Tigers cruise over Bulldogs, whose coach predicts a LSU national championship

Just before 1:40 a.m. Monday, five hours after Mississippi State's Jacob Billingsley threw the first pitch of the second game of the Baton Rouge super regional, the Tigers clinched their 18th College World Series berth with a 14-4 victory over the Bulldog

BATON ROUGE - LSU unleashed the gates of Alex Box Stadium - hell for most visitors - again Sunday night with six runs in the fifth inning and went on to burn and drown Mississippi State, 14-4, to win the NCAA Super Regional and reach college baseball's heaven after a five-hour game amid three rain delays.

The Tigers (48-17) advance to Omaha, Nebraska - a Midwestern mecca of cool nights, dry day heat, big steaks, the occasional tornado and the College World Series. No. 4 national seed LSU will play Florida State (45-21) on Saturday or Sunday and are in the same four-team bracket as No. 1 national seed Oregon State (52-4), which will play Cal State Fullerton (39-22) on Saturday or Sunday.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words," said senior LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson, who was 3-for-5 with two RBIs. "As we were closing out that inning, I was just overcome with emotion. It's something I'll never forget." 

PHOTO GALLERY: LSU wins Super Regional

Days, times and television information for the CWS will be announced Monday. The winners of the two four-team brackets meet in a best-of-three national title series June 26-27 with a June 28 game if necessary. 

Robertson planned on forgetting about his previous picture on his cellular phone. That WAS of him with head down experiencing The Agony of Defeat at the moment of elimination exactly one year ago Monday via a walk-off, 4-3 loss to Coastal Carolina in the second game of the Super Regional at Alex Box on June 12, 2106.

"That will be changed before I go to sleep tonight," he said at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

"I hated that picture," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.

"I hate that picture, too," Robertson said. "I'm so glad I get to change it and never think about it again."

LSU, which defeated Mississippi State, 4-3, late Saturday, swept Mississippi State (40-27) two games to none in the best-of-three Super Regional. The Tigers survived three rain delays - 36 minutes before the game and two during of 31 and 28 minutes in the sixth and ninth innings - to win their 16th straight game and reach Omaha for the 18th time beginning in 1986 with 16 of those out of Alex Box. LSU's record at the Box in Super Regional games improved to 17-7 for a .708 winning percentage with an 8-2 Super Regional series record.

Guilbeau Column from May 28: LSU to win national championship

The game started at 8:36 p.m. and finished at 1:36 a.m. to chants of "O-Ma-Ha ... O-Ma-Ha" from a crowd of 7,000 that remained from the original 12,000.

"It's not like I haven't waited long enough for this moment," Robertson said. "We had to have a rain delay. I've waited my entire baseball career - my entire life to experience that dog pile we just had and win a Super Regional. So, I could wait a little while longer through a couple of rain delays." 

The Tigers did not have it easy all the way through, though, as they had to come back from a 4-3 deficit after three innings. As was the case Saturday when "the gates of hell were unleashed," according to LSU pitcher Alex Lange, and the Tigers scored four in the eighth for the win, LSU started its critical, six-run rally Sunday for a 9-4 lead with a walk in the fifth.

Greg Deichmann got a walk from State's No. 4 pitcher, Denver McQuary, and soon the Box crowd - hushed since State scored four in the third - was a mile high. After Zach Watson flew out to right, McQuary walked Josh Smith and Beau Jordan to load the bases. And Michael Papierski delivered the first death knell with a screaming line drive double on the right field line for two runs and a 5-4 lead that made the Box bust.

"I was hunting a heater," Papierski said. "I just put a good swing on it. When I was hitting, I didn't hear anybody. But when I got to second, I heard the crowd, and it was awesome to hear the best fans in college baseball."

Cole Gordon became State pitcher No. 5 and struggled like the four before him. No. 9 hitter Jake Slaughter singled in a run for a 6-4 lead, and another run scored on a wild pitch for a 7-4 advantage. Robertson, whose walk started LSU's eighth inning rally Saturday, laced a RBI double to left for an 8-4 lead and scored later on an error for the 9-4 advantage.

The Tigers made it 12-4 in the the top of the ninth when Robertson was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded by State's seventh pitcher and Cole Freeman followed with a two-run double ... just before the 28-minute rain delay. After play resumed, Duplantis hit a two-run single for the 14-4 final.

The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the first inning and got to State's No. 3 pitcher of the evening by just the second inning and took a 3-0 lead.

After the start of the game was delayed by rain and lightning from 8 p.m. to 8:36 p.m., Robertson singled at 8:37 p.m. off State starter Jacob Billingsley. Freeman then walked. Antoine Duplantis gave LSU a 1-0 lead with an RBI single to right field. Deichmann followed with an RBI single up the middle for the 2-0 advantage, and Billingsley was done. He lasted 10 minutes - which was about 20 minutes shorter than either rain delay.

Trey Jolly relieved Billingsley to get Watson to fly out to center and struck out Smith and Beau Jordan to end the inning. Jolly ran into trouble in the second inning, however, as he walked Papierski to start the inning. Slaughter sacrifice bunted Papierski to second, and Robertson singled to put runners on the corners. Jolly then balked in a run for a 3-0 deficit and was replaced by Barlow Freeman, who got State out of the inning.

LSU starter Jared Poche, meanwhile, coasted through the first two innings, allowing just one hit. But he walked Josh Lovelady to start the third, and No. 9 hitter Harrison Bragg homered to left field to cut the Tigers' lead to 3-2.

Hunter Stovall lined the ball hard toward shortstop for what looked like another hit, but Robertson caught it for the first out. Poche continued to struggle as he walked Brent Rooker, Ryan Gridley and Cody Brown consecutively to load the bases and left the game. Poche failed for a second straight time to tie the career win record of 38 set by Scott Schultz from 1992-95. In his last start at Alex Box, the senior from Lutcher did tie Lane Mestepey (2001-05) for career starts with his 68th.

Caleb Gilbert relieved but struggled early as well, allowing RBI singles to Jake Mangum to tie the game 3-3 and to Elijah MacNamee for a 4-3 State lead before striking out Hunter Vansau. He got Lovelady, who led off the inning, to bounce into a force at third to end the inning. Gilbert (6-1) went on to pitch five and two-thirds inning to pick up the win as he allowed just two hits and was not charged with allowing any runs as they went to Poche. Gilbert struck out six with one walk.

"I think Caleb Gilbert is the story of the game," Mainieri said. "He came in and put the team on his back and steadied the ship."

That ship leaves for Omaha Thursday.

As Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro, who was the Tigers' recruiting coordinator and hitting coach in 2015-16, and his new team drowned beneath it with five of the losses in LSU's 16-game winning streak, he saw no end to the Tigers' journey.

"The train is rolling," he said. "I think they have the most dynamic lineup in the country. Everybody is playing at a high level right now. They have outstanding starting pitching. Their bullpen is outstanding as well."

Through that 5-0 run through Mississippi State, the Tigers outscored the Bulldogs, 43-20, and outhit them, 48-34. In the three games of those five with titles on the line (SEC West, SEC and NCAA Super Regional), Cannizaro watched his old team outscore his new one, 36-16, and outhit it, 32-24.

"One through nine in the lineup, they just put so much pressure on you. They don't ever stop coming. It's just one after the other. I expect them to go to Omaha, win a national championship and do all the things they planned on doing this year," Cannizaro said.

“This isn’t the end. We’re ready to go,” Robertson said. “We’re not done yet.”  

 

 

 

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