Super Regional: Tale of two halves has LSU on brink of elimination after 6-4 loss to Florida State
BATON ROUGE — The LSU Tigers and Florida State Seminoles have been here before.
Between the two schools there are a combined 40 College World Series appearances; 18 for the Tigers and 22 for the Seminoles.
Both teams swept through the Regionals, with LSU outscoring its opponents 31-11, while Florida St. burned down Athens, scoring 35 runs in three games.
The two storied programs met Saturday at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field in the first of their three-game Super Regional series, with another trip to Omaha on the line.
Rather than an offensive explosion by either squad, round one went to the Seminoles 6-4 in a war of attrition waged on the teams’ pitching staffs.
The Tigers kept FSU scoreless for five innings while building a 4-0 lead, but the visitors were able to rally by scoring in each of the final four.
Reese Albert blasted a pair of home runs and drove in four RBI. His three run shot to right in the top of the seventh tied the score at four, and his solo dinger in the top of the ninth gave the ‘Noles enough to pick up the crucial win.
LSU starter Cole Henry could only manage two innings before leaving the game with low velocity, turning it over to Todd Peterson in the third.
The offense was able to capitalize on some FSU mistakes early on as they built their lead. Brandt Broussard smacked a single up the middle to drive in Daniel Cabrera, putting the first run on the board. Antoine Duplantis drove in the Tigers’ second run in the third inning, scoring Josh Smith. Chris Reid and Cabrera drove in a run each in the fourth and fifth, but after that, LSU’s bats went quiet.
Meanwhile, Peterson held down the fort with a performance Paul Mainieri called “heroic.” The junior pitched 4.1 innings, not allowing a hit until the sixth. Then momentum slowly began to shift.
With two men on, Matt Nelson reached base on an infield single that scored Drew Mendoza to make it 4-1.
LSU went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning, not hitting a ball out of the infield. In the seventh, Florida State really got going. Tim Becker singled to right, followed by a walk for Mike Salvatore.
With two aboard, Albert and Trent Vietmeier went toe-to-toe in a memorable 11-pitch at bat. Down 3-2 in the count, Albert fouled off five straight pitches before taking a pitch low and away and driving it into the stands.
Alex Box Stadium went quiet.
LSU managed to get two men on base in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, but Cabrera’s ground out to third ended the inning.
Mainieri needed two more pitchers to get through the eighth. After Devin Fontenot gave up a pair of walks, Zach Hess tried to put out the fire. Instead he walked the bases loaded, then was burned by a sacrifice fly by Tim Becker that drove in Nelson, giving Florida St. their first lead of the game.
The Tigers were unable to respond in the bottom half of the the inning, but hope was still alive with the top of the order coming in the ninth.
It got a lot harder to be positive when Albert sent Hess’ first offering of the inning into the afternoon sky and over the right field wall, extending the Seminoles’ lead to 6-4.
Down to their final three outs,LSU got a leadoff single from Chris Reid before J.C. Flowers was able to settle in and close out the game. Now trailing in the series, LSU must turn around quickly for Game 2, scheduled to begin at 5:00 pm Sunday afternoon.
Facing elimination in front of a demanding home crowd and with a bullpen that worked hard today, is a daunting task for the Tigers. Especially facing a team like FSU who is playing for its coach and with house money.
SS Josh Smith went 2-5, with a double, and scored a pair of runs. He is hitting .347 this season….LSU left eight men on base…Cole Henry and Ma’Khail Hilliard were the only LSU pitchers who did not give up at least one run…The Tigers issued 10 walks to Florida State batters…Over the final four innings LSU had two hits.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…