OMAHA, Neb. — LSU served as its own worst enemy Sunday against UCLA.
A pair of errors led to a pair of unearned runs that cost the Tigers in a 2-1 defeat in their 2013 College World Series opener. Despite going 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position, UCLA took advantage of the LSU miscues and sent the Tigers into the loser's bracket.
"It was a tough, tough loss, that's for sure," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "I'm certainly glad it's a double elimination tournament. That would be a tough one to end the season on."
The first costly error came from one of LSU's most consistent defensive weapons. To open the sixth inning, UCLA leadoff man Brian Carroll laid down a bunt in front of the plate. Ty Ross, who had only committed one error this season, rushed his throw and sent it over Mason Katz' head.
Carroll advanced to second as the ball rolled into foul territory, then moved to third when the next batter grounded out to the right side. UCLA RF Eric Filia brought him in with a sacrifice fly to left, tying it 1-1 at the time.
"Speed creates pressure," said UCLA coach John Savage. "And I think there was a little pressure there. He happened to throw the ball away."
Then with two outs in the eighth and the go-ahead run on second, Filia sent a hard grounder to Alex Bregman. The National Freshman Player of the Year booted it into the outfield, allowing Christoph Bono to score and put UCLA up by one.
"Unfortunately, uncharacteristically for us, we made a couple of misplays defensively that cost us dearly," Mainieri said. "We really gift wrapped the two runs that they did score."
Those two errors spoiled an otherwise solid outing by Aaron Nola and cost the SEC Pitcher of the Year his first loss of the season.
Nola struck out five and surrendered five hits in eight innings of work. He still hasn't allowed an earned run in the NCAA Tournament, but UCLA did get the leadoff man on-base in each of the final six innings.
The Bruins turned to small-ball to apply pressure on the LSU defense with four sacrifice bunts and three stolen bases.
"It was real frustrating letting that lead-off guy get on," Nola said. "But it's happened to me throughout the year. And I battled as hard as I could until the last pitch. Unfortunately we booted a couple of balls around."
While UCLA didn't have much success against Nola, neither did LSU against Adam Plutko. A flyball pitcher, Plutko thrived in the spacious TD Ameritrade Park, surrendering just four hits with the lone blemish a solo home run by Katz in the fourth inning that gave LSU an early lead.
"I just hit it to the right part of the park," Katz said of his homer, the first by any team in this CWS. "I pulled it all the way down the line where I knew if I hit it good, it might get out…Plutko is a fly ball guy, and we didn't make enough adjustments."
LSU had its fair share of hard hits but couldn't muster the strength to push it out of a park that measures 375 feet to the power alleys. Christian Ibarra sent a pair of deep flies to the warning track, and Andrew Stevenson put a charge into that one that landed in Filia's glove just shy of the right-center field wall.
"This park is big," Katz said. "And it's unfortunate that's the way it plays…It's a huge park but everybody's playing with it."
Despite the offensive and defensive frustrations, LSU still had an opportunity to come back in the ninth inning against UCLA closer David Berg, the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year.
Katz reached on an error, the first time LSU got the leadoff man on base. Rhymes followed and squared to bunt twice, but watched the count go to 2-0. Mainieri opted to let Rhymes swing, but he grounded into a double play.
"We decided to take a gamble there and go with the hit and run, and Raph hit it hard," Mainieri said. "I was just really bad luck. He hit it so hard, they were able to turn the double play."
Ibarra battled to prolong the game, drawing a full-count walk. Tyler Moore entered to pinch-hit for Ross, and laced a single up the middle to put the game-tying run in scoring position. JaCoby Jones found himself in a full count and popped up to shallow right field for the final out, the 14th pop-up of the game.
"We just didn't square up enough balls," Mainieri said. "We can hit a lot better than we did today, and we just didn't squre up enough. And when we did, they were to the deepest part of the field."
LSU must now win four games in five days to reach the Championship Series. The Tigers muddled road now starts Tuesday at 2 p.m. against North Carolina, the No. 1 national seed.
"I don't think anybody on our team wants to go home," Katz said. "That's about it. If we lose another one, our season's over. It's pretty simple."
For more on LSU's disappointing loss to open the CWS, click the link below for the post game notebook.
NOTES: Mainieri mum on Tuesday starter
Errors cost LSU in CWS opener
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