LSU's Raph Rhymes, No. 4, celebrates a home run in the first inning with Mason Katz and Ty Ross in a game against Oregon State. (Associated Press)
Oregon State's Ryan Barnes, right, celebrates a run against LSU Sunday. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Monday, June 04, 2012 12:09 AM
BATON ROUGE — Normal, by-the-book baseball just wasn’t getting it done.
So LSU had to call on some of that postseason Alex Box karma Sunday night, even though there really hadn’t been any test runs for the relatively new version of the stadium.
“There wasn’t a second that I doubted whether were were going to win,” said LSU leftfielder Raph Rhymes.
“I knew the crowd was going to will it for us to win,” Rhymes added. “That energizes us. We feed off it.”
Still, it didn’t look good.
But the Tigers, their bats silent for seven full innings after an early uprising, woke up to tie the game with a single run on a pair of doubles in the ninth, then pushed across another in the top of the 10th to beat Oregon State 6-5 and clinch the Baton Rouge regional of the NCAA tournament.
“We had to use our usual m.o.,” head coach Paul Mainieri said. “A lot of grit, a lot of determination, a different hero every day.”
LSU will host the super regional round next weekend — the final stop on the road to Omaha — although the Tigers won’t learn their opponent until today.
Stony Brook and Central Florida, the latter coached by Mainieri protege Terry Rooney, will play for the Miami regional title today with the winner coming to Baton Rouge for the best two out of three series.
“Just a truly tremendous victory,” Mainieri said.
Austin Nola led off the 10th with a walk and, after JaCoby Jones couldn’t get down a bunt — karma? — he promptly made amends with a double to the rightfield corner.
“He didn’t give up,” Nola said. “He got the job done.”
Nola scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, then back-to-back walks loaded the bases, still with no outs.
Three different Beaver pitchers wiggled out of that jam with no further runs, but Tiger closer Nick Goody struck out the side in the bottom of the 10th to keep the Tigers from having to come back Monday night for a winner-take-regional game.
“That was some big-time closing right there,” Mainieri said. “It looked like he was throwing 100 mph.”
Chris Cotton, who pitched around a one-out double in the bottom of the ninth, got the win, but Mainieri said middle reliever Nick Rumbelow was the key in coming in after Oregon State took a 5-3 lead in the sixth.
“He held them right there and gave us a chance to get back in it,” Mainieri said.
It didn’t look likely the way Beaver reliever Scott Schultz was mowing down the Tigers.
But LSU, after a cheap unearned run in the seventh, tied it in the ninth when Ty Ross led off with a double and, one out later, pinch runner Jared Foster scored on seldom-used Alex Edward’s towering double through the left-center gap.
“I didn’t know Alex could hit a ball that hard,” Mainieri said. “What a moment for that young man. He was obviously amped up.”
“Different people have stepped up all year,” Edward said. “It was my turn. There’s no better feeling in the world.”
The Beavers, who limbered up their bats with a 13-hit, 11-2 victory over UL-Monroe Sunday afternoon, were all over Eades from the beginning and he was probably fortunate to hold them to three runs over the first five innings, four of which involved mutliple base runners.
“Ryan was competing really hard, he just couldn’t put them away with two outs,” Mainieri said.
Eades’ luck ran out in the sixth, even though he retired the first two OSU batters for the first time in the game.
But Oregon State promptly loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batter, setting up Tyler Smith’s two-run single for the go-ahead runs and a 5-3 OSU lead.
It appeared that would be plenty since the Tigers had only one hit between the first and ninth innings.
“But we just kept battling,” Mainieri said. “This team gets it done.”
It started out with much of what the capacity LSU crowd came to see.
Oregon State starter Taylor Starr didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced — although Jacoby Jones was thrown out after leaving first too soon on a steal attempt — with the Tigers getting three runs on Mason Katz’ RBI single and Rhymes two-run homer.
It might have been a mistake by the Tigers since lured Schultz out of the bullpen.
“That kid just shut us down,” Mainieri said. “He totally had us baffled there for several innings, but our kids never got discouraged.