Tigers get past UNCW in 11th

Jon Zeringue played the hero in LSU's 9-8 win Sunday over North Carolina-Wilmington in the championship game of the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional.<br><br>His solo walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th inning advanced the Tigers to a super-regional series with Baylor next weekend.

LSU will most likely host Baylor, winner of the Hattiesburg, Miss., regional. Official times and sites of the super regional series and the times will be announced Monday at 11 a.m. The best-of-three series will begin either Friday or Saturday and will be televised by ESPN.

LSU took a 2-0 lead in its first at bat but had to come from behind three times to tie UNC-Wilmington, including in the bottom of the tenth inning. After the Seahawks took an 8-7 lead in the top half, Aaron Hill forced another extra inning with an RBI single.

Zeringue came to the plate against UNCW releiver Ronald Hill with one out in the 11th inning and crushed an 0-1 pitch beyond the left field bleachers for his first hit of the game.

"I definitely felt like I was due," said Zeringue. "I hadn't hit a home run in a while, and I'd been hitting the ball well all tournament. You get frustrated when you keep hitting the ball hard right at them, but you just have to keep going up there."

The win was the first this season for LSU in extra innings. The Tigers had lost all four of their previous games that went beyond regulation.

UNC-Wilmington, playing in its first NCAA regional, had advanced to play LSU in the championship game with 9-8 win over Tulane in 10 innings Saturday night.

The Seahawks held a 5-2 lead over LSU through three innings and went ahead 7-5 in the top of the fifth inning. The Tigers scored single runs in the bottom of the fifth and the sixth, and the score stayed deadlocked at 7 until Matt Sutton put UNCW head with a run-scoring double in the tenth inning.

"These guys can hit," said LSU starting pitcher Bo Pettit. "I just wanted to keep it pretty close. This was a great team effort."

UNC-Wilmington hit four home runs against Pettit, who allowed seven runs on six hits with nine strikeouts over seven innings.

Jason Determann (6-0) pitched the remainder of the game and gave up two hits with four strikeouts.

"It's great to win," LSU head coach Smoke Laval said. "After the ball game, I went over to Mark (Scalf), their head coach, and said, ‘If you call and want to come down and play us next year, I won't invite you.'"

The Tigers had not trailed in their regional games against Northeastern and Tulane, and got off on the right foot against UNCW in the first inning when Hill hit a run-scoring double to the left field wall in the first inning. Blake Gill hit a sacrifice fly that scored Hill for a 2-0 LSU lead.

The Seahawks cut the score to 2-1 in their next at-bat with Russ Simmerman's solo home run, and the runs continued for UNCW the following inning.

Matt Wright blasted a three-run homer to right field, and Sutton added a solo bomb two batters later for a 5-2 UNC-Wilmington lead.

"I just made some bad pitches," said Petit. "My curveball was hanging up a lot."

LSU responded in the fourth when Ryan Patterson led off with a solo home run to right-center. The Tigers then loaded the bases and Aaron Hill drew a walk to bring in another run. Gill hit an RBI single just past the second baseman to knot the score at 5.

The Seahawks continued to apply the offensive pressure when Wright launched his second home run of the day in the top of the fifth, giving UNC-Wilmington a 7-5 advantage.

In the bottom of the inning, Ivan Naccarata singled to lead off the inning and Patterson followed with a grounder right at shortstop Aaron Smith. Smith got a glove on the ball but fumbled while getting it out of his glove and botched the throw to second base. Naccarata made it around to third on the play, and Zeringue brought him in with a sacrifice fly to close the gap to 7-6.

Another error hurt UNC-Wilmington in the sixth inning when Gill reached after Simmerman muffed a grounder. Naccarata brought Gill in two batters later with a single.

Neither team could add a run in the next two innings thanks to outstanding relief pitching from UNCW's Matt Carter and Determan for the Tigers.

"I knew we were going to get some runs off their pitchers," said Determann. "If I could just keep their runs to a minimum, I knew we could pull it out. The fans were huge for us, too. Everybody stepped up, the pitching, the defense, the hitting, everything."

After UNC-Wilmington went up a run in the tenth on Sutton's double, another Seahawk error led to LSU evening the score. Bruce Sprowl singled with one out in the bottom of the tenth to put the tying run on for LSU. J.C. Holt, the regional's Most Valuable Player, came up next and hit into a potential double play at second base, but Simmerman lost the ball trying to make the throw. Sprowl made it to third on the play, and Hill brought him in with a single.

"There's something funny about how things go in the Box," said Holt, who was 9 for 15 in the tournament with eight RBIs. "A potential game-winning double play, and the ball just gets off his glove."

After a three-up-three-down top of the eleventh that featured a great diving catch on a line drive by Hill, Zeringue put the game away by blasting his 12th home run of the season.

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