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Persistent LSU finds a way past 'Noles: What they said

Tigers rally late to scratch out an opening-round win in Omaha for the first time since 2009

OMAHA, Neb. -- LSU snared an unlikely, scintillating 5-4 victory against Florida State on Saturday night in the first round of the 2017 College World Series.

Here is what both teams said after a stunning finish at TD Ameritrade Park:



Opening statement

“First of all, I put myself in the shoes of the other team's coach. I know that was a tough loss for Mike and his staff and their boys.

“You know, they competed really hard. I have a lot of respect for that pitcher. He pitched his heart out against us. And you know they did a lot of good things. And at the end of the day we took advantage of a couple of missed plays by them, and it was a little bit of a bizarre game.

“I'm not sure I've ever seen a runner score from first base on a strikeout. I know you think we probably practice that play all the time, but we really don't.

“I thought that our team didn't really play that great, at least not up to our potential. And yet somehow we still found a way to win, which is really encouraging for us.

“This is personally my sixth trip to Omaha, fifth with LSU. This is only the second time we've won the first game of the tournament. And I can't tell you what a relief it is to just win the first ballgame.

“I think our team will play much better Monday night now they have one under their belt. They're used to the surroundings. You know, they're not going to be uptight at all. They're going to go out there let it rip on Monday night. And I think you'll see a team play a lot better.

“That doesn't mean that we don't do some good things. You know, Alex was not particularly sharp tonight, and yet again he battled through five plus innings, six innings, he came out in which inning, the 6th or 7th. Came out in the 7th. Six innings. Got two strikes on the batter. I was going to start the inning with Poché, and Alex talked me into staying in there. And he got two strikes, and the breaking ball got away from him and he hit that batter. I think the keys to the game was Poché coming in and taking control of the ballgame.

“We would have expected that he would have won his record win against Texas Southern or Mississippi State, but I guess he wanted to save it for a more exciting time here in Omaha. He ties the career wins at LSU and proud of Jared for that accomplishment.

“But we had big hits, too. Pap's home run got us back in the game. For a while there it was just a little bit frustrating because seemed like we'd get within one and not get over the hump, then they'd extend the lead by one, then we'd get one, and that type of thing. And fortunately for us we got a couple of really big clutch hits there in the 8th Inning, Antoine and Greg came through in such a big way. And the hustle and speed put a lot of pressure on their team defensively and we were able to take advantage of it.

“The last thing I would like to say is what a job by Zack Hess for a true freshman come in with that environment and face that hitter, Busby, who is outstanding, one of the best players in college baseball. And Zack was just amazing.

Question: Antoine, your base hit on the play that tied the game, I mean, there were so many layers to that play. The guy overruns the ball then there's a couple of bad throws. Just kind of describe what you saw happen on that play.


“Yeah, I thought right off the bat when I hit it to right field, I thought Cole could have gone first to third right from the get-go. But I guess he decided he couldn't have made it.

“So luckily he bobbled the ball and made it to third. That was kind of a weird play. I just kept looking up, things kept happening and I just kept running. So I don't really know.

Q: Greg, you were 0-for-3 with three strikeouts before you came up in the 8th inning, hit an RBI that mattered the most in the game. How did that feel?


“It's a great feeling anytime you get the go-ahead run. Coach has always talked to me, ever since I stepped on the campus, and to the team about you're going to come up in unique situations and one-run games is how you're going to define your season.

“I had to wipe the first three at-bats clean and focus on getting the job done. Personally, I liked would have liked to hit a sac fly and make it easier, but you know that works, too.

Q: Jared, I think this is probably only your second or third time you've come in for relief. You seem to have a knack for it. What's your approach there when you come into a chaotic situation?


“Obviously coming in I had one of Alex's base runners on, and for me I was trying to do everything I possibly can to not give up that run for him.

“Kind of what the pitching staff is doing, we're going to pick our guy up no matter what. And I was going to do whatever I can to not let that guy score and from then on just to keep putting up zeros, because I knew our offense would eventually start clicking. And next thing you know, we put up a couple of runs and we won it late, and I just wanted to just keep us give us a chance.

Q: Jared, when did you find out that you were going to be maybe coming in in relief today? I know you guys looked at Eric this morning, kind of maybe up in the air a little bit. When did you know this could be a possibility today?


