With the No. 3 overall draft pick on the mound, and LSU threatening to score, LSU coach Paul Mainieri called on a rarely-used pinch-hitter to come through.
Tyler Moore entered for freshman Andrew Stevenson — who was 0-for-2 with two strikeouts — to try and bring in the go-ahead run from third with one out in the eighth inning. Moore delivered, breaking the scoreless tie and leading LSU to a 2-0 victory in Game 1 of the Baton Rouge Super Regional.
Moore's RBI-double and a two-hit complete game by Aaron Nola provided all the firepower LSU needed in front of a record crowd of 11,095.
"Anybody that hasn't been to Alex Box Stadium for a game like this needs to put it on their bucket list," Mainieri said. "You haven't lived until you experience this with the crowd and the atmosphere…That's the kind of game that should have been played here."
LSU had little answer for Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray — the second pitcher taken Thursday on Day 1 of the MLB Draft — through seven innings. The Tigers had gotten just five base runners, none of which advanced past first base.
But that changed in a two-run eighth inning, started with a one-out triple by JaCoby Jones, who entered that at-bat 0-for-2 with a strikeout. Jones looked at the first pitch, a slider, then whiffed on the second, a fastball that flirted with triple digits on the radar gun.
But Jones connected on the third, blasting it to deep right-center field for an easy three-bagger.
"[Gray] pitched great with his off-speed pitches, then he'd come back with his fastball," Jones said. "I just trusted my hands and got the barrel to the ball. I was sitting on the slider before I got two strikes, but after that I was just trying to battle and get on base."
That brought in Moore, who's been the definition of clutch for LSU in the postseason. Moore hit a game-tying home run against Stony Brook in last year's Super Regional, and had a late game-tying double against Alabama in this year's SEC Tournament.
With those performances on his resume, Moore sent Jones home with a double to the right field warning track.
"You have to be ready for a moment like that," Moore said. "You have to be mentally prepared and watching these pitchers throw. Watching this guy throw 100-plus pitches, it shows me his tendencies. You have to be ready in any moment, physically and mentally."
Mark Laird — who went 3-for-4 in his first Super Regional game — brought in another insurance run two batters later, but LSU wouldn't need it as Nola finished the gem in the top of the ninth.
Nola forced three routine grounders for a perfect final frame, sealing his fifth complete game of the season.
"Our guys have looked forward to facing Gray, but people might forget that we had a pretty good pitcher as well," Mainieri said. "I wouldn't trade him for anyone in the world."
Though LSU had little answer for Gray through most of the game, neither did Oklahoma against Nola. He allowed only three runners through nine innings, while the Sooners only produced one legitimate scoring chance in the contest.
1B Matt Oberste — a seventh-round draft pick — opened the fifth inning with a double to left-center, the first hit surrendered by Nola. A sacrifice bunt brought him 90-feet away from scoring the go-ahead run.
But Nola rebounded, striking out the next batter before forcing DH Colt Bickerstaff to send a high chopper to second. Jones made the throw in time and kept a zero on the scoreboard.
"It was disappointing at the time," said Oklahoma coach Sunny Golloway. "Baseball's a game of inches. You want to give [Gray] the lead. We tried to do it, and I'll probably lay in bed wishing I would have squeeze bunted."
The victory sets LSU up nicely as the Tigers are now one win away from Omaha. But LSU knows as good as any team how hard it can be to close out a Super Regional. LSU dropped two consecutive games to Stony Brook in 2012 after winning the opener.
LSU will hope for a different result this time around. A pair of second-round draft picks will take the mound as LSU's Ryan Eades faces Oklahoma's Dillon Overton in what could be the clincher for LSU.
First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.
"We are one down," Mainieri said, "and we still have another one to go."
LSU one win away from Omaha
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