Lots of drama, but nothing settled yet

Tigers and Seawolves play to a 4-4 standoff for 11 innings before rains hit and suspend the Super Regional opener.

First to get the flowery adjectives out of the way, the opening game of the best-of-three Super Regional series between LSU and Stony Brook at Alex Box Stadium was spectacular, amazing, intense, intriguing – basically any glowing term fits.

And one other thing: It's not over.

After 11 innings and more twists and turns than seem imaginable, the Tigers and Seawolves haven't settled anything, thanks to Mother Nature.

LSU forged a tie game with solo home runs in the bottom of the 9th, 10th and 11th innings before heavy rains pounded the Box and eventually prompted NCAA officials to suspend the game until Saturday.

Now the teams will begin the resumption of Game 1 at 10:05 a.m. Saturday, with Game 2 to follow 50 minutes after the first one ends.

Paul Mainieri

That sets up a situation when neither team will get to absorb the first game for long. The winner will go into the second game eager to punch a ticket to the College World Series and the loser will be desperate to force a third game on Sunday.

"You've got focus on the first game, and after that, then you address it," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "Either you tell your team ‘Boys, we've got to win to stay alive,' or ‘Boys this is it. If we win we go to Omaha.' "

How the Tigers and Seawolves got to this awkward but tantalizing standoff defies reality.

Stony Brook (50-12) led most of the day after nine-hole hitter Sal Intagliata launched a two-run home run to left field in the second inning right after Kevin Courtney smacked a one-out single off LSU freshman Aaron Nola.

The Seawolves loaded the base in the first inning with two outs against Nola and came up empty. That set a tone for most of the rest of a frustrating day as Stony Brook has collected 14 hits in 11 innings, but is s 2-for-14 with runners in scoring position and has stranded 14.

Besides Intagliata's blast and a go-ahead solo bomb from Steve Goldstein in the 9th inning, the Seawolves only other run came on Kevin Krause's sacrifice fly in the 11th.

"We just needed just a little bit more timely hitting and we could've opened the game up for ourselves," Stony Brook coach Jeff Senk said.

Those missed chances proved costly when the Tigers (46-16) suddenly found a flair for the dramatic and their power stroke at the same time.

LSU clawed back for an unearned run in the 7th inning when Seawolves shortstop Cole Peregine made a nice diving stop on a ball off the bat of Raph Rhymes, but his throw was wild for a two-base error. Rhymes scooted to third on a wild pitch and Ty Ross drove him in with a roller to shortstop.

That was all Seawolves starter Brandon McNitt allowed and he got to the 7th inning having given up only two hits. Alex Edward started that frame with a solid single to right field and Senk lifted McNitt for reliever James Campbell.

"Brandon's performance was nothing short of outstanding," Senk said.

The Seawolves' defense dug the hole a little deeper for Campbell when catcher Pat Cantwell pounced on Tyler Hanover's bunt and tried to throw out pinch-runner Jared Foster at second base, but the throw was low and both runners were safe.

Unfazed, Campbell weathered the storm when pinch-hitter Tyler Moore couldn't get a bunt down and then fanned – with Foster thrown out at third base when he broke on the pitch. Austin Nola fouled out to third base to end the threat and leave LSU trailing 2-1.

That changed in the ninth when Campbell's fortune began to turn.

JaCoby Jones led off the Tigers' ninth and after Intagliata narrowly missed snagging a foul pop in right field, the LSU second baseman pummeled a Campbell offering into the left-field bleachers for a game-tying bomb.

JaCoby Jones

"I was just leading off the inning and wanted to get on base," said Jones, who thrust his arm in the air in triumph three steps down the first-base line. "I asked Coach if he wanted me to take the first pitch and he said me to hit it out."

The Seawolves regained the lead in the 10th inning when Goldstein got a Chris Cotton pitch into the wind and floated it out to right field for Stony Brook's second homer of the day.

Campbell nearly had the doom shut on the Tigers in the 10th when he retired pinch-hitter Grant Dozar on a routine fly ball and struck out Hanover. With Moore back up, Campbell fell behind 3-and-0 but then got the count full.

Moore fouled off a pitch and then lifted a catchable foul ball toward the left-field bullpen. Goldstein sprinted in and was in position for a catch, but he stumbled on the mound and momentarily lost track of the ball's flight and wound up overrunning it.

It landed harmlessly, giving Moore a second chance. He fouled off one more pitch and then jerked a home run to right field, again knotting the score at 3-3.

"The at-bat ended up being 3-2 and I was just trying to stay alive and fortunately I got another chance to keep hitting and got a chance to hit something hard in play," Moore said. "Fortunately the ball met the barrel and it just carried out.

"That extra chance helped out a lot."

Stony Brook didn't buckle and carved out yet another lead in the 11th inning.

Facing LSU closer Nick Goody, leadoff man Travis Jankowski slapped an opposite-field single to left field and he got to second on Cantwell's sacrifice bunt. Willie Carmona battled Goody after falling behind 1-and-2 and fisted a flair single to center field to put runners on the corners with one out.

Mason Katz

Goody worked around Maxx Tissenbaum and walked him to load the bases before Krause poked a fly ball to shallow center field. Mason Katz, playing his third position of the game, hauled the ball in and uncorked a nice throw to the plate, but it was a shade late and the speedy Jankowski slid in with the go-ahead run.

In the bottom of the inning, new Stony Brook reliever Jasvir Rakkar came on to try and finish the Tigers off. Instead, he fell behind 2-and-0 against Katz, who hammered the next offering over the left-field fence, keeping it just fair for another game-tying homer.

"I kind of looked at Coach and he kind of smirked at me so I knew what he was thinking," Katz said. "We're not a huge power hitting team but today we were able to pop a few out."

Rhymes drilled the next pitch down the left-field line and deep, but it hooked foul at the last second – the nation's top hitter just missing a game-winning home run. Rakkar struck him out and then survived a walk to Ty Ross and Dozar's two-out single by retiring Hanover on a popup to center field.

Just as that ball settled into Jankowski's glove for the third out of the bottom of the 11th, the skies opened up. The teams nearly restarted at 4:37 p.m. but another wave of rain halted that chance and eventually the game was suspended and sent to Saturday.

LSU is still alive in the opener because of the home runs, which are residue of a season-long tenacity that came in handy Friday.

"Nobody in the dugout ever had their head down," Katz said. "Not one time did we feel like the game was over. We always think we're coming back no matter what. That's the kind of mentality we have."

And thanks to that mentality, the stage is set for edge-of-the seat drama right from the get-go on Saturday.

NOTES: Katz shows some versatility

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