Tigers fall 11-5

Being slow, yet methodical proved that victory doesn't always go to the swiftest for UC-Irvine's Anteaters in opening-round NCAA Super Regional Baseball Tournament on Saturday night. UC-Irvine followed that game plan to perfection as the Big West Conference Anteaters (42-16) charged to an 11-5 victory over LSU's host Tigers at Alex Box Stadium.

Junior right-handed pitcher, Scott Gorgen (12-3) handcuffed LSU (46-17-1) on six hits through six and two-third innings.


Meanwhile, UC-Irvine’s offense displayed the clutch combination of light and heavy hitting and its defense contributed alert play on the way to snapping No. 2 ranked LSU’s nation-best 23-game winning streak.


“We’re obviously disappointed because I didn’t think that we played very well in any aspect of the game,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri sad. “We got off to a bad start walking the first two batters. Irvine executed well and took advantage of the mistake that we made. We found ourselves down 2-0 right away. There was a point where we gave up six runs that resulted from five walks. That isn’t typical of our pitching staff.”


Gorgen struck out eight LSU hitters and allowed two runs before giving way to his relief pitching corps.


“Their pitching was really, good,” Mainieri continued. “I admire the kid (Gorgen) for being a great competitor. He got a little break because the sun never came out all game after scorching all week long. The clouds moved in at the start of the game to make it cooler and help his endurance. He had our number today.”


The sixth inning was filled with plenty of fireworks as sophomore right fielder, Sean Madigan delivered a three–run home run that propelled UC-Irvine to a 6-1 advantage.


The Tigers responded as Leon Landry scored Micah Gibbs on a two-out single to bring LSU within 6-2 with the tying run up at the plate. 


However, the Anteaters’ defense successfully pulled off an inning-ending hidden-ball play where LSU’s D.J. LeMahieu was tagged out by Anteater second baseman Casey Stevenson on an obvious blown call by the second base umpire that ended what had been a promising scoring rally in the sixth.


LeMahieu  came back to hit a home run that helped LSU close to within its final margin of 11-5 in the eighth but the damage was already done.


As for the hidden-ball play, there was no doubt in his mind that the wrong call was made.


“I was one foot off the bag and saw the second baseman out the corner of my eye,” LeMahieu said. “I put my foot back on the base before he touched me out.”


Mainieri came out to argue the out with second base umpire, David Rogers, but to no avail.


“It was a big play in the game,” Mainieri said. “We were down, but had the bases loaded and a good hitter at bat. I would’ve loved to see our player (Derek Helenihi) have the chance to hit.


”I can’t tell you what the umpire told me, but from my vantage point D.J. was one-step off the base. I saw the pitcher standing on the backside barely off the dirt. The second baseman broke toward D.J.  who stepped back on the bag with his left foot. I thought that he was safe. I didn’t think the umpire was watching.


“There was a long hesitation. I think that the second baseman sold them on the call by showing them the ball and running off the field. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t think there was a doubt that D.J. got back to the base in time. The umpire said there was hesitation because he wanted to make sure no one had called time out.”


The Anteaters offense added two more runs in the seventh and three in the eighth that gave them their final tally.


“They (UC-Irvine) played better than we did and deserved to win.” Mainieri said. “Their starting pitcher was better than ours. They took advantage of every opportunity when they had it and we didn’t. That’s what happens when you play a good team. There a good team for a reason and we’re a good team. We didn’t have a good night and that’s not to take anything away from them. I was impressed with them. I believe that we can play a lot better.”


Jeff Cusick had three hits to lead UC-Irvine’s 13-hit attack. Madigan added two, including his home run.


The Anteaters took a 2-0 advantage behind Tony Asaro’s two-run single in the first. LSU cut the deficit to 2-1 on Leon Landry’s run-scoring sacrifice fly in the second.


The Anteaters increased their advantage 3-1 in the fifth before erupting to break the game open in the sixth.


“Scott pitched extremely well, UC-Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said. “We capitalized in scoring early to get the lead. The three-run homer by Madigan was huge and his big catch in right field stopped a rally for us. It was lot of little things being done by a lot of guys that made the winning difference for us.


“The out to end the sixth for us was a big play. Our offense hit the ball well, especially at crucial times. We executed our bunting game well. It’s a huge win for our team and we hope to play well again starting at 3 (p.m.) tomorrow to win.”


LSU will send ace Jared Bradford 11-4 to the mound to face UC-Irvine when the best of three series continues at 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon.


The Tigers need a victory to keep their hopes alive for a College World Series berth at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska.

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