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Ticket Punched: LSU defeats Kentucky 8-3 to advance to the College World Series

LSU will travel to Omaha for the first time since 2017 to have a shot at winning its seventh College World Series title.

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LSU celebrates advancing to the College World Series by doing the traditional dogpile.

In front of 12,000 raucous fans at Alex Box Stadium, LSU defeated Kentucky 8-3 to win the Baton Rouge Super Regional and to punch its ticket to the College World Series in Omaha.

LSU (48-15) will hope to win its seventh title when it makes its 19th appearance in Omaha, its first since 2017 when the Tigers lost in the finals to Florida. The Tigers will face the winner of the Hattiesburg Super Regional between Southern Miss and Tennessee. Kentucky, who made only its second super regional appearance in its program, will finish the season at 40-21.

“Everybody knew what was on the line today,” said LSU coach Jay Johnson, who led the Tigers to the CWS berth in his second season at the helm of the program. “But it feels so much better to accomplish it when you’ve invested everything the right way. So just staying focused, and being present, that’s what makes our team special. That’s what makes talented guys play great.

LSU’s bullpen, which was once the team’s biggest weakness over a month ago, was reliable once again this postseason.

LSU pitcher Riley Cooper (4-3) was rewarded with the win as he entered the game in the fourth inning in relief of starter Ty Floyd. Cooper shut out Kentucky for over 3.0 innings, allowing just two hits with one walk and two strikeouts.

True freshman closer Gavin Guidry came in the clutch once again, picking up his third save of the year. Guidry fired 2.2 scoreless innings from the bump with just one hit, no walks and four strikeouts.

“If I had to say we had a crutch all year — it would be the bullpen and it was good to show that that’s not our crutch,” Cooper said.

Kentucky starter Austin Strickland (4-2) was charged with the loss, as he allowed five runs on five hits in 2.2 innings with four walks and one strikeout.

Kentucky struck first when centerfielder Jackson Gray led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo blast to put Kentucky up 1-0, recording his sixth home run of the season.

However, LSU centerfielder Dylan Crews would tie the game in the top of the second inning when he forced Kentucky to make a fielder’s choice, allowing second baseman Gavin Dugas to reach home plate.

After first baseman Tre’ Morgan doubled and catcher Hayden Travinski singled, Beloso torpedoed a three-run home run to expand LSU’s lead to 4-1 in the third inning, his 14th homer of the season.

Third baseman Tommy White would also line an RBI single to make the score 5-1 at the end of the inning.

However, Kentucky would blast two solo home runs in two consecutive innings when catcher Devin Burkes in the third and right fielder Nolan McCarthy in the fourth to narrow LSU’s lead to 5-3.

Neither team scored for the next four innings until the top of the ninth when LSU plated three runs. After Dugas would score on a wild pitch to give LSU a 6-3 advantage, Crews would have a hit he and the 12,000 LSU fans in attendance at Alex Box Stadium would remember forever.

Crews sent a double to left field, allowing two runners to touch home plate to account for the final score. Knowing it would be his final at-bat at LSU, Crews let his feelings be known as he grabbed the chest of his gray jersey showing “Tigers” and placed his hands in a heart shape above his head.

“I knew it was going to happen before it happened,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “It’s one of those things where you’re like— this is how it’s supposed to be.”

“That’s been our motto since day one, ‘one pitch at a time,’” Crews said. “When you think about it, really, it just kind of breaks down the game in the best way possible. You just control the strike zone, control the ‘offensive line’ in baseball, and good things will happen at the end of the day. I think what we’re doing right now is very good and very special. And we’re trying to carry it forward in Omaha.”

Guidry retired the side in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win and send the Tigers back to the CWS.

“They’ve earned the right to go play for a national championship,” Johnson said. “And saying that is probably the thing that gets me the most. They’ve earned the right to go play for a national championship, and that’s what we intend on doing and going for it. And I will not promise we’ll win it, but everything will be invested by everybody to go do that.”