LSU battles back even with Baylor

LSU kept its dreams of a College World Series berth alive Saturday afternoon with a dramatic 6-5 win over Baylor in the NCAA Super Regional at Alex Box Stadium.<br>Home runs from Aaron Hill, Clay Harris and Ivan Naccarata proved enough to push the Tigers ahead of the Bears and even the best-of-three series.

"It was just an extremely competitive, well-played game and I do not know what more you can ask for in this kind of environment," Baylor coach Steve Smith said, "especially with what is on the line to get a game that well-played from both sides."

On the line is a trip to Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series. LSU has not visited Rosenblatt Stadium since its 2000 national title triumph. The deciding game between LSU and Baylor is slated for 1:30 p.m. Sunday and will be shown nationally on ESPN.

LSU (44-20-1) could be considered the favorite between the equally matched ball clubs as the Tigers have enjoyed a great deal of success in championship games, especially in Alex Box Stadium. LSU sports the highest NCAA Tournament winning percentage at .740 with a 58-11 record all-time in postseason play in Baton Rouge.

The Bears are attempting to become the first team to win any round of an NCAA Tournament in Baton Rouge against LSU, while the Tigers are seeking their 12th trip to Omaha since 1986.

LSU coach Smoke Laval said he feels much better about LSU's chances being within the confines of Alex Box on Sunday.

"I'd much rather play at home with our fans," he said. "They (Baylor) have played at Texas A&M and at Nebraska, but with our fans beating down on them in this heat, I am happy to be at home."

Laval will turn to freshman hurler Justin Meier (7-3) to start for the Tigers. Mark McCormick (6-2), also a freshman, gets the nod for the Bears.

"If you would have posed the question to our players at the beginning of the season if they had the opportunity to play in one game for a super regional championship and a trip to the College World Series, would they take it," Smith said. "I think everyone of them would have said yes."

Facing elimination, the Tigers came to the ball park Saturday looking like a team on a mission. LSU appeared to be on track to put the game away early racing out to a 4-0 lead through the first two innings.

However, LSU's bats cooled down in the mid innings as Laval's club fell behind 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh. "We are still playing not to lose instead of trying to win," Laval said. "We definitely had a lot of chances. We had the right guys at the plate, but it just didn't happen for us."

Bruce Sprowl led off the LSU first with a routine ground ball to Baylor first baseman Mark Saccomanno, but Sprowl was safe when pitcher Shawn Walker dropped Saccomanno's throw to the bag.

J.C. Holt, who struck out four times in LSU's 4-1 loss Friday, grounded a single back up the middle, and Hill launched a two-run home run to right field to five the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

A leadoff double by Ryan Patterson and a wild pitch by Walker produced a 4-0 LSU lead in the second inning when Jon Zeringue grounded to second.

"We jumped on them in the first and hoped they would go away, but that is not going to happen in a super regional," Laval said.

Instead, Walker stifled LSU's offensive attack for the next five innings.

"They had three runs before we even made an out," Smith said. "It could have been a disaster, but Sean pitched well and got us out of it."

The Bears (45-22) chipped away at LSU's lead with single runs in the second, third and fourth innings. The Tigers remained on top 4-3 until Zach Dillon and Trey Webb led off the bottom of the seventh with back-to-back base hits, which chased LSU starter Bo Pettit from the game.

Pettit had limited Baylor to four hits through six innings before running in to trouble. He pitched despite having a bad blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

"The funny thing is that nobody knows that Bo was coming out in the third," Laval said. "He had a blister that nobody here could pitch with and he just muscled his way through until we could get to (Jason) Determann."

The blister has been a recurring problem for Pettit, who has battled with it throughout most of this season.

"We tried to manage it between innings," Pettit said. "It kind of ripped off the skin in that second inning. I just wanted to tough it out. I didn't want to go out in the second inning of my last stand in Alex Box Stadium."

Determann (7-0) releived Pettit and got two quick outs with a strikeout of Kyle Reynolds and Kevin Sevigny's fly out to right. But leadoff hitter Chris Durbin hit an 0-2 pitch from Determman for a 2-RBI double that gave the Bears a 5-4 lead. "We had two runners on first and second and the pitcher was throwing me a lot of back-door breaking balls and got me down early in the count 0-2," Durbin said. "I was trying to put the ball in play and luckily he hung an 0-2 curveball right over the plate and I got it into centerfield and luckily it fell."

Baylor's excitement was quickly squelched when Harris homered off the right field scoreboard to lead off the top of the eighth against Balyor reliever Ryan LaMotta (7-3). "I got up there and just wanted to start something off because I was leading off the inning," Harris said. "We were down by one and I knew a base runner was important. I just wanted to get a good pitch and I got it up in the air."

Naccarata followed Harris' lead with his solo blast to right center to give LSU the lead once again, 6-5.

Baylor managed a pair of base runners in the bottom of the eighth when Saccomanno and Reid Brees hit back-to-back one-out singles. But the crafty Determann got Webb and Jared Clements to fly out to center and right field respectively to end the inning.

Determann, who picked up the win in relief in the Tigers' regional championship game win over UNC Wilmington, had a scary moment in the ninth when Durbin launched a fly ball to deep center field, but Holt hauled it in just in front of the wall.

"I got all of it," Durbin said. "I got a good piece of the bat on it and thought I had gotten it. But I hit it to the deepest part of the park and the wind was kind of blowing in." Determann said he felt like supernatural forces had a hand in keeping Durbin's shot in the ball park.

"It was a blessing," he said. "I think Wally (Pontiff) was up there blowing it back in (the park)," Determann said of the Tigers' fallen third baseman.

The game ended with Determann snaring a line drive from David Murphy at the mound.

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