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|LSU sweeps NCAA regional; Tigers to host UC Irvine next weekend|
BATON ROUGE -- LSU designated hitter Blake Dean broke open a close game with a bases-loaded triple in the sixth inning as the top-seeded Tigers went on to capture the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional, 11-4, over Southern Miss before a crowd of 7,161 fans on Sunday night at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (46-16-1) extended its winning streak to 23 games and shattered the Southeastern Conference record for single-season consecutive wins. South Carolina held the previous mark after winning the first 22 games of the 2000 season. Southern Miss ended its season with a 42-22 record.
The Tigers will take on UC Irvine in NCAA Super Regional play next weekend at Alex Box Stadium. The best-of-three series begins either Friday or Saturday for the right to advance to the College World Series. The Ant Eaters (41-16) won the NCAA Lincoln Regional on Sunday with an 8-0 blanking of Oral Roberts.
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri dedicated Sunday's regional championship to LSU Athletic Director Skip Bertman, who was admitted to a Baton Rouge hospital Saturday after experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack. Bertman is in good condition and is expected to be released from the hospital either Monday or Tuesday.
"We won that one for the 'Skipper' (Skip Bertman)," Mainieri said. "Obviously, my thoughts all day have been with Skip as he recovers from his heart attack yesterday. I hope this gave him a little bit of joy and maybe helps his recovery.
"I'm just so proud of my kids. They have responded to every challenge that has come their way. Somebody told me we broke the SEC record for consecutive games won. Obviously, this game had significance in a lot of ways but mostly because we won the regional championship now, and we get to advance to the next round. "
LSU claimed its 17th NCAA regional title on Sunday and first since 2004. The Tigers improved to 29-6 on championship day in NCAA postseason play, including a 20-2 mark in NCAA regional final rounds.
Dean extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his clutch triple and was named regional most valuable player for his efforts that saw him bat .455 (5-for-11) with three homers and nine RBI on the weekend.
I'm going to go to bed tonight thinking of Blake Dean's swing on that 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded," Mainieri said. "That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen."
Freshman shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored three runs, and freshman centerfielder Leon Landry added a two-run homer.
LSU sophomore right-hander Paul Bertuccini (2-0) entered in a jam in the fifth but struck out all five batters he faced during his 1.1 innings of work to register the win in relief. Bertuccini's brilliant outing earned the sophomore all-tournament honors.
Junior left-hander Blake Martin started the contest, allowing two runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings with no walks and four strikeouts.
Meanwhile, Southern Miss starter Brian Leach (2-4) was touched for six runs on six hits in five innings. Leach had the Tigers off balance early, but he exited in the sixth after LSU eventually plated six runs.
LSU built a 3-0 lead after two innings of play. After Leach retired the first two batters in the first, Dean worked a two-out walk. Catcher Micah Gibbs then delivered with his first hit of the regional when he drove a double into the left field corner to score Dean.
In the second, LeMahieu extended his hitting streak to nine games with a one-out single to centerfield. LeMahieu swiped second base and Landry belted his fifth homer of the season – a two-run shot – over the left field wall.
Leach was able to quiet the LSU bats over the next three frames without issuing a run. That opportunity allowed the Golden Eagles to climb back into the contest with a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings.
Martin gave up an RBI sacrifice fly to third baseman Chris Matesich and was chased from the game an inning later when first baseman Trey Sutton picked up a two-out RBI single that scored right fielder Corey Stevens.
With the Tigers clinging to a 3-2 lead, Bertuccini inherited a two-out jam but fanned left fielder Drew Carson to preserve the score. Bertuccini struck out the side in the sixth and fanned all four batters he faced before yielding to LSU ace right-hander Jared Bradford.
Bradford was given a seven-run cushion to work with when the Tigers struck for six runs in the bottom of the sixth. The first two batters of the inning reached allowing first baseman Matt Clark to drop an RBI double down the left field line.
USM reliever Collin Cargill was nearly out of the inning after Landry lined out to first for the second out, but third baseman Michael Hollander ripped a two-run single into centerfield to make it a 6-2 contest. Left fielder Jared Mitchell was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases for the hot-hitting Dean.
With 7,000-plus fans on their feet, Dean provided the clutch hit of the tournament when he deposited a triple into the right-field gap that cleared the bases and put the game out of reach, 9-2, in favor of LSU.
Hollander drove in a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh with another single to centerfield.
Bradford allowed a run in the seventh and another in the ninth but the deficit proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles.
LSU 11, Southern Miss 4 (Jun 01, 2008 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Southern Miss....... 000 110 101 - 4 11 0 (42-22)
LSU....................... 120 006 20X - 11 9 1 (46-16-1)
Pitchers: Southern Miss - Brian Leach; Collin Cargill(6); Tyler Conn(6); JR Ballinger(8). LSU -
Blake Martin; Paul Bertuccini(5); Jared Bradford(7).
Win-Paul Bertuccini(2-0) Save-Jared Bradford(5) Loss-Brian Leach(2-4) T-3:09 A-7870
HR LSU - Leon Landry (5).
Weather: 91 degrees and mostly sunny
Game produced by Jumbo Sports and televised on Cox Sports Television.
Actual attendance: 7,161
Leach faced 3 batters in the 6th.
