LSU experienced the wrong end of a magic rally Sunday, surrendering five late, unanswered runs in a 5-4 loss to Houston.
The Cougars tied it with four runs in the eighth before taking the lead with a game-winning single in the 11th, prolonging their season. The LSU loss forces a decisive game Monday at 7 p.m. to determine who advances from the Baton Rouge regional.
It was the Tigers' first loss in a regional since 2010, the first at home since 2005. It snapped LSU's 10 game winning streak and leaves the Tigers one loss away from elimination.
"It was obviously a very tough loss for our guys," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "It was a heck of a game, both teams were battling really hard. We seemingly had the game in hand."
LSU had Houston on the brink after expanding its lead to 4-0 with three runs in the bottom of the seventh.
But the Cougars fought back to even it with four runs of their own in the next half-inning. Josh Vidales got it started with a leadoff single off Kurt McCune — who worked around a leadoff walk for a scoreless inning in the seventh. Michael Pyeatt sent a dribbler down the first base line in the next at-bat, but an obstruction was called on McCune that allowed both runners to be safe.
"I don't think I've ever seen an interference call on the pitcher before," Mainieri said. "But it is what it is, and it certainly aided their inning."
Kyle Survance then singled to load the bases, and Landon Appling cut the deficit in half with a single to center field. That chased McCune from the game, and Zac Person induced a grounder from the only batter he faced that moved both runners into scoring position.
In came Nate Fury, who surrendered a two-run single by Caleb Barker to tie it 4-4.
"They came through with the big hits," Mainieri said. "They put the ball on the ground, and when the ball's on the ground, it has a chance to find holes."
Joe Broussard kept the Cougars in check through the ninth and tenth innings before Houston finally broke through in the 11th.
Vidales again got it all started with a two-out single to left field. Pyeatt followed that with a double down the right field line, putting both runners in scoring position for Survance, who drove in the go-ahead run with a single the opposite way.
LSU failed to answer in the bottom of the inning, going down in order with a pair of pop flies to center field and a lineout to first base.
That proved to be a common occurrence in the game, as LSU had several balls hit hard find outfielder's gloves. Of the nine outs recorded in the final three innings, seven were pop flies to the outfield.
"We hit a lot of balls right on the nose, they just didn't find the holes tonight," Moore said. "That's baseball, and we know it comes with the game."
That seemed an unlikely finish considering the momentum LSU had after a three-run seventh inning.
Conner Hale singled to start it off, and then Tyler Moore drilled a liner into the right field corner. The ball was nestled under the fence, and Survance called for a dead ball. But the umpires ruled the ball still in play as Moore made it around the bases for an inside-the-park-home run.
After Houston coach Todd Whitting filed a protest, two umpires conferred with a pair of NCAA officials, who determined the ball was not lodged in the fence and remained live in play. That held up the call and gave LSU a 3-0 lead at the time.
It was the second-such four-bagger of Moore's career, as he previously accomplished that feat in 2012. Raph Rhymes also hit an inside-the-park-home run in 2013.
LSU tacked on one more run to its lead in that seventh inning on a RBI-double by Alex Bregman to right field.
But the LSU bullpen that hadn't yet surrendered a run in the NCAA Tournament was unable to preserve the four-run lead.
"It looked like we had an insurmountable lead," Mainieri said. "But the breaks of baseball were against us tonight."
LSU will likely send Alden Cartwright to the mound Monday night for the decisive contest. Houston did not name a starting pitcher, but will likely rely on multiple relievers to piece together the game.
As for what's on the line, well, that's simple.
"There is no time to hang our heads now," Moore said. "It is win or go home."
LSU fails to clinch regional
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