Houston scored seven runs in the bottom of the third inning to break a 2-2 tie and end the LSU baseball team's season in the NCAA Regional final, 12-2, on Monday night at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
LSU (46-16-1) led 2-0 in the after the first frame, but Houston (48-16) scored 12 unanswered runs to advance to the NCAA Super Regional against Texas next weekend.
"Houston deserves the championship, and I wish them well," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "They are a really scrappy team, and they have an excellent pitching staff. Winning the championship is our standard at LSU and it’s what we shoot for. When we come up short of that goal, it’s always disappointing."
Cougars reliver Jared Robinson (5-1) entered to squelch a rally in the third and stymied the Tigers for the better part of the next six innings. He faced 15-straight Tigers without allowing hit until the eighth inning. Robinson threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Monday, allowing only four hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. He also threw 6 2/3 innings on Friday in an opening-round win over Southeastern Louisiana.
In the top of the first, LSU came out swinging against Houston starter Andrew Lantrip. With one out, both Alex Bregman and Jake Fraley singled through the left side and advanced on a double steal. McMullen's single through the right side scored both runners and gave LSU a 2-0 lead.
Houston answered immediately against LSU freshman starter Alden Cartwright, who was unable to get an out. Cartwright gave up a hit batter and two walks before being taken out. Righthander Parker Bugg (2-2), another freshman, entered and allowed a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded that cut LSU's advantage to 2-1. A sacrifice bunt by Caleb Barker tied the game at 2-2, and Bugg overcame an error with a strikeout to end the inning.
The Tigers put two runners on base by virtue of walks in the top of the third to chase Lantrip, but Robinson entered and struck out Cade Scivicque to end the threat.
In the deciding home half of the third, 10 Cougars reached base consecutively with only a fielder's choice to the Tigers' credit. Seven-straight crossed the plate against two LSU pitchers, as Bugg allowed a walk, a single and a hit batter to load the bases. After stopping a grounder up the middle with his foot and throwing out Casey Grayson at home for the first out, Bugg hit Landon Appling on the next pitch to drive in Frankie Ratcliff from third and give Houston a 3-2 lead.
Bugg was lifted in favor of Brady Domangue, who saw his first action since May 4. The junior righthander allowed a two-RBI double to Connor Hollis before giving up an RBI single to Ashford Fulmer.
A stole base and an intentional walk loaded the bases once again, and two-RBI single by Michael Pyeatt put Houston ahead 8-2. After a single by Grayson, Domangue was lifted for Nate Fury, who allowed a sacrifice fly by Ratcliff before striking out Barker to mercifully end the inning. The Tigers trailed 9-2.
Meanwhile, Robinson retired 13 of 15 Tigers and didn't allow a hit until Bregman led off the eighth inning with a single to left field. The junior pitcher was able to work around a single by McMullen - and another credited to pinch hitter Chris Chinea on a ground ball that hit Bregman between second and third - to get Tyler Moore out quietly and end the inning.
Houston added its final runs in the bottom of the eighth, as Grayson walk and Ratcliff singled to chase reliever Hunter Devall. Kurt McCune then gave up a one-out walk to load the bases before Grayson scored on a passed ball. Appling's single to left scored Ratcliff, and a sacrifice fly by Fulmer drove in Vidales to put Houston ahead, 12-2.
“When I think of the 2014 season, I’m not going to think about this game," Mainieri said. "I’m going to think about all the great things that these guys accomplished throughout the season. They gave us everything they had from April 1 to now. They’ve done remarkable things and played great ball. They left it all on the field, and I’m so proud of them."
Cajuns advance to Super Regionals
Having to battle their way through the losers bracket, the top-ranked UL-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns baseball team never trailed in a winner-take-all championship game at the Lafayette Regional on Monday holding on to win 5-3 against Mississippi State to advance to the Lafayette Super Regional.
The Cajuns (57-8) will host Ole Miss (44-18), the winner of the Oxford Regional, this weekend at "The Tigue". This is the Ragin' Cajuns first time to host a super regional and the program's third appearance overall (first since 2000).
The 57 wins moves UL-Lafayette within three of the NCAA record for wins in a season since the 56-game regular season was implemented in 1992. Florida State holds the record with 60 wins in 2002.