul pole for a 2 run homer.
And then, Poche’ really couldn’t find the zone. He walked three straight batters to load the bases with one out and was then pulled after just 2.1 innings of work with the runners on base credited to him. Caleb Gilbert was called on to try and work out of the jam and he did, just not before giving up two groundballs right up the middle to tie the game and give the Bulldogs the 4-3 lead. Poche’ ended up charged with four runs, all earned, on four walks with four strikeouts.
Needless to say, it’s not how he envisioned ending his career at Alex Box Stadium.
And then, LSU exploded in the top half of the fifth inning.
Greg Deichmann, Josh Smith, and Beau Jordan all walked to load the bases with one out. Michael Papierski then doubled down the left field line to push LSU ahead and Denver McQuary out of the game.
Cole Gordon came on in relief, and then things went from bad to worse for the Bulldogs. Jake Slaughter caught just enough of a pitch for a bloop single into left field to score another, setting up Kramer for a two RBI double down the left field line. Kramer then stole second to make LSU’s lead grand-slam proof at 9-4.
There was a 29-minute rain delay in the bottom of the sixth inning after the Tarp Crew graced us with probably their best dance ever:
Once the field was dry and the clock struck midnight, the game went into overdrive, becoming very fast-paced and economical. Caleb Gilbert retired 16 of 17 straight batters down the stretch before giving way to Hunter Newman to close out the game. Gilbert threw 5.2 innings of scoreless baseball, walking one and striking out six. By all accounts, LSU ended up blowing out Mississippi State, but Gilbert held the rope and kept the Bulldogs pinned to the mat while LSU sealed away their flight plans to Omaha.
In the top of the 9th inning, LSU delivered the deathblow to Mississippi State with five runs in the half inning. Zach Watson and Josh Smith opened up the inning with back to back walks and then the bases were loaded when Papierski wore a pitch. In his last at-bat in Alex Box Stadium, Kramer Robertson...was pegged. It may not have been a perfect ending, but it was an effective one, and Kramer’s career has been far from perfect so in a way, it was fitting.
To make up for it, in his last at-bat, Cole Freeman doubled down the left field line to score two runs.
“When I saw it go past the baseman and I hit second baseman, I was just incredibly thankful,” Freeman said, light up beads adorned on him during the victory lap still flashing. “I was just looking out at the crowd and seeing that it’s in the bag, and we’re going to Omaha.”
“It was the best feeling in the world.”
Antoine Duplantis shut the door with a single to right field to plate Robertson and Freeman, putting LSU ahead 14-4, but not before the rains came down one last time and put Alex Box Stadium into a delay.
“It didn’t matter if we were still waiting until five in the morning,” Deichmann said. “We wouldn’t have cared. We knew we were going to Omaha in the bottom of our hearts.”
Cole Freeman, Kramer Robertson, Greg Deichmann, and Michael Papierski all took the field for a curtain call and the three seniors walked off of Alex Box Stadium for the last time as players, all locked in arms. It was a touching moment at 1:25 AM that screams everything right with baseball. All LSU had to do was get three more outs, and then one of the reasons that they returned to LSU for their final season would be fulfilled.
“For all of us to come back with one goal in mind and to accomplish that and do it in front of the greatest fans in college baseball,” Deichmann said before trailing off.
The only words exchanged during that slow march off the field?
“We did it.”
And then as always, Hunter Newman came in for the ninth inning and recorded a nearly perfect inning to seal LSU’s destiny, ending with a pop fly to second base.
“Well, I just have one thing to say,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said after the game. “Omaha get ready, because here come the Tigers.”
LSU celebrates their return to Omaha. pic.twitter.com/oJlVSTl5Tq— Adam Henderson (@AdamATVS) June 12, 2017