Skenes tosses complete game to lead LSU past Tulane in regional opener
BATON ROUGE, La. – Ranked number one in the country throughout most of the 2023 seaosn, the LSU Tigers had disappointing finishing run of 10-8 heading into the NCAA regionals.
Facing a 40-loss team that resurrected their season last week in stunning fashion, head coach Jay Johnson did not take any chances.
Paul Skenes took the mound Friday afternoon and finished what he started as LSU knocked off Tulane, 7-2, to open the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
“Congratulations to (LSU),” said Tulane head coach Jay Uhlman. “(Skenes) pitched really well and our guys were up to the challenge. We had some spots where a couple of things could’ve changed the fortune of the game a little bit and made it tighter, earlier. Dylan Carmouche, on short rest, went out there and battled. I thought Michael Lombardi pitched really well and hung some zeroes. (Brennan Lambert) put a big charge into one and got us close.”
Skenes threw is his first nine-inning complete game of the season, allowing two runs on seven hits while fanning 12 Green Wave hitters.
“He (Skenes) uses all quadrants of the plate. He’s a big tall glass of water,” said Tulane head coach Jay Uhlman. “When you’re big like that, you create an angle and it’s difficult to square guys up.”
LSU (44-15) started quickly in the bottom of thefirst inning with consecutive hits by Dylan Crews and Tommy White. Hayden Travinski gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with an RBI double.
From the leadoff spot, Crews was 3 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored.
“We handled the situation perfectly well today. We had a great pitcher on the mound that had a great all around performance,” said Crews. “I trusted my own ability and I worked hard all week for this.”
In the second inning, Tulane’s Jake LaPrarie blasted a shot to deep right field but Brayden Jobert leaped at the wall to make the catch and threw back into the field to double off Simon Baumgardt who was running with the pitch. LaPrarie was victimized again by LSU’s defense in the fifth when Skenes caught a line drive between his legs to doubleoff Brennan Lambert at first.
The Tigers struck again with the two runs in the second inning including a Crews RBI double to extend the lead to 3-0.
Tulane (19-41) got a lift on defense when LSU’s Tre’ Morgan hits a shot to left field and Brady Hebert make a diving catch to get out of the inning.
LSU (44-15) continued to find success at the plate against Green Wave starter Dylan Carmouche. After consecutive hits to started the bottom of the third inning by Travinski and Cade Beloso, Gavin Dugas laid down a sacrice bunt to move the runner. Brayden Jobert brought Tranvinski home on an RBI groundout to first base. Carmouche stranded Belosoat third with a strikeout of Jordan Thompson to get out of the inning but the Tigers had a 4-0 advantage.
Travinski finished 2 for 3 at the plate, driving in two runs and scoring two more. Beloso was 2 for 5 with a run scored.
Skenes continued his assault on the Green Wave, racking up eight strikeouts in his first four innings of work.
Perhaps not at his best after heavy usage last week in the conference tournament, Carmouche (5-9) went four innings, allowing nine hits and six runs. the Denham Springs native walked two and struck out two.
LSU added to their lead in the fifth with a couple of sacrifice fly RBI by Gavin Dugas and Josh Pearson.
Tulane finally broke through against Skenes in the seventh inning. Brennan Lambert hits a two-run home run cutting the Tigers’ lead to 6-2. He finished 2 for 4 with his 10th home run of the season.
“I was trying to look for a pitch to hit. I took it to the back side and felt pretty special,” said Lambert. “Skenes is a great pitcher and he came right at you. We put some good swings at him today. If we swing the ball well, pitch the ball well, and play good defense, we have good chance to keep playing on Sunday and maybe Monday.”
Michael Lombardi was strong out of the pen for Tulane in relief of Carmouche, lasting 3.2 innings and allowing just one run on two hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
Tulane tried to continue to rally in the top of the eighth inning with consecutive hits by Gavin Schultz and Brady Hebert with two outs. Skenes was able to escape the danger by coaxing a flyout to right field in foul territory.
The Green Wave was in a bases loaded jam with two outs. They went deep in the bullpen with Collin Reilly. Reilly walked in a run extending the Tigers lead to 7-2.
LSU led 7-2 when Travinski drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth but Tulane limited the damage when reliever Collin Reily retired Beloso on a grounder to second.
Skenes (11-2) came out to a standing ovation in the top of the ninth inning. He responded by continuing to look strong in the afternoon Louisiana heat, firing a strike on his 122nd pitch at 100 miles per hour. He retired the Green Wave in order to cap his brilliant day with two runs allowed on seven hits and no walks surrendered on a season-high 124 pitches.
“I think to able to go that deep into the game really speaks to executing pitches,” said Skenes. “They came out swinging, and it allowed me to have some short innings as well.”
Johnson explained how his respect for the type of team Tulane appears to be now, and not the way they struggled for most of the season, played into his decision to start his ace to open the regional.
“When you look in the surface of that record and don’t think deeper, you can make a mistake. You can make a judgement about Tulane that’s not true,” Johnson noted. “They are incredibly well coached, have good players and playing good baseball right now.”
Uhlman echoed that sentiment.
“The fact that (LSU) ran Skenes out for 120-plus pitches, and didn’t go to its bullpen against us, I’d like to take a measure of respect,” said Uhlman. “We’ll live to fight another day and be back tomorrow against whoever our opponent is.”
No. 4 seed Tulane will play No. 3 Sam Houston in the losers bracket game Saturday at 2 p.m.
“The resilience that our guys showed all year and the mentality they have, I feel good where we are,” said Uhlman. “We played with our backs been against the wall all season. Our guys will be ready.”
Number five national seed LSU will face No. 2 Oregon State in the winners bracket game at 8 p.m. Saturday after the Beavers throttled Sam Houston in the Friday night game, 18-2.
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCES
2023 NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Friday, June 2
Game 1: (1) LSU 7, (4) Tulane 2 (ESPNU)
Game 2: (2) Oregon State 18, (3) Sam Houston 2 (ESPN +)
Saturday, June 3
Game 3: (4) Tulane vs. (3) Sam Houston – 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
Game 4: (2) Oregon State vs. (1) LSU – 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday, June 4
Game 5: Winner of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 – 2 p.m. (ESPN+)
Game 6: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 4 – 8 p.m. (ESPN+)
Monday, June 5
Game 7: Winner of Game 5 vs. Winner of Game 4 – TBD *if necessary (ESPN+)
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