Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE – The LSU baseball team sounded as if it wanted to play Houston again last night, immediately following a 5-4 loss in 11 innings that has forced a 7 p.m. game Monday at Alex Box Stadium for the NCAA Regional championship. Winner advances to the best-of-three, two-team Super Regional this weekend. That will be at LSU if LSU advances against the winner of Texas and Texas A&M, which play Monday night in Houston.
“I’m getting the ball, and I can promise you we’re going to win that game,” LSU freshman right-hander Alden Cartwright said Sunday night.
Cartwright (1-1, 1.87 ERA, 6 starts, 20 appearances, 33.2 innings) is expected to start Monday night. His only victory this season was against Purdue, 7-3 on March 9 when he threw one and two-thirds innings of relief. He started five games from April 15 through May 10, including four in the Southeastern Conference after No. 3 starter Kyle Bouman injured his ankle early in the season. Cartwright took the loss to Alabama, 5-1, on May 10 after allowing five hits and two earned runs one inning and a third.
In his most recent start and appearance, Cartwright allowed one hit with four walks in four innings against Florida in the SEC Tournament championship game that the Tigers won 2-0.
LSU (46-15-1) led Houston 4-0 after seven innings, but the Tigers’ usually light-outs bullpen allowed seven hits and five runs to lose an NCAA Regional home game for the first time since June 6, 2005, when LSU also lost 5-4 to another Houston school, which was Rice. Kurt McCune, who relieved LSU starter Kyle Bouman to start the seventh inning, allowed four runs with one unearned run on three hits in the eighth when Houston scored four runs to tie the game 4-4. LSU closer Joe Broussard (3-2) allowed three hits in three innings of relief and the winning run in the top of the 11th to take the loss. Bouman allowed two hits and two walks in six innings of shutout pitching.
The Tigers had won 12 straight NCAA Regional home games under Coach Paul Mainieri. The loss also ended the Tigers’ 10-game winning streak this season.
“We are just going to leave everything out there tomorrow like it’s the last day we will ever get to play the game of baseball,” said LSU shortstop Alex Bregman, whose RBI single in the Tigers’ three-run seventh put LSU up 4-0. The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the second on a home run by Kade Scivicque.
“It’s already flushed,” LSU first baseman Tyler Moore said after the game. “We are looking forward to tomorrow (Monday). There is no time to hang our heads now. It is win or go home. We are excited to come out and play.”
LSU won home NCAA Regionals in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2013 with three straight wins in each of those tournaments under Mainieri, who took over after the 2006 season. Mainieri’s only other postseason losses in Alex Box were two in a row to Stony Brook in 2012 to lose the Super Regional and an 11-5 loss to UC Irvine in the Super Regional opener in 2008, but LSU came back to win that one with back-to-back wins.
“It was obviously a very tough loss for our guys,” Mainieri said. “It was a heck of a game, though. We seemingly had the game in hand, and I felt like we should have been up more than that. Bouman was phenomenal. He threw six shutout innings. We couldn’t ask for anything more from him. Our bullpen has been so fantastic.”
Pitchers available for LSU tonight who have not thrown during this NCAA Regional are freshman right-handed reliever Parker Bugg (2-1, 1.87 ERA, 2 saves, 1 start, 33.2 innings), sophomore left-hander Hunter Devall (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 20 innings), junior right-hander Brady Domangue (2-0, 4.19 ERA, 1 save, 2 starts, 19.1 innings) and junior left-hander Henrie Faucheux (3-0, 4.22 ERA, 1 start, 21.1 innings).
Bugg last pitched on May 24 against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament. Devall has not pitched since May 16 at Auburn and allowed three hits and two runs. Domangue has not pitched since May 4 at Texas A&M. Faucheux also pitched in the SEC Tournament against Arkansas on May 24.
Among the other pitchers available is short reliever Zac Person (3-1, 2.57 ERA, 1 start, 28 innings), a junior left-hander from Eunice who threw briefly Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Senior right-handed reliever Nate Fury (3-1, 2.52 ERA, 25 innings) threw two innings of no-hit, no-walk ball Friday and got the 8-4 win over Southeastern Louisiana. He threw two-thirds in the eighth Sunday night and allowed one hit.
McCune (2-2, 3.71 ERA, 5 saves, 1 start, 34 innings) and Broussard (3-2, 1.05 ERA, 8 saves, 34.1 innings) can also pitch tonight. There is a chance Mainieri, who has never coached a fourth game in a NCAA Regional while at LSU home or away, could go back to Friday night’s starter, freshman left-hander Jared Poche (9-3, 2.45 ERA, 16 starts, 91.2 innings), or Saturday’s starter, junior right-hander Aaron Nola (10-1, 1.49 ERA, 109 innings) for brief appearances. Poche threw six innings Friday afternoon. Nola threw seven and one third on Saturday night.
Houston, meanwhile, has one of its top starters available for tonight’s game in freshman right-hander Andrew Lantrip (6-0, 1.55 ERA, 5 starts, 40. 2 innings). He started Friday night against Bryant, but he only got through two innings as he gave up five hits and one run. He threw only 41 pitches.
“We still got a lot down there,” Houston coach Todd Whitting said. “We have a few guys who can come back. We could throw ‘Johnny Wholestaff.’ You know it might be one of those, but we’ve still got some bullets in there. There are some guys who haven’t pitched yet that will get an opportunity. We’ve got some guys that we can recycle back through.”
Houston proved a lot to Whitting Sunday night.
“Wow, what a game,” he said. “That was two really good teams getting after each other. We just didn’t give in. There was a point in the game where we could have tucked our tails a little bit there and shut that thing down. But this time of year, you just have to keep playing. They never quit.”
Houston lost its designated hitter, Justin Montemayor, when he was ejected in the fifth inning for arguing with umpires after being called out at first base. Replays showed he was safe. He entered the game hitting .301 with 31 RBIs.
Whitting said his team got motivation from another controversial call. LSU’s Tyler Moore was awarded an inside-the-park, two-run home run in the seventh for a 3-0 lead when right fielder Kyle Survance did not field the ball from under the right field fence. Thinking it was lodged, he threw up his hands for umpires to possibly call a ground rule double. Game officials ruled the ball was not lodged, and Moore got the homer.
“We felt that it was lodged,” Whitting said. “We went through the protest process and got denied. Looking back on that thing, that kind of jump started us a little bit. That thing ended up working in our favor.”