Tigers lose to UNO in Pontiff Classic 5-4

METAIRIE, La. -- Centerfielder Brandon Bowser lifted UNO to a 5-4 win over LSU with an RBI double in the bottom of the ninth inning in the fourth annual Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic before a crowd of 4,698 at Zephyr Field.

The Tigers (21-17-1) lost their third straight game at Zephyr Field. UNO (25-12) extended its winning streak to six games on the year and snapped an eight-game losing streak to LSU.

Proceeds from the game benefited numerous charitable organizations in the New Orleans area. The Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation was established in memory of LSU's all-SEC third baseman who died in 2002 at age 21 due to heart abnormalities.

LSU faces No. 15 Mississippi State in a three-game Southeastern Conference series in Starkville this weekend. Game times are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

The Tigers trailed 4-3 entering the top of the ninth before designated hitter Blake Dean launched a leadoff, solo homer over the right field wall on the first pitch he saw from reliever Adam Campbell. Dean, who was hitless in his three previous at-bats, extended his hitting streak to 19 games and homered for the second straight contest.

LSU had a chance at taking the lead when left fielder Ryan Schimpf drew a one-out walk. However, catcher Robert Lara grounded into a double play to retire the side.

Freshman Paul Bertuccini struck out the first batter he faced in the ninth, but catcher Josh Tarnow ripped a one-out single to left. He advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Jarrod Ware. Bowser followed with the game-winning double over Schimpf's head, scoring Tarnow.

Bowser finished 2-for-5 with a run and an RBI. He scored the game's first run on a sacrifice fly by third baseman T.J. Baxter in the bottom of the first.

Bertuccini (0-1), the fifth LSU pitcher of the evening, suffered his first career loss, allowing one run on three hits in 1.1 innings of relief.

Campbell (3-0) was credited with the victory, despite issuing the solo homer to Dean.

LSU had taken a 3-1 lead in the top of the second against UNO starter Justin Garcia. First baseman Sean Ochinko lined a leadoff double into the left field corner and then took third on a shallow single to centerfield by Schimpf.

Lara drove in Ochinko on a soft groundout. Second baseman Nicholas Pontiff then collected his first extra-base hit of the year with an opposite field double down the right field line, scoring Schimpf.

Third baseman J.T. Wise drove in the third run on an RBI single to left field. Pontiff, the younger brother of the late Wally Jr., displayed his hustle while diving into home on the play as Tarnow dropped the ball.

After collecting five hits in the second and a Jared Mitchell single in the third, the Tigers did not manage another hit until Dean's blast in the ninth.

Four UNO relievers handcuffed LSU over the next five frames. The Tigers' next best chance at scoring came in the eighth via two Privateer errors. With runners at first and second and nobody out, LSU failed to extend the lead.

LSU starter Matt Jackson exited after his second inning of work, yielding to fellow true freshman Shane Ardoin. Ardoin tossed the finest outing of his career, limiting UNO to an unearned run on one hit while striking out a career-best seven in five innings of work.

"Shane was amazing," said Mainieri. "That is the thing you enjoy about coaching. You see young men wait their turn, keep working hard to improve and then they get their opportunity and take advantage of it. We found out about a kid tonight."

Three consecutive errors by the Tigers in sixth allowed UNO to cut the deficit to a run at 3-2. Baxter reached when first baseman Sean Ochinko failed to secure a throw from catcher Robert Lara. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella took first base when third baseman J.T. Wise made an errant throw, permitting Baxter to score after he was stealing third on the play. Hollander committed the third straight error on another grounder, but Ardoin made a great catch on a pop-up and picked off Giavotella at second to hold the lead.

"It's unfortunate that the basic fundamentals of the game lost the game for us really," said Mainieri. "Two throws to first base we don't handle. If you don't do the little things to win, you end up losing."

Giavotella atoned for his blunder when he gave the Privateers a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run double off of Bertuccini. Reliever Nolan Cain started the inning, allowing a one-out single to left fielder Joey Butler.

Senior Clay Dirks came in and faced one batter, walking Baxter before Giavotella drove in the tying and go-ahead runs.

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