The main question about the LSU baseball team when it was sent into the loser's bracket of the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional was whether or not the Tigers would have enough pitching get through the three games they would have to win to advance.
Bo Pettit gave LSU a huge lift when he threw a 4-2 complete game win against Tulane to keep the Tigers alive for another day.
In Sunday's first game against Louisiana-Lafayette, Jake Tompkins bounced back from a five-inning relief win against Southern on Friday night to pitch into the seventh inning against the Cajuns in a 12-2 win for the Tigers.
In the second game of the championship round, Brian Wilson came through with a complete game effort in another 12-2 win for LSU that sends the Tigers to an NCAA Super Regional matchup with Rice.
The Tigers gave Wilson a 1-0 lead in their first at bat and answered with four runs with the Cajuns tied the game in the fourth inning. While ULL went through its roster to find arms that could stop LSU, Wilson cruised through the game allowing eight hits with three walks while striking out seven.
"I was a little bit tired but I wanted to step it up," said Wilson. "I knew I didn't have my upper 90 mile-an-hour fastball or my dirty change-up, and that's probably why I was able to throw the whole game."
The Tigers will travel to Houston to face the Owls in a best-of-three series at their home field, Reckling Park, next weekend. A time for Friday's first game will be announced when the NCAA makes Super Regional sites official on Monday.
Rice was forced to a second game on Sunday when Washington won the first, 7-6, but the Owls cruised to a 14-2 win in the pivotal game.
The Tigers are now 3-0 in sub-regionals since the NCAA went to its Super Regional format, and they have posted two-win comebacks six times in the NCAA Tournament – five of them at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU is now 23-4 in NCAA championship round games, including a 16-1 record at home.
LSU shortstop Rocky Scelfo puts the tag on Louisiana-Lafayette's Brad Saloom (17) on an attempted steal in the fourth inning of the Baton Rouge NCAA regional championship at Alex Box Stadium. LSU won 12-2 to advance to the super regional round. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
"The kids just performed well," said LSU head coach Smoke Laval. "Brian Wilson pitched a gem. He didn't give an inch today."
As they did in Sunday's first game, the Tigers scored in their first at-bat. J.C. Holt led off with a triple and scored on Sean Barker's two-out single to center field.
The Cajuns loaded the bases in the fourth inning and tied the game with sacrifice fly to center field from Justin Bourque.
However, LSU grabbed the momentum in its next at-bat. After Barker reached on an error, Matt Heath slugged his tenth homerun of the season to the bleachers in left field. Curbing his enthusiasm, Heath limited his celebration rounding the bags to a salute to the fans in the bleachers on the third base line.
ULL starting pitcher Kevin Ardoin retired the next two LSU batters, but the Tigers put together four singles for two more runs. Holt drove in David Raymer with his base hit and Chris Phillips scored when Rocky Scelfo singled to left field. The Scelfo hit marked the end of the day for Ardoin.
His replacement, Brandt Ray, was pulled in the fifth inning after putting two runners on, and the Cajuns turned to left-hander Ken Brown to face designated hitter Dustin Hahn. LSU countered with Clayton Harris as a pinch hitter, and he responded with a sacrifice fly to center that scored a run.
Louisiana-Lafayette fought back and added a run in the top of the sixth. A two-out rally consisting of singles from Chase Lambin and Bourque and an RBI double from pinch hitter Phillip Hawke made the score 6-2.
With one out in the sixth, LSU loaded the bases and scored its seventh run with a sacrifice fly. Brown was pulled after giving up a single to Holt, walking Scelfo and throwing well out of the zone on his first pitch to Wally Pontiff.
Jordy Templet replaced Brown and walked Pontiff before Barker flied out to deep left field to bring in Holt.
Heath made the score 8-2 when he went to the opposite field for a two-out RBI single that sent Templet out of the game.
Justin Gabriel, who pitched a complete game in ULL's 6-3 win over Tulane on Friday, was inserted into the game next but suffered no better fate than his teammates. The Tigers got to him for two runs, courtesy of a two-out single from Pontiff, on three hits in the seventh inning.
"We were not going to use Gabriel or (Andy) Gros unless we tied or went ahead," said ULL assistant coach Wade Simoneaux. "But Gabriel kept coming to us saying he wanted to help, and we were just out of arms."
Simoneaux spoke with reporters after the game because Cajuns' head coach Tony Robichaux was suspended from participating in the press conference following his ejection from Sunday's first game.
Robichaux got tossed along with pitcher Donnie Bair when umpires ruled Bair intentionally threw at Heath in the ninth inning. Heath had glared into the ULL dugout when rounding the bases following his two-run homer in the seventh inning.
"He hit his home run and we were good with that," said Simoneaux. "But he fronted our team in the dugout. It's hard to accept when a guy fronts your team, looking at your dugout while he's running from third to home."
Heath said he didn't say anything to the ULL players while rounding the bases but wanted to send a message to the Cajuns for the "trash-talking" they had been doing the entire game.
According to LSU players, the tensions between the two teams started earlier in the day when Gabriel bumped into Pontiff and accused the Tigers' team captain of talking poorly about the Cajuns in the media.
Corey Coles, ULL's starter in the first game against LSU, came in to pitch the eighth inning and allowed the last two Tiger runs on four straight singles. Raymer drove in the first with a single that came as fans at Alex Box were chanting his name.
"I've seen the movie ‘Field of Dreams' and this is it for me," said Raymer. "I'm Alex Box Stadium is the best there, and the fans have been there with me through my ups and downs. Hopefully they'll be there with us in Houston."
BATON ROUGE REGIONAL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: C, Chris Phillips LSU; 1B, Rocky Scelfo LSU; 2B J.C. Holt LSU; 3B Anthony Giarratano, Tulane; SS (tie), Fernando Puebla Southern and Chase Lambin ULL; OF, David Raymer LSU, Bryan Sneed ULL, Matt Heath LSU; P, Andy Gros ULL, Jake Tompkins LSU
MOST OUTSTANDING PLAYER: Jake Tompkins LSU