Cajuns blank Tigers in regional, 5-0

The University of Louisiana-Lafayette's Andy Gros has LSU's number.<br> So far this year, that number is 18.<br> Gros pitched his second complete-game shutout -- a total of 18 scoreless innings -- against LSU this season, vaulting his Cajuns (39-21) into the title game of the NCAA Baton Rouge regional.

The Tigers managed only seven scattered hits in the 5-0 loss in front of a crowd that held a large contingent of Ragin' Cajun fans. Gros also limited LSU to seven hits when the teams met March 19 in Lafayette.

 

LSU (41-20) now has to get past Tulane (36-26), who eliminated Southern 10-2 earlier Saturday afternoon. The winner of the night game must defeat the Cajuns twice Sunday to advance to a super regional.

 

"We knew it was going to be a war," ULL head coach Tony Robichaux said. "The last two times we threw lefties against them, I think they hit .215 as a club. So we felt we had a good chance on the mound, we just didn't know if we could score enough."

 

The game began as the anticipated pitching duel, with Gros facing Tiger ace Lane Mestepey, who came into the game carrying a streak of 23 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings at home. The streak -- and Mestepey's perfect performance on the afternoon – ended when Justin Bourque lifted a one-out home run in the fourth inning to put the furst run of the game on the board.

 

"(Mestepey) came with a fastball the pitch before," Bourque said, "and he came with another fastball on the next pitch, so I capitalized on it."

 

"There was nothing I could do," Mestepey said. "I thought I battled out there. I think they looked for one pitch, and when they got it, they took a hack. I got beat by them."

 

Mestepey (L, 11-4) who had retired the first 10 batters he had faced before Bourque's blast, lost for the first time since May 4 at Tennessee. He didn't pitch particularly badly, throwing his eighth complete game of the year and walking none while striking out six. He found the plate for many first-pitch strikes, was ahead in the count to every batter he faced but two prior to the homer, and took seven of the ten hitters to 0-2 counts.

 

Despite the solid performance by Mestepey, the LSU offense looked like it had in March -- beaten before the game even began, giving their pitcher absolutely no run support. The Tigers looked to threaten ULL in the middle innings, when LSU had a runner on third base in both the fifth and sixth innings. The Tigers came up empty-handed both times, however, in the fifth on a Wally Pontiff pop-up and a lineout by J.C. Holt in the sixth.

 

In another throwback to earlier in the season, the Cajuns scored by way a Pontiff error. The LSU third baseman booted a grounder hit by Dallas Morris, and Morris eventually scored on a two-out bunt single by Corey Coles that neither Pontiff nor Mestepey fielded.

 

Bryan Sneed took Mestepey yard with a solo shot in the seventh, and the Cajuns added runs in the eighth and ninth -- an RBI single by Coles in the eighth and an unearned run in the ninth when first baseman Rocky Scelfo misplayed Phillip Hawke's ground ball, allowing Chase Lambin to score from second base.

 

"We ran into two home runs," LSU head coach Smoke Laval said. "You have to tip your hat to (the Cajuns). When you're up, you can do things. It was a very good ball game. They outplayed us."

 

"We came out and played with heart today," Gros said. "It wasn't just me. I had some great defense behind me. That's why we won. You play with heart and emotion, and you win every game."

 

The shutout was just the third suffered by LSU in 203 post-season games; the other two occurred in the 1992 South I Regional in losses to Ohio State (5-0) and Cal State Fullerton (11-0).


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