Little Giant Milam saves LSU with walk-off HR

Published 9:12 am Saturday, June 1, 2024

LSU’s Steven Milam insisted he wasn’t trying to win the game with one swing of the bat.

But apparently he can no longer help himself.

“I guess I am kind of getting used to it,” the smallest of Tigers grinned after his walk-off solo home run in the bottom of the ninth rescued No. 2 seed LSU for a 4-3 victory over No. 3 seed Wofford in the opening round of the NCAA baseball tournament.

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It was the biggest hit of the freshman’s budding career, but he had a reference point — less than a week ago he walked off South Carolina with a 10th-inning bomb in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

It was his second walk-off home run in LSU’s last three games and the Tigers’ last two victories.

Still …

“I was just trying to get on base, pass the sticks … try and have somebody else win the game” Milam said.

But Milam knew where the fences were — his seventh-inning solo shot broke the ice and gave LSU (41-21) its first run — and Wofford pitcher Kenny Michaels.

“So I got my timing down, got a pitch I could drive and it ended up leaving,” he said.,

So LSU ended up advancing in the Chapel Hill (N.C.) Regional, where they’ll play again at 4 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Friday’s late game between No. 1 seed and host North Carolina and No. 4 seed Long Island University.

“Great win,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “In postseason baseball you have to master the art of moving on and that’s what we’ll do.”

For most of the day it didn’t look good for the Tigers despite another impressive pitching performance from left-hander Gage Jump.

The Tigers trailed 2-0 until Milam’s first home run in the seventh and 3-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth before solo shots by Michael Braswell III and Jared Jones tied the score.

That set the stage for Milam, who hit a 3-2 pitch well into the trees beyond right field as the Tigers’ dugout went all tsunami to greet him at home plate.

“He’s not a freshman anymore,” Johnson said. “Another clutch performance. I know the two home runs really stand out, but he took four great at-bats today.”

But for the most part the LSU offense was dormant, with two hits in the first six innings before the home run derby began.

Johnson gave credit to Wofford starter Brandon Little, who frustrated the Tigers with help from a Terriers defense that always seemed to be shifted in perfect position.

“He pitched exceptionally well,” Johnson said. “There weren’t a lot of mistakes made over the middle of the plate or up in the zone. I think that was the story for the beginning of the game.”

But Johnson said he wasn’t worried.

“I said, ’Slow down, stay in

our lanes and we were gonna be OK,’” he said of the early struggles. “I literally said that like five times — we’re gonna be OK.

“(Wofford) did a lot of things right today. Fortunately for us, we have great players.”

Most convenient for the Tigers, they had Jump on the mound to keep them in the game.

Jump gave up two runs in the second as the Terriers (41-19) put their small-ball antics into play for a sacrifice fly and a two-out RBI.

But he otherwise kept the Terriers scoreless until a towering home run by Wofford’s Jack Renwick in the eighth.

“Once I gave up the two, I was just trying to put zeros back on the board,” Jump said. “I was frustrated at the end with the other one I gave up, but then they picked me up, so, you know, I just trusted them.”

Jump struck out nine without walking a batter in his 7 1/3 innings.

“Gage was outstanding today,” Johnson said. “Good pitchers find a way to win no matter what. And there’s nobody better than him.”

Lake Charles’ Gavin Guidry relieved Jump and got the final two outs in the eighth and closer Griffin Herring (5-1) got the win after pitching the ninth.