Baton Rouge Regional All-Tournament Team
P - Josh Billeaud, Southern Miss
P - Paul Bertuccini, LSU
C - Keith Winstead, Southern Miss
1B - Matt Clark, LSU
2B - Ryan Schimpf, LSU
SS - DJ LeMahieu, LSU
3B - Chris Matesich, Southern Miss
OF - Drew Carson, Southern Miss
OF - Leon Landry, LSU
OF - Jared Mitchell, LSU
DH - Blake Dean, LSU
Most Outstanding Player - Blake Dean, LSU
LSU vs. Southern Mississippi
June 1, 2008
LSU head coach Paul Mainieri
"I've been waiting to say this all day. We won that one for the 'Skipper' (Skip Bertman). Obviously, my thoughts all day have been with Skip as he recovers from his heart attack yesterday. I hope this gave him a little bit of joy and maybe helps his recovery. I'm just so proud of my kids. They have responded to every challenge that has come their way. Somebody told me we broke the SEC record for consecutive games won. How many years have they been playing baseball in the SEC? That's an amazing accomplishment by a great group of kids. Obviously, this game had significance in a lot of ways but mostly because we won the regional championship now, and we get to advance to the next round.
"I understand UC-Irvine won the regional in Lincoln, Nebraska, so we know that's going to be a tremendous challenge and one that we will relish and embrace. Tonight, we are going to enjoy this victory and this championship. I told the kids before we went to Auburn that every weekend now we are going to be playing for championships. By my count, that's four championships, boys. We've got the (SEC) Western Division championship. We won the bracket of the SEC tournament and the championship game of the tournament and then, this one. That's four down and three to go. We've got next weekend, and then, of course, the World Series in Omaha.
"We feel very privileged to advance. We beat an outstanding ballclub in Southern Mississippi tonight. They had a tremendous year. Once again, I'm just so proud of my kids; they find ways to win. We started a little bit slow. Leon (Landry) gave us the home run early, but then, we got kind of stagnant there for a few innings before we had the big sixth inning. I'm going to go to bed tonight thinking of Blake Dean's swing on that 0-2 pitch with the bases loaded. That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen."
On some of the unsung players in the lineup...
"It just seems that all the attention is on Dean and Clark's home runs, but this has never been a two-man team, and those guys would be the first to admit that. (Micah) Gibbs got that big hit, Landry hit the big home run, and Paul Bertuccini's outing was as outstanding a middle relief outing as you'll ever see. He faced four batters and struck out four batters, including that key strike out to end the fifth inning. This team, once again, is the true epitome of what a team is supposed to be. When you have a guy who has hit 25 home runs and another who has 19 home runs, it probably doesn't sound right that we don't have superstars on this team because those guys are, but they don't act that way. They just act like they are a part of this team, and they do their role and their job. The rest of the guys feel the same way. They just do whatever it takes. It's such a joy to coach a group of kids like this. I look forward to coming to the field everyday."
Southern Miss head coach Corky Palmer
"I thought LSU played well, we just walked too many guys. We played all day and it was hot out there. It was tough, LSU has a fine club and we didn't give ourselves a chance because we walked too many people. We had a tremendous season. We had a great senior class. We won 42 games and have a chance to play in the championship. I'm very happy about the season we had. Of course we are disappointed, but we've made it through a lot this year with injuries."
On Keith Winstead's injury...
"He's played hurt since six or seven weeks ago. The doctors told him they didn't know if he could make it. But, he told them it was his last year and he would make it. He had a super year and he has great leadership all the pitchers love throwing to him. His knee hurt his offense a little, but he's a great kid with a great future. He's a very smart kid who understands baseball and will make a lot more money than me one day."
On if fatigue had anything to do with their loss...
"Not really, I thought Leach (Brian) pitched well. We let a lot of runners on early, we had opportunities but then LSU just made us pay. When we walked people they made us pay. I really don't think fatigue had anything to do with it. We out hit LSU 11 to nine, I would have said yes if they would have out hit us."
Southern Miss Player Quotes
3B CHRIS MATESICH
On finishing his collegiate career..
"It's hard to sit here and know that I'll never put on the uniform again, this being my fifth year. That was my last game. I'm happy that I was able to go out playing well. We had a great season as a team. We went through a lot of stuff that we were able to overcome. I couldn't be more proud of anyone on our team and I'm very proud to be a member of this 2008 Southern Miss baseball team."
On if LSU has the ingredients of a championship team...
"Absolutely. From top to bottom, it's a challenge every inning. It doesn't matter who it is; from one to nine in their lineup. They played solid defense and they've got good pitching. They've got the make up of a great baseball team.
"With that kind of offense, you can compete with anybody."
C KEITH WINSTEAD
On his play on the final day (he hit two home runs in the first game against UNO)...
"The UNO game was a big game, but as soon as that game ended we had to put that behind us and look forward. That was just one game in the path that we were looking to go in and once that game ended we had to look to LSU. You have to tip your cap to them. They are a great ball club. Like Coach Palmer said, we walked a bunch of people, but even further than that. Every mistake we made they hit hard. They hit the ball hard. They didn't miss their pitches and you have to look at it like that. They didn't miss a pitch. We had our chances. It's just hard to get over that I'll never be putting this uniform back on again. You want to know you left everything on the field."
On playing his final year with an injury...
"It wasn't a struggle at all. You know you've got one year left. There's nothing I'm protecting. I'm not looking out for a pro contract or any of that kind of stuff. You've got one year left to play and you play on the adrenaline rush for the full year."
(Report courtesy of lsusports.net.)