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|LSU handles Texas Southern; Tigers to face Southern Miss.|
BATON ROUGE -- LSU sophomore designated hitter Blake Dean homered twice and drove in four runs to lead the top-seeded Tigers to their 21st straight win with a 12-1 victory over Texas Southern in the opening game of the 2008 NCAA Baton Rouge Regional in front of 6,536 fans on Friday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers, champions of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, improved to 44-16-1 on the year and 19-0 in NCAA regional opening games. LSU set the single-season school record for consecutive victories in its last outing and has not lost a contest since April 19.
Texas Southern dropped to 16-33 on the season.
LSU advances to play at 6 p.m. Saturday against Southern Miss, a 13-6 winner of Friday evening's contest versus UNO. Texas Southern takes on New Orleans at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"It wasn't our best game of the year, but I thought it was like a business man's job," LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. "We did what we had to do. I have to say the highlight of the day was looking at the crowd and seeing all the gold in the stands. I just have to say how much I appreciate the support the fans give this team. I just think it's awesome that they came in and helped us by wearing the gold, being vocal and packing the place. It was exciting to be out there today.
"Now, we have to be able to be able to play a really good ball club tomorrow night. I'm not sure which one it will be at this point, but it will be a challenge for us. We will have to be at the top of our game for sure."
Dean, who entered the game batting .420 (34-for-81) during the streak, finished the game 2-for-4 and has accounted for five homers in his last five games. Sophomore centerfielder Jared Mitchell went 3-for-5 with three RBI and two runs scored. Junior first baseman Matt Clark added three hits and homered for the third consecutive game.
LSU junior right-hander Jordan Brown (4-0) maintained his perfect record, allowing only one run – a solo homer in the sixth -- on five hits in five innings while striking out four and walking two. He picked up his first win since March 19 versus Tulane.
Twenty-eight of LSU's 44 wins have been from come-behind fashion, but the Tigers needed no late inning heroics on Friday. Despite the absence of gold jerseys for the first time in 15 games, LSU plated four runs in the first inning to rattle TSU left-handed starter Ehern Moreno.
Senior shortstop Michael Hollander drew a leadoff walk, and two batters later, junior right fielder Derek Helenihi provided a one-out single to left field. Dean then lifted a three-run homer – the first of his two blasts – that carried over the right-centerfield wall. Clark connected for a solo shot just over the left field wall for his team-leading 23rd homer of the year.
"I thought the kids had good focus," Mainieri said. "They came out and played the game the right way. We had a good first inning obviously with Blake [Dean's] three-run homer and [Matt] Clark's homerun."
LSU increased the advantage to 6-0 in the fourth frame. Freshman shortstop DJ LaMahieu beat out an infield single deep in the hole, and he later scored on sophomore second baseman Ryan Schimpf's single to right field. Hollander then accounted for a run-scoring hit with a slapped single through the left side.
Meanwhile, Brown faced little trouble through the first three innings as he faced the minimum in the second and pitched around a leadoff single in the third. The junior silenced a one-out, two-on threat in the fourth and finally surrendered a run in the sixth when TSU first baseman Earnest Rhone launched a leadoff, line-drive homer to left field.
Texas Southern put together its most prominent threat of the game when catcher Justin Holloway immediately tagged a single to centerfield, and shortstop Jordan Bush was hit by a pitch that ended Brown's outing.
With runners at first and second and no outs, Mainieri summoned freshman Austin Ross from the bullpen for his first outing since May 17 at Auburn. Ross induced a 1-6-3 double play groundball and retired the side with another groundout.
The Tigers put the game away in the sixth with four runs, two of which were unearned after a critical dropped fly ball by centerfielder Deshaun Dilworth. Mitchell capitalized on the error with a two-run single to right field that scored Schimpf and Hollander. Mitchell was later awarded home on a wild throw by shortstop Jordan Bush on a grounder by Helenihi. Pinch hitter Sean Ochinko accounted for the other run on a single through the middle.
Moreno (2-5) was charged with loss, surrendering 11 runs – seven earned – on 12 hits in 5.2 innings of work. He walked two and struck out five.
Ross notched his third save with four scoreless innings of relief, allowing only three hits while striking out three and walking none.
LSU 12, Texas Southern 1 (May 30, 2008 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Texas Southern...... 000 001 000 - 1 8 3 (16-33)
LSU....................... 400 214 100 - 12 13 1 (44-16-1)
Pitchers: Texas Southern - MORENO,Ehern; MENTIE,Mathias(6); LAUFENBERG,Dekota(8).
LSU -Jordan Brown; Austin Ross(6).
Win-Jordan Brown(4-0) Save-Austin Ross(3) Loss-MORENO,Ehern(2-5) T-2:59 A-7671
HR TXSOBB - RHONE,Earnest (9).
HR LSU - Blake Dean 2 (18); Matt Clark (23).
Weather: 88 degrees and cloudy
Game produced by Jumbo Sports and televised on Cox Sports Television.
Actual attendance: 6,536
LSU Baseball Regional
May 30, 2008
LSU HEAD COACH PAUL MAINIERI
"I thought today we did what we had to do. I thought the kids had good focus. They came out and played the game the right way. We had a good first inning obviously with Blake [Dean's] three-run homer and [Matt] Clark's homerun. We got off to a good start, but then their crafty left-hander dazzled us for a couple of innings. I thought we played all right. It wasn't our best game of the year, but I thought it was like a business man's job. We did what we had to do. I have to say the highlight of the day was looking at the crowd and seeing all the gold in the stands. I just have to say how much I appreciate the support the fans give this team. The fans and supporters of LSU baseball make LSU baseball what it is. I just think it's awesome that they came in and helped us by wearing the gold, being vocal and packing the place. It was exciting to be out there today. Jordan Brown did a great job for us. We played good defense and got enough hits. It was a good win for us. Now, we have to be able to be able to play a really good ball club tomorrow night. I'm not sure which one it will be at this point, but it will be a challenge for us. We will have to be at the top of our game for sure."
