LSU (49-17) defeated Florida State (45-22) 5-4 in dramatic come from behind fashion to open up the College World Series, LSU’s first opening round round in Omaha since 2009.
It wasn’t pretty, in fact it was ugly for the most part. Alex Lange couldn’t get the leadoff batter out more often than not, and the Seminoles took advantage of the mistakes by LSU’s ace.
“I thought that our team didn't really play that great, at least not up to our potential,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “And yet somehow we still found a way to win, which is really encouraging for us.”
“This is personally my sixth trip to Omaha, fifth with LSU. This is only the second time we've won the first game of the tournament. And I can't tell you what a relief it is to just win the first ballgame.”
A five pitch walk to the leadoff batter Taylor Walls came back to bite Alex Lange when Dylan Busby hit a two run dinger to dead center field to put Florida State ahead immediately in the first inning.
LSU answered with a run in the bottom of the first when Antoine Duplantis reached on a walk and scored from first on a dropped third strike to Greg Deichmann, ruled a wild pitch.
“I'm not sure I've ever seen a runner score from first base on a strikeout,” Mainieri said. “I know you think we probably practice that play all the time, but we really don't.”
But Florida State answered back in the third inning with a leadoff double from Walls followed shortly by a single from Busby, his third RBI in as many innings.
LSU rebounded with a Beau Jordan single down the right field line. Cole Freeman grounded into a would-be inning ending double play, but he beat out the throw to first. Freeman stole second base on the first pitch to Antoine Duplantis, who scored him on a base hit up the middle to pull LSU within 3-2.
“You can tell young kids all you want how to do it,” Mainieri said of his veterans stepping up and delivering results when it counted the most. “But there's nothing better as a teaching tool than to have older players that step up and get the job done.”
Another leadoff walk to Walls came back to bite Lange in the fifth inning when two singles from Lueck and Nieporte put a fourth run on the board for FSU. LSU answered with a solo home run from Michael Papierski in the bottom half of the inning but that was all for the Tigers as they pulled within a run again, down 4-3.
Lange’s night ended after six innings of work where he allowed four runs, all earned on seven hits and walking four while striking out eight Seminoles. In his place came Jared Poche’, who quelled the Seminoles attack for nearly the rest of the game.
In the bottom of eighth, LSU stormed from behind. It started with an Cole Freeman single through the right side and Duplantis followed it with one of his own, but a fielder error and throwing error allowed Freeman to score all the way from first base and put Duplantis at third. Deichmann scored Duplantis with a third straight pitch through the right side to give LSU their first lead of the game.
“I thought right off the bat when I hit it to right field, I thought Cole could have gone first to third right from the get-go,” Duplantis said, blissfully unaware of the happenings of the play. But I guess he decided he couldn't have made it. So luckily he bobbled the ball and made it to third. That was kind of a weird play. I just kept looking up, things kept happening and I just kept running. So I don't really know.”
“I think that just goes back to the type of athletes we have on this team. We just keep putting pressure on defenses because we can run a little bit. Yeah, that definitely was a weird play. I don't think I've ever been a part of something like that before.”
With the eighth inning explosion, LSU chased Tyler Holton after went 7.1 and allowed five runs, three earned on eight hits while walking two and generally out performing Lange.
Poche’ pitched two thirds of the ninth, and Hess came in for the final out to seal the game. Because LSU took the lead while he was in, Poche’ wound up with his 38th collegiate win, which ties LSU’s all-time career record set by Scott Schultz.
LSU draws Oregon State Monday night at 6:00 p.m on ESPN. LSU will start freshman Eric Walker. Oregon State has not announced a starter but it is likely to Bryce Fehmel.
“I think our team will played much better Monday night now they have one under their belt,” said Mainieri. “They're used to the surroundings. You know, they're not going to be uptight at all. They're going to go out there let it rip on Monday night. And I think you'll see a team play a lot better.”