Glenn Guilbeau / Gannett Louisiana
BATON ROUGE – Alex Box Stadium is fresh out of magic.
LSU lost an NCAA Regional at home in the Box for the first time in nine years, falling to Houston, 12-2, on Monday night in front of 9,032.
The Tigers, who won the first two games of the Regional on Friday and Saturday, blew a 4-0 lead over the Cougars Sunday night and lost 5-4 in 11 innings to force the decisive second game Monday. And the historical disaster picked up Monday just about where it left off Sunday as the Cougars destroyed LSU’s second line pitching and put the game away early with seven runs in the third for the 9-2 advantage.
LSU (46-16-1) lost a home NCAA Regional tournament for the first time since 2005 when it lost to Rice 5-4 in the championship round after losing the second game of that Regional to Rice, 9-7. Houston became the first team in history to beat LSU in an NCAA Regional after the Tigers got off to a 2-0 start. LSU previously won home NCAA Regionals after 2-0 starts 15 times from 1986 through 2013.
The Tigers have now been eliminated from NCAA postseason play on their home field named after former coach Skip Bertman twice in the last three years, including back-to-back losses to Stony Brook in the Super Regional in 2012. From 1986 through 2004, LSU hosted 18 NCAA postseason tournaments – 15 Regionals and three Super Regionals – and was eliminated in Alex Box Stadium as many times as it was in the past two years, which was twice in 1992 and 1995.
Houston (48-16) advanced to the best-of-three Super Regional this weekend against Texas at a site to be determined in the state of Texas – either Austin or Houston. Had LSU advanced to the Super Regional, it would be hosting Texas in a rematch of the College World Series national championship series that the Tigers won in 2009.
The Cougars lost 5-1 to LSU Saturday to fall into the losers’ bracket but won three straight over Southeastern Louisiana, LSU and LSU again to go back home to play while LSU stays home but will not play.
The Cougars found themselves behind again Monday, but only briefly, when the Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning on a two-run single by Sean McMullen off Houston starter Andrew Lantrip after Alex Bregman and Jake Fraley singled. Houston immediately tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the first with some major help from LSU starter Alden Cartwright. The freshman’s first two pitches were strikes. The next nine were balls for two walks and a hit batsman to load the bases, and his night was over less than 24 hours after predicting LSU would win Sunday night.
LSU reliever Parker Bugg minimized the damage to two runs on a sacrifice fly by Frankie Ratcliff and an RBI groundout by Caleb Barker before getting out of the inning with a fly out and a strikeout. But LSU’s misery was only being delayed.
Bugg ran into more trouble – this time of his own doing – in the third when he walked Casey Grayson, allowed a single to Ratcliff and hit Barker to load the bases with nobody out. He got a force at home for one out, but then hit Landon Appling with the bases loaded to give Houston a 3-2 lead.
Brady Domangue, a junior college transfer from LSU-Eunice who had not pitched since May 4 and did not see action in four of the Tigers’ Southeastern Conference series this season, relieved Bugg and pitched as if he had not pitched since May 4. Domangue did not record an out through five batters and allowed four hits and three runs as Houston scored seven in all for a 9-2 lead. Regular reliever Nate Fury finally relieved Domangue, but gave up a sacrifice fly before finally getting out of the inning.
Houston finished with 12 hits. LSU went quietly from the fourth through the seventh innings and had just four hits entering the eighth before finishing with 12. LSU loaded the bases with three hits in the eighth but left them loaded.
The only thing quieter than the LSU offense was Alex Box Stadium. In the eighth when Houston scored three runs for the 12-2 final, one LSU fan yelled, “Just end it.”