There was no dogpile on the pitcher's mound after LSU's 5-1 regional clinching victory Sunday.
There was only a muted celebration, a quiet recognition that the Tigers had won three straight games to advance to the Super Regional. And though that's an achievement in itself, they'll admit they have more to accomplish.
"We all know that's just three-fifths of the job that needs to be done to get to Omaha," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "We got three big wins, but the players know it takes five…We know what the goal is, and we aren't going to celebrate a lot until we accomplish that."
For at least one night though, they'll relish in the limelight of a regional championship against in-state rival Louisiana-Lafayette. The Tigers can look back on the five runs, 10 hits and dominant pitching that put them two wins away from doing what they couldn't last year — reaching the College World Series.
"We have a bunch of kids that get the job done," Mainieri said. "Sometimes it's not pretty, sometimes they have to grind it out, but some aspect of our team will rise up and allow us to be victorious when it's all said and done."
ULL did keep it close through five innings, before a three-run sixth blew it open for good. LSU had threatened in each of the first five frames, but had only one run to show for 10 runners left on base.
The Tigers stranded six in scoring position through five innings, including a bases loaded opportunity in the fifth. LSU had already brought in one run when Ty Ross walked with the bases juiced. That brought up Alex Edward with two outs, who sent a dribbler to short. He nearly beat out the throw, but instead he served as the inning-ending out.
"We had opportunities early in the game," said Raph Rhymes, who had two RBI Sunday. "We just didn't get the job done. We kept battling and getting runners on. We didn't do the job early, but we got done with that later on."
The wasted opportunities stopped there as LSU threw up a three-spot in the sixth to make it an insurmountable deficit.
Mark Laird and JaCoby Jones started the rally with consecutive one-out singles before Alex Bregman brought in the first of his two RBI with a base hit up the middle. Mason Katz struck out, and it seemed another scoring chance could slip out of the Tigers' grasps.
But Rhymes came through, dropping a blooper just over ULL 2B Jace Conrad to plate a pair.
"That was a time in the game where I needed to step up," Rhymes said. "I was trying to make something happen. I got a good pitch to hit and I went the other way with it."
Bregman would tack on an insurance run in the eighth with a solo home run to left, but LSU didn't need it thanks to a gem on the mound. Brent Bonvillain, Nick Rumbelow and Chris Cotton combined to allow just three hits to one of the nation's more potent offenses.
"If it wasn't for Brent Bonvillain pitching the way that he did, it would have been a much more difficult time winning that ball game," Mainieri said. "For our pitching staff to hold that offensive team to three hits, that just speaks volumes to the job [they] did."
After tossing four scoreless innings in the SEC Tournament Championship game, Bonvillain threw a season-high 5 1/3 innings Sunday, only allowing one unearned run with three strikeouts. He retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced and didn't run into trouble until the sixth.
"I have no idea where it came from," Bonvillain said of his outing. "I just went out there and tried to have fun. It's hard to put into words."
The leadoff man reached base to open the sixth on a Bregman error, his third of the weekend, then came around to score on a RBI-double by Conrad.
Conrad would go on to steal third before Bonvillain came out of the game for Rumbelow. Making his first appearance of the regional, Rumbelow struck out both batters he faced in the sixth to strand the runner on third, then retired each of the next six for a perfect, 2 2/3-inning outing.
"He was just phenomenal today," Mainieri said. "He was like a man possessed out there. Honestly, I didn't want to take the ball away from him."
From there it was all Cotton, as he replicated what he's done for most of the season. He retired the Cajuns in order in the ninth, sending LSU to the next stage of the NCAA Tournament.
LSU will play host net weekend to the Oklahoma Sooners, who advanced through the Blacksburg regional on three consecutive wins behind strong pitching, particularly from possible No. 1 draft pick Jonathan Gray.
"We haven't put a lot of thought into that, but I had a sense that Oklahoma was probably going to come out of that regional," Mainieri said. "We're going to face a tremendous pitching staff…It's going to be a great battle."
For more on LSU's regional win — including information on Cody Glenn's possible reinstatement, a Sean McMullen injury update and how Alex Bregman is rewriting the record books — check out the postgame notebook on the TSD Message Board.
NOTES: Glenn's reinstatement, All-Regional team + more
LSU drops ULL to advance to Super Regional
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