BATON ROUGE, La. — Alex Bregman drove in two runs on three hits, including a solo home run, and LSU won the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge regional with a 5-1 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday night.
LSU senior left-hander Brent Bonvillain (3-0) yielded one run through 5 1-3 innings. Reliever Nick Rumbelow came in and retired eight straight, striking out four, while the Tigers (55-9) pulled away to clinch a super regional appearance at home next weekend against Oklahoma, the winner of the Blacksburg (Va.) regional.
Forced into a starting role by the suspension of sophomore Cody Glenn last week for a violation of team rules, Bonvillain wound up turning in one of the best outings of his career, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out three.
“I have no idea where it came from. I just went out there and tried to have fun,” Bonvillain said. “It’s hard to put into words, winning an NCAA regional with LSU, a team that I’ve always dreamed of playing with and always looked up to because I lived in Louisiana.”
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he planned to consult his players Monday on whether to reinstate Glenn for the super regional.
Raph Rhymes had three hits in the regional final, including a two-run single to right-center in the sixth that gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead against ULL (43-20).
“That was a time in the game where I needed to step up,” Rhymes said. “I got a curveball and went the other way with it.”
Bregman was named the regional’s most outstanding player and Rhymes to the all-regional team. Mainieri was relieved to see both players performing well in the clinching game after their collision in shallow left field on Friday knocked both out of LSU’s NCAA opener. Bregman, a shortstop, went to the hospital to be checked for possible facial fractures, while Rhymes, a left fielder, needed three stitches in his upper lip.
“It shows not only the toughness mentally but also the toughness physically that those two kids had. That was a pretty nasty collision,” Mainieri said. “You can see how fortunate we were that they did play because it’s hard to win without those two guys. You can coach all you want, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to coach with good players, and those two kids are outstanding players and were both very vital in our victory.”
LSU did not lose a game in the regional and is now 12-0 in regional games at home under Mainieri, who took over in 2007.
Louisiana-Lafayette starter Chad Boutte (8-4) went 5 2-3 innings, making his second start of the day after pitching the first 1 2-3 innings of ULL’s victory that eliminated Sam Houston State on Sunday afternoon. He gave up only one run.
“Boutte did an exceptional job for being taken out of the first game and being put back in in a tough environment,” Louisiana-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux said. “That was all we wanted him to do was get us off to a great start.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns could not help Boutte with run support, however.
“We were flat all night,” said Jace Conrad, whose double in the sixth drove in the Cajuns’ only run. “They kept us off balance. They started a slow lefty first, then threw a hard righty.”
The Tigers had 10 hits and threatened often, but did not break through until a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the fifth brought home Mason Katz. That ended Boutte’s night. However, Cajuns reliever Cord Cockrell got the next batter, Alex Edward, to ground out, raising the number of runners LSU left on base to 10 through the first five innings.
The Tigers widened their lead to 4-0 in the sixth. Bregman drove in a run with a single, his 101st hit of the season. Two batters later, Rhymes came through with his two-run single.
Bregman’s homer in the eighth, on a towering drive to left, might have been his second in as many days, but his deep shot to center on Saturday was ruled a double after it appeared on video replays to hit a metal bar just beyond the top of the wall and bounce back into play.
While Bregman, who is batting .385, has received praise for surpassing 100 hits in his first season, he hardly sounded satisfied.
“I didn’t really shoot for that — I shot for higher,” Bregman said. “We still have a long ways to go. It’s not about how I hit or how I don’t hit. To me, it’s about how LSU does. We’re going pretty dang good right now, and we have to keep that up.”
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