BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Raph Rhymes had a feeling LSU would find a way to pull out another NCAA tournament triumph in front of its always-raucous home crowd, just as it had so many times when he was a young Tigers fan in the stands.
Alex Edward hit a tying double in the ninth inning, Austin Nola scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the 10th, and LSU outlasted Oregon State 6-5 on Sunday night to win the NCAA tournament’s Baton Rouge regional.
“There wasn’t a second that I doubted whether or not we would win,” said Rhymes, who was 2 for 4 with a two-run homer. “Growing up, coming to these regional games, and watching LSU baseball, I know how big of a factor the crowd is. … I knew the crowd was going to will it. Our guys feed off that energy.”
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Oregon State, playing as the home team on LSU’s field, led 5-3 in the bottom of the sixth, but relievers Nick Rumbelow, Chris Cotton and Nick Goody shut out the Beavers the rest of the way.
Now LSU (46-16) will host a super regional next weekend against the winner of Monday night’s game between Stony Brook and Central Florida.
Rumbelow came in with two runners on after LSU starter Ryan Eades had given up a two-run single and did not yield a hit in 2 1-3 shutout innings. Cotton (7-0) pitched a scoreless ninth for the win and Goody struck out the side in the 10th for his 11th save.
“Nick Rumbelow was very key to the game, for him to come in and stem the tide there for us,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I almost wish I had brought him in a batter earlier now. Cotton gave us a great inning. What Nick Goody did, I tell you, that’s true closing, to close a championship with a one-run lead and throw the ball the way he did.”
Reliever Dylan Davis (1-1) took the loss for the Beavers (40-20).
Tyler Smith was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and scored a run for Oregon State, which played LSU less than two hours after staving off elimination with an 11-2 victory over Louisiana-Monroe in a loser’s bracket game. Michael Conforto, who had three hits and four RBIs against ULM, added two more hits and an RBI against LSU. His one-out double in the ninth put the potential winning run in scoring position, but the Beavers could not cash in.
“We had been on the field for three and a half hours to start with and we weren’t supposed to win the game,” Oregon State coach Pat Casey said. “We said, `Let’s just show them what we can do.’ We did everything we could do to win the game. We just didn’t finish it.”
JaCoby Jones had a pair of hits for the Tigers, each contributing to LSU rallies. His opposite-field double in the 10th advanced Nola to third base, putting him in position to score on Davis’ wild pitch.
Oregon State starter Taylor Starr lasted only four batters, none of which he retired, as LSU raced to a 3-0 lead on Mason Katz’s RBI single and Rhymes’ towering drive to left. Scott Schultz, normally a closer, then entered and held the Tigers scoreless for a little more than five innings, allowing the Beavers to eventually take the lead.
Schultz wound up pitching 8 2-3 innings with nine strikeouts, and it was nearly enough.
“Pat made a tremendous move going to his closer, Schultz, right away,” Mainieri said. “That kid just shut us down. He totally had us baffled there for several innings, but our kids never got discouraged.”
OSU started chipping away at LSU’s early lead when Smith singled, advanced to third on a misplay by center fielder Arby Fields and scored on Conforto’s sacrifice fly.
Ryan Barnes doubled in the second and fourth, and scored each time on two-out singles.
Smith’s two-out, bases-loaded single put the Beavers ahead 5-3.
LSU cut it to 5-4 when third baseman Ryan Dunn’s fourth error of the game — and second of the inning — allowed Grant Dozar to score from third. LSU’s Ty Ross led off the top of the ninth with a double to the center-field wall and Edward drilled a double to the wall in left center, scoring pinch-runner Jared Foster.
Conforto’s ninth-inning double was narrowly out of the reach of Foster’s dive. Foster slid headfirst into the center-field wall but bounced up and quickly got the ball back in before falling to the ground with neck pain. Foster remained in the game after trainers checked on him, and Cotton got the Tigers out of the inning.
That meant the Beavers would have to play their 19th inning of the day, and it didn’t go well.
LSU improved to 8-0 in NCAA tournament games played in the current Alex Box Stadium, a 10,000-seat ballpark that opened in 2009 to replace the old Alex Box just down the road.
The Tigers, now in their third super regional in five years, need two more wins to advance to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.