Heath homer in 11th gives LSU win over Long Beach

An eleventh-inning home run from left fielder Matt Heath propelled LSU to a 5-4 come-from-behind victory Sunday in the rubber game with Long Beach that secured the series for the Tigers. Freezing temperatures might have cut the attendance at Alex Box Stadium, but the players for both teams showed up and put on a competitive contest for the 1,400-plus on hand.

After having trailed 3-0, Heath helped LSU tied the game in the sixth with a run-scoring double. The Tigers added another run in the seventh after the 49ers scored in the top of the inning. Both teams stranded a runner in the eight and went down in order in the ninth to send the game into extra innings.

 

Despite allowing Long Beach 14 hits on the afternoon, the Tigers stranded nine Dirtbags to stay in the game. LSU managed to get the win despite logging just six hits on the day.

 

"We were very fortunate to win the ballgame with six hits," said LSU head coach Smoke Laval. "But what we've been preaching here is trying to get your best swings off. In other words, doubles and homers win."

 

LSU reliever Brian Wilson came in to start the ninth inning and held Long Beach to two hits over three innings to improve to 3-1 on the season. He replaced starter Jake Tompkins, who was seeing his first action in two weeks due to an oblique muscle strain he suffered against Mercer. In eight innings of work, Tompkins gave up four runs (three earned) and struck out eight with no walks.

 

The Tigers battled 49ers set-up man Josh Alliston (L, 1-1) from the eighth inning on, managing just one hit until Heath launched his one-out homer over the right field fence to win the game. It was the first round-tripper of the year for Heath, who went 2-for-5 for the game with two RBI.

 

"I had a 2-0 take and (Alliston) came up and in and I thought it was borderline ball/strike," said Heath. "The umpire called strike, and I took it. So I thought, ‘Here goes, he might do the same thing.' Sure enough, same pitch."

 

With players on both teams wearing knit hoods under their baseball caps to ward off the 16-degree wind chill, Long Beach struck first with an unearned run in the first inning.  After third baseman Nick Covarrubius was hit by a Tompkins pitch with one out, center fielder Jeremy Reed followed with a single to shallow left field. Heath was charging in on the play and appeared to have the ball in his glove but lost control. After tracking it down, he tried to get Covarrubuis at third but his throw eluded Wally Pontiff covering the bag. The throwing error allowed Covarrubius to score and advanced Reed to second.

 

An error on shortstop J.C. Holt on first baseman Mike Hofius' grounder allowed him to reach, but a 4-6-3 double play with catcher Todd Jennings at the plate ended the inning.

 

Long Beach started the third inning with four singles in a row, pushing two runs across with base hits from Covarrubius and Reed for a 3-0 lead.

 

LSU got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning with a single run. After LBSU starter Jered Weaver walked three straight Tigers with one out, first baseman Jason Vargas grounded out to second to plate a run. Second baseman Blake Gill had a chance to cut further into the 49ers lead with runners at second and third but grounded out to second.

 

Long Beach also had runners on second and third in the top of the fourth but Tompkins got shortstop Kevin Randel to take a called third strike to end the inning.

 

LSU didn't get a hit against Weaver until the fifth inning when Pontiff got a two-out single to left field. Sean Barker, who went 0-for-12 over the weekend, wasted the base runner with a fielder's choice that got Pontiff out at second.

 

The Tigers evened the game in the sixth when Vargas led off with a walk and Gill followed with a single down the right field line. Although it was only the second hit the Tigers recorded against Weaver, Long Beach coach Mike Weathers pulled him from the game for Nate Beucler. Weaver had given up six walks in his five-plus innings of work.

 

Heath greeted Beucler with a double down the right field line that scored Vargas and advanced Gill to third. Gill came home when Beuchler threw a wild pitch, and LSU third base coach Dan Canevari decided to send Heath to the plate when Jennings had trouble locating the ball at the backstop. Jennings found it in time to throw to Beucler for the out.

 

"He tagged me but it was real high and late," Heath said. "I saw the umpire was looking to see if my foot was on the plate. It's one of those things."

 

When a swarm of LSU players came from the dugout after the call on Heath, home plate umpire Lee Prejean ordered Laval to eject to of his players. The coach picked seldom-used pitcher David Shank and outfielder Rhett Buteau.

 

The 49ers went ahead, 4-3, thanks to a manufactured run in the seventh. After outfielder Steve Velazco led off with a single to left, second baseman Nick Orlandos pushed him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Tompkins got Randel to ground out to first, holding up Velazco at third and marking the ninth LBSU batter he retired out of the last ten faced.

 

"I had a little trouble in the first couple of innings getting comfortable with the weather," said Tompkins. "After I realized, it's going to be cold (and) it's not going to get a


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