On who he plans to pitch in tomorrow's game...
"I don't have any plans yet. We are going to pitch either Blake Martin or Ryan Verdugo, but we aren't making that decision until the game tonight has concluded. I don't know why I'm waiting and I don't have any specific reasons I think one will be a better match-up than the other."
On the winning streak...
"I was a little concerned, not because of their record, but because of the kind of game it might be. Our kids seem to play better when they are pushed. When their backs are against the wall they seem to stiffen up and really meet the challenge."
"We have been behind in so many games during this streak that everyone talks about. I was more concerned not that it would be a let-down, but that that we wouldn't be pushed to do the things we have been doing."
LSU PLAYER QUOTES
On his pitching today...
"I started off with a fast ball and kept with that. My pitching coach was saying keep speeding them up and let them get themselves out. I had some walk batters and hit batters. I pounded the strike zone a lot and they got themselves out. I tried to let my defense work behind me for every inning."
On hosting Regionals at Alex Box...
"It's great to come out here and play in Alex Box. To see all the fans in gold gives us that extra boost. We need the momentum and obviously it's going our way. It's a lot of fun playing on your home field and playing in front of the fans that have supported you all season."
On his RBI...
"We were just looking for an opening to hit through. The guys and I were working hard all day. We tried to stay with that approach and look for something to hit away. I just got a good ball and did what I could with it."
On the winning streak for LSU...
"There is a lot of confidence in the locker room. The confidence has been there all year, but we just really picked it up during the middle of the season. Things are starting to come together and guys are starting to feel more comfortable with each other. It's a lot of fun playing when things are going well, we are enjoying ourselves."
On hitting home runs...
"I think lately I've been able to read the pitches a lot easier. I'm seeing the ball well; the times I've got out were the time I got myself out. I think the main thing right now is that I'm seeing the pitches and getting pitches to hit. I'm laying off the boarder line pitches. I think if I keep seeing the ball well I will continue to hit well."
On the fans wearing gold...
"I think it was very exciting. We came out here and saw our fans all in gold. You look around and there is not an empty seat in the Box. To come out and play on your home field is a great plus it helps the win. You obviously don't want to disappoint your team but you don't want to let your fans down either."
TEXAS SOUTHERN HEAD COACH CANDY ROBINSON QUOTES
"This was a good ballgame. It didn't come out like we wanted it. We came out a little rusty and didn't get any hits at the top of the lineup. We have another game to play tomorrow, so all is not lost. We need to come out and play better. My shortstop (Jordan Bush) was laboring out there. He has just had fluid drained from his knee two weeks ago.
"We made some critical errors at the beginning and in the middle innings. We gave the LSU pitchers four or five outs and gave LSU hitters four or five outs when we probably should have gotten three outs. It was a good ballgame. They played well and pitched well. We just have to look forward to tomorrow and playing a better game."
On why he pitched Ehern Moreno against LSU ...
"Originally I was going to start (Rashad) Ford who is going to pitch tomorrow. We felt like we could get a better game against LSU by pitching Moreno because he is a smart pitcher and has been successful against a lot of left-handed batters he has faced this season. We decided to go with him, and LSU is a well-disciplined team.
"I like their approach at the plate, especially their No. 3 hitter. He is right up on the plate, and my wish was to pitch him inside but whenever we did that we hit him a couple times. They have won 21 straight ballgames, so they have a good ballclub. There's nothing I can say about it. They won the ballgame, and they capitalized on the mistakes that we made. What can I say? They played a good game and we didn't play as well as I wanted us to play, but tomorrow is another day."
On how the layoff since the SWAC Tournament has affected his team ...
"It really hurts because we don't have anything to do. We couldn't play any games, and the only thing we could do was play among ourselves and try to create some incentives for the kids. It would help if we could move our tournament back along with the other Division I schools so we could not have that long layoff. We are always going to talk about it, and we just hope somebody will do something about it within the conference."
TEXAS SOUTHERN PLAYER QUOTES
First baseman Earnest Rhone
On his home run...
"I was really trying to put the ball in play. I was trying to do whatever I could to give my team the momentum because my teammates look up to me for confidence. I'm a very emotional player, and I think I add a lot of character to the team, so I was just trying to get something started. The team was kind of down, so I tried to build them up. As you may have noticed, after I hit the home run, a couple of balls started to fall, but unfortunately, things didn't go our way."
Starting pitcher Ehern Moreno
On the game...
"There's really nothing you can do to get used to this heat. Houston has a little more dry heat. LSU's hitters are very disciplined, and they let me know when I threw a mistake. I paid for a lot of my mistake pitches that I threw."
On his leg injury...
"It started cramping up. My left leg started to cramp up in the fourth inning, and they gave me some water with salt in it, and it worked a little bit. Then, my other calf started to cramp up."
On the humid temperatures...
"I played junior college ball in Missouri, and it's very humid there with really dry heat. I also pitched in Las Vegas in high school, but there's nothing you can do to get used to this heat. You just have to pray that everything goes well and drink lots of fluids."
(Report courtesy of lsusports.net.)