LSU runs over Rebels 14-6, takes series

OXFORD, Miss. – Talk about saving the best for last. <br><br> In the most anticipated SEC series of the 2004 season, No. 4 LSU exercised its typical routine of losing the series opener. Down a game to 9th-ranked Ole Miss, the Tigers (41-15, 18-12 SEC) came back to win the final two games, dashing the hopes of an SEC championship hopeful crowd at Swayze Field.

LSU, who will enter this weekend's SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala. as the No. 3 seed, stung Ole Miss (39-17, 18-12) pitching for a season-high series 49 hits, 22 of which came in Sunday's 14-6 rout. LSU scored a total of 31 runs and hit six home runs to soar the weekend for the record crowds assembled in Oxford.


Ryan Patterson led the onslaught with three round trippers on the weekend, including two on Sunday, and Nick Stavinoha pitched in a pair of long-range shots.


In terms of pitching, Lane Mestepey pitched eight complete innings on Friday, but took the loss. Nate Bumstead was masterful on Saturday in 8 2/3 innings improving to 9-3 on the year. Jason Determann came on in relief of Clay Dirks on Sunday and raised his season tally to 5-3 with 4 1/3 impressive innings of work.



Game One:

Ole Miss 7, LSU 6


A 3-run home run by Charlie Babineaux in the bottom of the eighth broke a 4-4 tie fueling Ole Miss to a 7-4 win over LSU Friday night at Swayze Field.


A capacity crowd was on-hand to witness the Rebels' series' opening victory over the Tigers. The series continues Saturday with the first pitch slated for 3 p.m.


LSU, riding a wave of momentum after evening the score at 4-4 with a run in the top of the eighth,

watched its hopes fade away as Babineaux's towering homer just cleared the left centerfield wall. The round tripper, which covered 395-feet, brought the rowdy Rebel crowd to a rousing cheer as centerfielder J.C. Holt crouched at the base of the fence in disbelief.


"It was kind of aggravating," Holt said. "We hit the balls hard, it could have went either way. If the ball is four inches down it is in my glove. It was that close. But it was a well-played game. There weren't many mistakes by either team."


The Tigers made some noise in the top of the ninth when Holt drilled a 2-out, 2-RBI single through the right side. But Ryan Patterson flied out to center for the game's final out, ending the threat.

"When the game is on the line, you can't go up there and be tentative," Patterson said. "I swung at it, but I just missed it. We had some bad luck. We hit the ball hard, but just at people. It was one of the best games we played this year."


Lane Mestepey started for the second straight in a weekend series and worked a season-long eight innings. The junior left-hander gave up just six earned runs on 10 hits, but surrendered the costly blow by Babineaux in the eighth.


"I thought I pitched well," Mestepey said. "They got a lot of seeing-eye singles. Then they got people on base and Babineaux hit a good pitch."


LSU drew first blood when Patterson homered in the top of the first frame. The Tigers made it a 2-0 tilt in the second inning when Ivan Naccarata collected a 2-out single and scored on an RBI single by Matt Liuzza.


Ole Miss cut the lead in half with a run in the bottom of the second and went on top 4-2 with a 3-run attack in the fifth. Nick Stavinoha hit his seventh home run of the year in the seventh to chip away from a 4-3 deficit.


A couple of misplayed fly balls in the top of the eighth allowed the Tigers to tie the score at 4-4, before Ole Miss took control with Babineaux's shot in the home half of the eighth. A native of New Iberia, La. and a product of Catholic High, Babineaux basked in the glow of victory in the wake of the win. Admitting he did attend LSU baseball camp when he was younger, the UL-Lafayette transfer said he was never recruited by the Tigers and had no intention of ever attending LSU.


"We were never an LSU family," Babineaux said. "You won't find any purple and gold in our house."


LSU was also haunted by another Louisiana product as former Monroe-Neville product Alex Presley went 2-for-4 with a double.


For LSU, Liuzza led the way going 3-for-4 with a trio of base hits. Patterson homered and doubled as the only other Tiger in double-digit hits.


Mark Holliman went the distance for the Rebels allowing six runs, all earned, on 12 hits with four strikeouts.


"That was a pretty good college baseball game," said LSU coach Smoke Laval. "There were very few mistakes on both sides. We got fortunate on a few flyballs, but they bunched the hits together and Babineaux hit the homer."


For the ninth time in SEC play the Tigers lost the series opener. After winning a pair of one-run games at home against Vanderbilt, LSU lost its fifth, one-run decision of the year. The Tigers are 7-5 on the season in one-run affairs.



Game Two:

LSU 11, Ole Miss 4


LSU's hit parade continued on Saturday.


After gathering a dozen hits in a 1-run loss on Friday night, the Tigers pounded out 15 more on Saturday to defeat homestanding Ole Miss 11-4 before a standing-room only crowd of 8,574 at Swayze Field. It was the second largest crowd in Rebel baseball history.