“We kind of talked about it throughout the week just to be ready. Coach told me what his thoughts were. And obviously I'm all for it at this point in the season. Whatever I can do to help the team, I want to do it.

“And tonight just worked out for us. And I'll be ready for whenever Coach calls my number again.

Q: Jared, what's it like to tie that?


“It's unbelievable. Just with all the great pitchers that have come through LSU for me to, I guess, tie that record and put my name at the top of the list, it's something that's hard to describe. Obviously been thinking about it all year and been hoping that it would happen obviously the last two weeks. But I guess God had a better plan and wanted it to happen in Omaha. So I'm excited. Definitely didn't think it was going to happen with me coming out of the bullpen.

“But I think it made it a little more exciting, as Coach says.

Q: Antoine, that play in the 8th, I think you scored on Greg's strikeout RBI, if you want to call it that. You guys have had some of these weird rallies in the last couple of years. What is that? How would you explain that?


“I think that just goes back to the type of athletes we have on this team. Like we just keep putting pressure on defenses because we can run a little bit and I mean, yeah, that definitely was a weird play. I don't think I've ever been a part of something like that before. I was stealing on the pitch I saw it go by him I went to third and I saw him bobble a little more and the pitcher wasn't covering. So I went home.

Q: For you two guys on the end, from an offensive standpoint, how did it help you to have the three double plays on defense in those innings to keep you right there instead of it being 7-8 to 2?


“It speaks for our pitching staff and the great job they do coming in late. Poché picking up Alex and getting some huge zeros for us, so keeping us in the game right there and keeping it a one-run ballgame allows us to do our thing and get into their bullpen anytime we can get a starter and get into their bullpen we know we have a shot. That was our main goal. Once we got him out, like I said, we got in their bullpen and we could do our thing.

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“Yeah, I mean, definitely helps having those quick innings. You want to be on defense as short a time as possible and offense as long as possible.

“Those double plays quicken innings and get everybody fired up and change the momentum. I thought we did a great job tonight making the plays we needed to make and getting the job done on all fronts.

Q: Greg, can you explain some of the conversations in the dugout with your teammates when you're going through a lull hitting and it's frustrating and nothing's working for you, what's that like and how do you all keep a positive attitude?


“That's the thing, just trying to keep a positive attitude. Looking back, you know, throughout the season and seeing some of the games that we've had come-from-behind wins, we've come back from 7, 8 run deficits. One or two runs, we have a little more energy and positivity towards that knowing we had the offense to do it and we have a bullpen that's going to be able to shut them down as well at the end of the game. So it's just a culmination of things.

“And like I said, once Jared put up those zeros and we were able to get into their bullpen, we knew we had a shot and we could do our thing.

Q: Coach, that was a 21st come from behind victory. How have your players been able to keep their composure when going down?


“Well, we fall behind in a lot of games, I guess. We had no choice. I think that's where the senior leadership really steps up. You know, Antoine got a big base hit there to drive in the one run for us to get -- I think it was 3-to-1 at the time, runner in scoring position, came in with a big base hit and Papierski comes up and gets a big home run, and of course Greg and Antoine there in the 8th inning coming through.

“You can tell young kids all you want how to do it. But there's nothing better as a teaching tool than to have older players that step up and get the job done.

“And it's just every coach preaches that you're never out of it and you've got to fight back and you've got to handle adversity. But sometimes young kids don't understand how that completely works. And when the older players do it, they see a living example and you hope the torch gets passed to them when these other players move on.

Q: Can you just kind of try and sum up what Jared means to this program?


“I'll tell you, I love that kid so much. You know, there's been a lot more talented pitchers to come through the LSU baseball program than Jared Poché. He's not going to flash a 94 or 95 or that snapping curveball or phenomenal change up, he's just a winner. I saw that from him when he was in high school. He pitched a shutout his senior year.

“He came on to our campus in the fall, and you saw there was something different about him. He's just a consummate competitor. And I have so much belief and faith in that young man, and sometimes he doesn't pitch great because he might be a little bit off with his control or they get to him a little bit, but it's never because of lack of effort. It's never because of a lack of preparation. It's never because of a lack of competitive zeal.

“And can you believe, here he is now, tied for the winningest pitcher in history of the LSU baseball. And here's the scoop. We've had good players coming through the program through the years. I'm proud of Jared and everything he's done for this program, and I love him to death. I'm going to miss him terribly.

