LSU will not go 0-2 in Paul Mainieri’s last postseason run after all.
The Tigers outlasted Central Connecticut 6-5 in a 10-inning contest Saturday afternoon, walking off the Blue Devils with a Giovanni DiGiacomo groundball with the bases loaded.
Compared to Friday’s performance, the game started off incredibly well for LSU, who jumped out to a 2-0 lead off a solo home run from Dylan Crews and an RBI single from Tre’ Morgan.
But LSU’s newfound defensive struggles reappeared in the second inning. After two leadoff hits to start the inning, DiGiacomo misread a fly ball, allowing it to drop in safely and score a run. What should have been an out turned into the go-ahead run when Blue Devil leadoff hitter Dan Covino hit a two-run double to give CCU the lead. Then, things went from bad to worse as Noah Martinez hit a two-run shot to put the Blue Devils ahead 5-2.
LSU was able to battle back and re-tie the game on another Crews solo shot and a two-run double from Bianco in the third, but soon after the hitting well dried up for both teams.
Jake Neuman and Dylan Sabia pitched very well for Central Connecticut, combining to throw 5.1 innings where they only allowed six hits, two coming in the fateful 10th inning, walking two and striking out three.
As good as they were, Garrett Edwards was just as if not more phenomenal for LSU. Edwards came on in relief for Ma’Khail Hilliard and threw 5 innings of shutout ball where he allowed just two hits and no walks while striking out four.
“LSU fans are going to love watching this kid for the next couple of years,” Mainieri said. “He just keeps growing with each passing outing. I always thought he had tremendous poise...when he has to make a big pitch I have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to do it.”
“We couldn’t have won without the job he did today,” Mainieri said. “Just a tremendous job. He got tired at the end and had to gut it out through the ninth inning. We had to take him out after nine because his stuff was starting to drop off and his arm was tired, but that was probably the longest outing he had all year.”
Edwards’ outing was followed by a terrific inning from Devin Fontenot, who worked a 1-2-3 inning and struck out two on just nine pitches. That’s important because it means he could potentially return to pitch Sunday.
LSU’s 10th inning rally started with Gavin Dugas reaching on a hit by pitch, and was followed by a single from Zach Arnold and a walk to Drew Bianco to load the bases with one out.
DiGiacomo got the greenlight on a 2-0 pitch, but could only foul it off. He did the same for the next three pitches, until he got a pitch he could drive up the middle to bring home Dugas and advance LSU to Sunday.
“I just was trying to get a hold of one and get it out of the infield,” DiGiacomo said. “I was fortunate enough to get that one pitch and stay through it enough, I’m happy that I got that opportunity.”
“I had a lot of confidence in him,” Mainieri said. “Once the ball got past the pitcher, I knew we had the game won, and it was a great feeling. The dugout erupted and I was really happy for Gio and really the whole team. Like I said, they laid it out on the line today. That’s what I asked them to do and that’s what they did. I’m really proud of the team.”
The Tigers will face off against the loser of the Gonzaga-Oregon game at 5:00 p.m. Sunday.
“We get to play another day,” Mainieri said. “Just happy here that I get to keep working.”