"We are playing pretty good baseball right now," said LSU coach Smoke Laval. "We are seeing it pretty good right now."


On Saturday, nobody was seeing it better than junior third baseman Clay Harris. In a strategic move within his batting lineup, Laval moved Harris to the eight-hole and inserted Ivan Naccarata into the fifth spot.


The results were staggering.


Harris, who has had a bit of an up and down season at the plate, found his rhythm going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and a critical 3-run home run in the seventh.


"It really didn't matter," Harris said about his new position in the Tiger lineup. "But it worked out good. I still go up there with the same gameplan."


Whatever gameplan that was, Harris must have shared it with his teammates as the Tigers scored the most runs on Ole Miss in SEC play. Harris said a 15-2 win over Southeastern in mid-week action may have served as a motivational tool for the LSU offense.


"It really could have been," Harris said. "It gave our guys some confidence and maybe they found their swings. Actual game at-bats are better for guys during the week."


And if LSU's offense was good, senior right-hander Nate Bumstead may have been a bit better. After walking two of the first three batters he faced, Bumstead regrouped and gave up only one run on four hits through the first seven innings of action.


"I was down in the zone, which is a good thing," Bumstead said. "Early on, they had offensive pressure on me, but then the fourth through the sixth innings I was in cruise control."


Ole Miss eventually chased Bumstead in the eighth scoring three unearned runs, but Rebel head coach Mike Bianco said Bumstead was at his best Saturday.


"(He was) very good," Bianco said. "When he has his changeup going, he is very tough. It is hard for our batters to recognize when it is sinking like it was today."


In all, Bumstead pitched 7 1/3 innings, in which he gave up four runs, only one was earned, on six hits with a half-dozen punch-outs.


The Tigers opened the scoring with one run in each of the first two innings. Like Friday night, Ole Miss answered with a run in the home half of the second, but would not score again until LSU held an insurmountable 9-1 advantage. The Rebels posted its final three runs in the bottom of the eighth.


"The lead kept widening and we couldn't close it up," Bianco said. "LSU kept very good offensive pressure, but not just hitting the ball, but running the bases as well."


In addition to Harris' big day the plate, Nick Stavinoha hit his second home run in as many days with a solo shot in the fifth inning capping a 2-for-4 performance. Stavinoha also doubled in the second. J.C. Holt doubled and singled twice in a 3-for-6 performance and Jon Zeringue had a pair of base hits going 2-for-5.



Game Three:

LSU 14, Ole Miss 6


In Ole Miss' worst loss of the season, the LSU Tigers pounded out 22 hits, highlighted by a pair of Ryan Patterson home runs, as the Tigers took the rubber match of the weekend series in impressive fashion winning 14-6 at Swayze Field.


LSU improved to 6-0 in SEC play after losing the series opener. It was th third time this season LSU surpassed the 20-hit mark in a game and the mark of 22 hits was one short of the season high 23 at Kentucky on May 9.


For the third straight game, the Tigers jumped out to a 1-0 lead scoring in the top of the first inning. But Ole Miss hung strong evening the game at 1-1 with a run of their own in the bottom of the first when Clay Dirks walked in the tying run.


Ivan Naccarata walked and scored on an RBI single by J.C. Holt in the top of the second inning as the Tigers regained the lead. Holt ended the day going 4-for-5 with four singles.


Things got interesting in the fourth as the Rebels finally got to Dirks. Dirks, who was fighting an emotional battle having grown up just 30 miles from Oxford, struggled through the early innings and ran into major trouble by the fourth when Matt Tolbert doibled down the left field line. Barry Gunther then reached on an infield hit and, with one out, Dirks hit Seth Smith loading the bases.


LSU coach Smoke Laval then made the call to the pen bringing on Jason Determann, who almost escaped unscathed. But Stephen Head lifted a flyball deep enough to center scoring Tolbert from third, knotting the score at 2-2.


Things began unraveling for the Rebels in the top of the fifth as the Tigers figured out Ole Miss starter Matt Maloney.


After Holt struck out to open the inning, Patterson drilled the first of his two home runs over the left field wall as LSU took a lead it would never relinquish. Matt Liuzza immediately doubled off the left centerfield wall  and scored when Clay Harris doubled down the left field line. Harris came across for a 5-2 lead on a hard single by Stavinoha to center.


The Rebels were never the same.


Will Harris drew a 1-out walk in the fifth and upped LSU's lead to 6-2 when he came across on a Holt single to center. Ole Miss went quietly in the home half of the sixth before the Tigers made it ugly beginning with the top of the seventh.


LSU scored four runs in the seventh, another in the eighth and Patterson added insult to injury hitting a 401-foot, 3-run home run over the centerfield wall for a 4-run barrage in the top of the ninth.


Determann was credited the win pitching 4 1/3 innings, in which he gave up two runs, both earned, on four hits with three strikeouts. Dirks got the start and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings giving up two runs on six hits. Greg Smith cleaned up the final 1 /13 innings allowing two runs on three hits with a pair of punchouts.

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