Q: The game that (Nick) Coomes had after coming back into the starting lineup after three times on base, turning the big double play, how impressed were you with the way he came back and at that catalyzed the team when the struggles were happening early?

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“He got a couple of big hits early in the game. That kid was tough. He had probably the best changeup we've seen all year, great arm matching and he kept it away from guys, obviously guys like Zach Watson were really having a lot of trouble with it. But Coomes stayed back on a couple of pitches and got a couple of big hits. Drew a big walk for us.

“Unfortunately, we weren't able to capitalize it, a bit of a base running blunder later in the game, he missed a sign. And Beau Jordan it was a hit-and-run play and the runner at second didn't go and they ended up turning a double play on it.

“So it wasn't a very happy moment in our dugout. But Coomes led off the inning and drew a walk after being deep, behind in the count. He really played a good game. He had one base running situation where he probably used poor judgment, probably shouldn't have gone on a ball in the dirt there. But overall I thought he played great.

Q: What were you thinking going into the 9th as to when you might take Jared out and put Hess in?


“I thought Poché was really sharp tonight. And he's such a veteran and he's such a -- just a confident guy. And we were at the 7 hole or 6 hole in the order, six, seven, eight, nine were coming up. And I thought Jared could do the job there. I figured that if I brought in a righty, Mike probably had a pinch-hitter he could bring up, I think his name is Aplin, if I'm not mistaken.

“And I wanted to avoid that if at all possible. I really liked the matchup of Jared against the bottom of their order. Boom. And then the kid gets a base hit on the first pitch of the inning.

“And you know they were fortunate to get the runner in scoring position on a strikeout. I just thought that the time was right at that point to bring in Hess, turn Walls around. Wall's a pretty good hitter both ways but I thought he had more power right-handed. That was my sense I had.

“I thought, well, if he can hit Hess and get a single to tie the game, OK, we're still going to bat the bottom of the 9th. I just didn't want to see a two-run homer. And once he fell behind in the count, you never like to put the go-ahead run on. But I felt more confident about Hess really going after Busby, and as I was looking down the lineup, I really like the matchup of Hess against Busby, but I didn't want Busby to be the first batter that has spaced. And kind of got the jitters out, even though we walked Walls, we pitched off the plate a couple of those pitches.

“But I just thought he was ready to go against Busby and I thought that was the right time there.

Q: You talk a lot about recruiting athletes and athleticism. Could you speak to the role of having speed and being aggressive on the base paths played in the comeback?


“I thought, like Antoine did, that Cole would try to go first to third on that base hit, but he decided not to. And then the kid for our good fortune he overran the ball and of course Cole took off. He probably overran the ball because he knew Cole was running and thought he would have to charge it hard, come up with it and make a throw, because he thought Cole was probably going to go first to third.

“But once he overran it, Cole was able to hustle to third base and (Duplantis) was able to hustle to second. There's a ball in the infield. I was like, No, don't go. And then when he was safe I was like, Yeah, yeah, good move. But it was good fortune for us. I think if the catcher catches the ball, he's probably out.

“But I would never fault a young man for making that kind of a judgment and being aggressive and trying to make a play, especially when the score was tied already.

“So, no, that would have tied it, right? That did tie it, excuse me. It worked out for us. So I guess the gamble paid off.

“But, you know how I feel. Ever since the roster limits and change at-bats, I think you have to have guys that can run and some athletes out there. You get to Omaha, the ballpark plays big, generally, and the way to manufacture runs is to have some speed on the bases.

Q: Paul, what do you envision it will be like to be a team that's on a 17-game winning streak and run into an opponent that's hotter than you statistically?


“I didn't even think about the 17-game -- that that was our 17th win. I thought for a brief moment that it was our 49th win. It would be nice to get to 50. That's always quite a benchmark.

“But, honestly, I'm glad Oregon State won that game. And I'm glad we won our game even more so. But it sets up a great match, I think, on Monday night. So much respect for Pat Casey and the job that he's done there.

“I think the last time we played, the only time we played was when they came to a Regional a few years back at the box. And we had great ballgames with them then.

“And I've admired the job Pat (Casey) has done from a distance. And I don't know who they're going to pitch. Has he announced the starting pitcher for Monday? Does anybody know?

