Tigers go back in time to deliver key regional win
“Gorilla Ball” was a staple of LSU baseball in the late 1990s. The Tigers led the nation in home runs three consecutive years from 1996-98, including an NCAA-record 188 homers in their 1997 national championship season.
After bats were legislated to take the large number of home runs out of the game, the numbers have crept back up in recent years. And Sunday at Alex Box Stadium, a prevailing wind and a power-hitting LSU team brought back memories of some of Skip Bertman’s glory years.
LSU had five home runs in a 6-5 victory Sunday over Oregon State to advance to the Baton Rouge Regional championship round.
The Beavers will play Sam Houston State late Sunday to decide who will have to come back and defeat the Tigers twice on Monday. LSU will just need one win to host a super regional next weekend.
There were a lot of heroes on Sunday, but when half of your hits, and all of your runs, come via the long ball, it’s easy to point to – in order of their big swings – Dylan Crews, Hayden Travinski, Cade Beloso, Josh Pearson and Brayden Jobert.
Crews’ two-run shot in the fourth pulled LSU within 3-2.
On back-to-back pitches in the fifth, Travinski crushed one over the stands in left and Beloso cranked one out down the right field line to give the Tigers their first lead.
Pearson’s homer in the sixth made it 5-3, a key insurance run since Oregon State tied it with a two-run blast off the bat of Gavin Turley in the top of the seventh.
Jobert, the former Northshore and Delgado product, got ahead in the count 2-0 to lead off the eighth before delivering the winning blow to straight away center field, LSU’s 122nd home run of the season and its biggest to date.
“I was trying to get a pitch in the zone and get on base,” Jobert said after the game.
The other story of this day was the weather. After less than 6½ innings were played Sunday because of inclement weather around and on the LSU campus, the “marble game” was delayed three hours in the middle of the third inning.
That knocked LSU started Ty Floyd out after three innings. He allowed one run on five hits and more importantly, threw 71 pitches.
Thatcher Hurd, who was expected to be the third LSU starter this weekend, worked five innings after the delay and got the win. While he allowed four runs on seven hits, he also struck out a dozen. Hurd threw 99 pitches.
Freshman Gavin Guidry struck out a pair of Beavers in the ninth – the 18th and 19th Oregon State hitters to go down on strikes on the day – to claim his second save.
With Paul Skenes, Floyd and Hurd now unavailable, Jay Johnson will likely have to piece things together on Monday from his bullpen. Then again, he will face a team that likely plays past midnight and has to use up even more pitching.
If the Tiger bats can hit the long ball Monday like they did on this day and night, it might be enough to carry the day.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…