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|LSU defeats Southern Miss. to earn spot in NCAA regional title game|
BATON ROUGE -- Top-seeded LSU launched five home runs, including two from junior first baseman Matt Clark, as the Tigers advanced to the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional championship round with their 22nd straight win, 13-4, over second-seeded Southern Miss on Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
A season-high actual attendance of 7,498 fans watched LSU improve to 45-16-1 on the season and tie the Southeastern Conference single-season record for consecutive victories. South Carolina won 22 straight games to open the 2000 season.
"I thought tonight was a great ballgame by our team," LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. "This one felt a lot like the Friday night game against South Carolina way back when. I thought we played about the same caliber of game as we did that Friday night against South Carolina. Back then I said I thought that was our best game of the year, and I thought this one rivaled it."
The Tigers will await the winner of an elimination game between Southern Miss and UNO. The Golden Eagles and Privateers play at 1 p.m., and the winner will take on LSU at 6 p.m. Sunday. Should the Tigers be defeated, a second game will be played at 1 p.m. Monday to decide who advances to super regional play.
"We still need one more win this weekend to win this tournament and advance," Mainieri said. "We will enjoy it until midnight and then when the clock strikes midnight and a new day begins our focus will shift to tomorrow and we will get ready to play."
Junior left-hander Blake Martin (5-3, 4.94) will take to the mound on Sunday in hopes of securing the 17th regional title in LSU program history.
Seven of LSU's 13 runs Saturday came via a homer as the Tigers connected for their most blasts in a contest since hitting six homers against Duquesne on March 2. Clark finished with four RBI and moved into a tie with Gary Hymel (1991) for seventh place in LSU single-season homers with 25. His total represents the most homers by an LSU player since Brad Cresse had 30 in 2000.
Sophomore designated hitter Blake Dean extended his hitting streak to nine games, going 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI. LSU improved to 10-1 when both Dean and Clark homer in the same contest. Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored three runs, and freshman centerfielder Leon Landry added three hits.
LSU junior left-hander Ryan Verdugo (9-2) tossed five innings to record the win as he allowed four runs on six hits while walking two and striking out four.
Southern Miss right-hander Todd McInnis (6-3) took the loss after surrendering five runs on five hits in four innings of work. McInnis walked two and struck out four before being lifted in the fifth inning.
LSU second baseman Ryan Schimpf brought in the game's first run in the third on his RBI double-play groundout. LaMahieu, who opened the frame with a leadoff walk, scored to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Dean and Clark helped extend the lead to 5-0 as part of a four-run fourth inning. Dean homered for the fourth straight game and the sixth time in the past six contests when he connected with a 1-0 McInnis offering for a blast over the right field wall.
Three batters later and after a Helenihi walk, Clark unloaded for a two-out, two-run blast off "The Intimidator" billboard in right field. Landry closed the two-out rally with an RBI double down the right field line that plated LaMahieu, who reached on a sharp single to centerfield.
LSU took a 5-1 margin into the top of the fifth when Dean continued his postseason tear. This time the junior drove a timely, two-out double over the centerfielder's head to the wall, which allowed Schimpf to come in and make it a 6-1 Tiger advantage.
Southern Miss finally got to Verdugo in the bottom of the frame with three runs to cut the deficit to 6-4. Third baseman Chris Matesich doubled to open the inning. Verdugo then walked catcher Keith Winstead, and right fielder Michael Ewing drove in Matesich with an RBI double. Verdugo was nearly out of the inning, but second baseman James Ewing ripped a two-run single to centerfield.
Clark continued his power surge and recorded his fifth multi-homer game when he sent a towering, two-run shot deep over the right field wall in the top of the sixth. The homer plated Helenihi and increased the LSU lead to 8-4.
The Tigers added five runs over the final two innings to put the game out of reach. Senior third baseman Michael Hollander belted a two-run, opposite field home run as part of a four-run eighth. Schimpf added a two-run double, and pinch hitter Sean Ochinko closed the scoring barrage with a solo shot in the top of the ninth.
Junior right-hander Louis Coleman entered in the sixth for LSU and worked three effective innings as he limited the Golden Eagles to two hits. Coleman and freshman right-hander Anthony Ranaudo held Southern Miss scoreless over the final four frames to preserve the win.
LSU 13, Southern Miss 4 (May 31, 2008 at Baton Rouge, La.)
LSU....................... 001 412 041 - 13 12 0 (45-16-1)
Southern Miss....... 000 130 000 - 4 8 4 (41-21)
Pitchers: LSU - Ryan Verdugo; Louis Coleman(6); Anthony Ranaudo(9).
Southern Miss - Todd McInnis; Houston Brown(5); JR Ballinger(6); Wade Weathers(6); Josh Fields(9).
Win-Ryan Verdugo(9-2) Loss-Todd McInnis(6-3) T-3:10 A-8012
HR LSU - Michael Hollander (5); Blake Dean (19); Sean Ochinko (4); Matt Clark 2 (25).