“It's going to be a great matchup. I just am -- I look forward to tonight so much playing Florida State for the same kind of reasons. And now we get to play Oregon State, the number one team in the country, deservedly so. How many games have they won in a row? 22 in a row. Something's gotta give. So we'll see. I would like to see you all show up for that game if you're not doing anything on Monday night. It might be a lot of fun.

Q: Can you just talk about what Cole and Kramer bring up the middle on defense and how important that sureness is at a stage like this?


“I'll tell you, how many double plays did we have today? Three? Two traditional ones, right? Those two guys have been remarkable on both sides, defensively and offensively. It just gives your pitcher so much confidence to be able to throw the ball over the plate knowing that there's a pretty good chance that the ball will be caught by somebody. And those two guys are the leaders of our team, Cole and Kramer.

“They've just played tremendously all year, both defensively and offensively. Kramer had an off night tonight offensively. I would expect that he'll show up on Monday night pretty determined to make an impact offensively.

“The one thing I would say about Kramer all year is when his hitting has struggled, he's never taken the bat out to the field with him.

“I think he learned that from Alex Bregman. When Bregman went into a slump his sophomore year, he played the best defense I've seen a shortstop play.

“And ultimately he came out of his hitting slump. And I think when Kramer was a young kid, watching Alex do that, I think it had an impact on him. So I never worry about those guys pouting or feeling sorry for themselves when they go out there to play defense; they're going to do something to help our club win.




Opening statement

“Well, just y'all saw what I did. A heck of a baseball game. It was obviously one that you've got to tip your hat to LSU. They took advantage of every opportunity that they had and took the game to us.

“Sometimes you just have to admit the fact that the other club did a very, very good job. So obviously we're disappointed, but there's one thing that we all in this room know: We're not eliminated. So we will play again Monday, and hopefully play a little better.

Q: Tyler, how did you kind of feel out there tonight? Seemed like you really kind of had your stuff going there earlier but was able to keep their offense off balance for much of the night?


“I'm going to be the first one to tell you I didn't have my best game. And they were doing a really good job of taking advantage of mistake pitches. I was leaving a lot of stuff up and couldn't really get in the rhythm. But there's one inning, I don't know exactly what inning it was, I was feeling pretty good with my downward angle and whatnot. And maybe my only three up, three down inning was what it felt like.

“But a really good offensive team. They took advantage of mistake pitches. And just tough to win games like that. But, I mean...

Q: Dylan, can you take us through the play in the eighth inning where you got the ball and threw home, from your vantage point, what did you see? What happened?


“The ball came in, just making the play, instincts. Tito is playing at home and I picked up the ball and threw it home. That's what we were doing. Right now just picked it up threw it at home. Hopefully we had a play; didn't know if the catcher or pitcher was there, but threw it at home where it's been forever and he was safe.

Q: Dylan, your team has been getting things done with, patience and power this year, and that's kind of how you got to Lange a little bit especially in the first inning. Was that the game plan against him today, especially?


“Game plan, definitely. Just make him throw strikes. And we did a good job of that early. And pitched well.

“I mean, made some good pitches. I mean, he pitched well. We've got to give credit to him. But I think we had good at-bats until probably later in the game we started to get a little more anxious and degraded from our approach. But other than that, I think we did exactly what we were looking to do.

Q: Dylan, following up on that, what happened at the end, your defense gets a lot of attention, but what they did defensively after you guys got the runs, I think three double plays in three innings kept (Alex) Lange in the game. How demoralizing was it when you couldn't get something done in those three spots?


“It was tough. But it's baseball. A couple of those balls were hit pretty hard. Right now you've got to give them credit to them, play good defense. And like I said, we hit the ball hard and they played plays. Can't do nothing about it. Just gotta keep hitting it hard.

Q: Tyler, I assume you've never been involved in a play where kid scores from first on a strikeout. Just what happened on that play? You don't even maybe think to cover home in a play like that?

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“I probably should have, because I had a feeling that he was stealing. I didn't see him go whenever I was pitching. But, yeah, I mean, that's really a tough play or pitch for Cal to block. I'm not blaming it on him at all. I don't even know how far I threw it. Probably 50 feet. But it's a tough play. And I was just having to get the force out at 1. And as soon as he picked it up and he bobbled it, I kind of heard the crowd roar, and I was like: Where is the runner? By that time he was already three steps from home plate.