Weather: 85 degrees and mostly cloudy
Game produced by Jumbo Sports and televised on Cox Sports Television.
Actual attendance: 7,498
Ballinger faced 2 batters in the 6th.
2008 NCAA BATON ROUGE REGIONAL
GAME 4 QUOTES
LSU vs. SOUTHRN MISS
LSU HEAD COACH PAUL MAINERI
"First of all, I am not sure these kids (LSU players) up here know this, but Skip Bertman had a heart attack today. So the first thing I want to say obviously is that my thoughts and prayers are with Skip and Sandy (Bertman) and their family right now. Herb Vincent grabbed me as soon as the game was over and told me the news about Skip and I could not believe it I was shocked. It took a little bit of the good feeling about tonight away from me because I think the world of the man. I know he is under good doctors' care and I am sure he will come through this but it is a shock when you hear about it. It shows that there are a lot of things more important than baseball."
"With that said I will say that I thought tonight was a great ballgame by our team. This one felt a lot like the Friday night game against South Carolina way back when. I thought we played about the same caliber of game as we did that Friday night against South Carolina. Back then I said I thought that was our best game of the year and I thought this one rivaled it. I thought (Ryan) Verdugo pitched very tough. He fell behind a lot of hitters but he made a lot of big pitchers and then gave us five innings, and then Louis Coleman as he has done all year came in and took charge of the game and really did a phenomenal job. I thought defensively we made some spectacular plays again. It kind of reminded me a little bit of the game last week in the SEC Tournament against Vanderbilt. We had several highlight-reel plays again tonight. And of course we had some clutch hits and some home runs, so I am not sure what else we could have done tonight. It was a pretty complete game performance by us tonight. But as I told our players after the game yet, as great a game as it was we have not won anything yet. We still need one more win this weekend to win this tournament and advance. We will enjoy it until midnight and then when the clock strikes midnight and a new day begins our focus will shift to tomorrow and we will get ready to play. Blake Martin will be the starting pitcher for tomorrow."
LSU Player Quotes
1B MATT CLARK
On his two home runs...
"I got some pitches in the zone and put some good swings on them. I try to not miss those pitches when they come. That's the thing, me and [DH Blake Dean] have been getting a lot of pitches in the zone and we just try not to miss them, and that's what happens when you miss them. Good things happen for the team and for us individually."
On if there is any competition between him and teammate Blake Dean...
"There's really no competition. We root for each other and if one guy does it you're not really trying to do it, you just hope to get some good swings and but the bat on some balls. It's been a lot of fun."
SS D.J. LEMAHIEU
On his night at the plate...
"When you've got guys like [1b Matt Clark] and [DH Blake Dean] in the lineup hitting they way they are you just try to find a way on base."
On how the team is batting...
"When you see guys going up there and taking the swings they are it makes you wanna get there and hit the ball real hard."
P LOUIS COLEMAN
On his three scoreless innings in relief...
"I thought [P Ryan Verdugo] pitched excellent and, like coach said, he made some big pitches. When I came in, I was trying to get the momentum going completely our way and put up a couple zero. That was the main focus when I came in and with guys swinging the bat the way they are from one to nine, it's pretty easy to pitch when guys are going like that because you know that the whole team is behind you making great plays."
On if the pitching staff has been doing anything different lately...
"To be honest with you, nothing. Coach Rooney gave me and the rest of the pitching staff a game plan of just working ahead and throwing strikes. For me, it's just getting strike one and going from there."
USM HEAD COACH CORKY PALMER
"There were three good innings, but then it just snowballed. They outplayed us. They outpitched us and outdid us. After the fourth inning, there wasn't a lot to it. We did close [an inning] with 6-4, but we can't make it beating the game without the starters. [Wade] Weathers deserves a better place, he's just been over pitched and ran out of gas.
On the starting pitcher against UNO...
"Josh Billeaud will start the game against UNO."
On the pitching against LSU...
"The match up is six left-handed sticks and their five regular lefties in a switch. I thought we were doing an excellent job, but we made some mistakes. [Matt] Clark does what a good hitter does. He took care of them. If we didn't give up that, I think we probably would have a different ball game."
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI PLAYER QUOTES
Pitcher Todd McInnis
On the fourth inning...
"I felt good in the fourth inning. The big pitch for me in the whole game was the changeup, and in that inning, I just couldn't get it over, and the left-handed hitters just took care of it."
Second baseman James Ewing
On his night offensively...
"I just kind of knew he (Verdugo) would throw me a changeup, so I was sitting on that, and I was going to try and be extra-aggressive because I didn't want that lefty-on-lefty matchup coming with Sutton up next. We just couldn't get much going offensively, and we didn't play our normal defense. We didn't pitch well. They just beat us in everything tonight."
On the difficult task of winning three straight games...
"We're in a hole right now for sure. It's no secret. We have our work cut out for us. Teams that go deep into the postseason and eventually make it to Omaha overcome things like this. We're up for the challenge, and we look forward to it tomorrow morning."
(Report courtesy of lsusports.net.)