“But I don't know, if I'm covering home plate, we might have a play. I don't know. But it's just one of those freak plays I've never seen in baseball, honestly. But that's what happened today. Kind of scratched tonight.

Q: Dylan, coming back to you, how different was Hess in the 9th compared to what you saw from Lange and Poché in your previous at-bats?


“I think settled more on giddy-up fastball, kind of throws you a bit. Managed his pitches, I thought commanded really well I think. We did a really good job against him. The last at-bat gave a little bit away. But his job, he pitched well.

Q: Dylan, the home run, describe the home run of the first at-bat, I think it was the first pitch, wasn't it?


“I'm pretty sure second pitch, yep. Slider away, took it. Just trying to calm it down. Slow the game down. I knew it was going to be a big stage. That first at-bat is going to be a tough one.

“I was telling everyone biggest crowd we've ever played in front of. But just now did really good slowing the game down, being short and quick, and it still happened that it went out to centerfield.

Q: Coach, it's already been talked about here, but you probably haven't -- there's probably nothing you haven't seen in all your time in baseball, but the guy scoring from first on strike three, couldn't have seen that too many times. Describe what that play was like and just knowing that without two very bizarre plays you probably win this game?


“Well, I don't know if I can say anything in that regard, because this game is so unpredictable. But I must admit I don't think I can recall a man scoring from first base on strike three. Even when we used to play a long time ago in Little League, the backstop was a long way, way away. When I grew up, and I've seen some things crazy, but I never saw a guy score from first base on a strikeout. Tip your hat to them. The guy never stopped.

“And you just have to know as a coach that it's hard to cover that in practice. What are we going to work on? Covering home when we strike a guy out with two outs.?”

Q: When you lose a game like that where you led the whole game, really, then a three-error debacle with the play there in the 8th inning, how does this team bounce back from something like this? Are you confident that they can and will?


“Anything can happen in this great sport. Tonight, we were beaten by a club that deserved to win. They did the things they needed to do and they came out with a win.

“We made mistakes and we paid for them. We know it's going to be a tough uphill battle. But I'll tell you, and I mean this, I'll take this bunch and go to battle.

“We know it's going to be, like I said, an uphill battle. It's going to be tough. Trust me. That's a good ball club we just played.

“And there are two others in our bracket. And you can look at a number of things that have to happen in order for us to get to the final two. And it's challenging, to say the least.

Q: Your team's backs have been against the wall in the last entire half of the season. Going into the final regular season weekend, you didn't know if you were going to be in the field, rattle off six straight wins, lose the first game of the Regional, come back and win the Regional, go down 4-0 in the first game of the Super in the first two innings. How confident are you that this team can make their way out of the loser's bracket with the way they played this year with their backs against the wall?


“I'm confident that we're going to play hard. I'm confident that we're going to go out and represent Florida State University in a way that people will say: Win or lose, that ball club is really competitive. That ball club will battle you for 27 outs. They will not feel sorry for themselves. They won't go pointing fingers. They will battle.

“That's – it's an awful lot of athletes in this room. That's what life is about, man. Whether you miss out on a sale or whether things don't go right for you, you battle.

“You line up every day and you battle, whether it's here, which is what many of us do on a daily basis. We battle with ourselves. We have to understand that as a leader our young men are going to play hard. I want to use the word this is fun, but then you all would know I'm really lying. But it's challenging. And everybody in here likes a challenge. Unless it's trying to get a lawn mower cranked up sometimes.”

Q: Just how much pressure does LSU put on to you on the base paths, and how can you deal with that knowing they have the speed and the base running acumen to do that to teams?


“Yeah, they did put a lot of pressure on us on the bases. I think they had a couple of stolen bases. Or was it more than that? Anyway, you all look on your dad-gum score sheet. I can't find it.”

MODERATOR: “They had two.”


“That's what I said. No, these guys, they're baseball players. Those guys, LSU are baseball players. Florida State has baseball players.

“They did a good job. They had those two guys with 18 stolen bases, and I think both of them got an SB. And another – the catcher tried to go to second on a dirt ball read. Cal made a very good play.

“Our guy tried to go to second on a dirt ball, read and Papierski was heads up and threw the guy out. It was smart on our part and what ability he showed that is really difficult.

“In fact, we had an attempted stolen base in the first or second inning in which Pappy back-handed the ball, short hopped it and made a great throw to second. Beautiful baseball team.”

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