“Omaha, here come the Tigers,” declared a jubilant, LSU coach Paul Mainieri following his team’s victory, its final game in the 71-year history of playing baseball at Alex Box Stadium.
“I’ve been waiting to say that for so long,” continued the second-year coach and one-time player under former LSU coach Jim Smith. “I know that the Tiger nation will follow us up there and have a good time in Omaha. Doesn’t that word sound great guys? Omaha.
“These kids weren’t going to be denied today,” he added. “You could see it. I went into the locker room three hours before game time. They were as loose, relaxed, confident, and having fun. There wasn’t an ounce of nervousness and you could see the determination in their faces.”
Designated-hitter, Blake Dean ignited the Tigers’ long-ball barrage by blasting a two-run home run to left field that was the first of seven long balls LSU launched on the evening. It gave the Tigers a 3-0 advantage and followed a run-scoring single by Jared Mitchell that touched off the six-run scoring blitz.
Micah Gibbs followed with a solo homer to left to give LSU a 4-0 advantage then Matt Clark delivered a solo shot to the same part of the field for a 5-0 lead. A single to left from Ryan Schimpf helped to climax the final of LSU’s 6-0, scoring blitz.
Christian Bergman replaced UCI starter Bryce Stowell (8-3) to end the first, but surrendered successive doubles to Dean and Gibbs that enabled LSU to increase its lead to 7-0 in the second inning. Singles from Mitchell, Dean, and Leon Landry helped the Tigers tack on two more runs in the third to make it a 9-0 lead.
Schimpf drilled a solo homer off the Intimidator in right field to complete a seven-run, fifth inning explosion that gave LSU a 16-2 advantage.
“There was no other way that we could send this stadium out, except by getting the job done in a big way,” Mainieri said. “I’m so happy for all the people that have invested so much into this program for their support. It makes us all feel so great that everybody had one last great night in this venerable, old stadium.”
And what a night it was for the highly-partisan, largest crowd ever (8,173) to watch their Tigers go-out winners in the final game to be played at the current Box Stadium.
Dean pounded out five hits, including two doubles and his 20th homer of the year to lead LSU’s 24-hit barrage.
We came out and started things off well,” Dean said of his superlative hitting effort. “We got the momentum going for us. A few of my hits were kind of cheap, but we all played a great game. I was up there and everyone was on their feet and loud as usual. I knew I had to get a hit then.”
Schimpf added four hits, including, two doubles and a pair of home runs, while Gibbs contributed three hits, including two doubles and a homer.
“It was awesome,” Gibbs said of his offensive performance. “I wanted to do what I could to help our team win. It’s hard to put into words, but as long as you go up to the plate and do what you need to do, everything is going to work out.”
Blake Martin (5-3) started for LSU and pitched well before giving way after four and two-third innings to Jordan Brown (5-0) who earned the win in relief.
Although he didn’t go long enough to earn the victory Martin still shined in LSU’s skipper’s eyes.
“I tell you what won the game for us,” Mainieri said. “That was Martin going out in the first inning and pitching so well. We walked the first two batters (of UCI) to start the first game off. Blake went out and set the tone that he was going to take charge. I would’ve loved to see him get the win, but decided to bring in Brown, who did a great job for the next two innings.
“Blake’s starting effort gave our hitters a lot of confidence to help things off to a great start. `You don’t see back-to-back-to-back homers in the first inning very often. It sent the message right away that we meant business and nothing was going to stand in our way.”
The Tigers are hoping that their current two-game win streak will continue to include another National title in their 14th World Series appearance and first since ’04.
“I wish that we could’ve continued the streak past 23 games,” Mainieri said. “It was great and winning 30 straight to win the series would’ve have been something to really talk about. We’re never happy with losing a game. But once we did, I told our kids that the idea was to win two out of three. It didn’t matter what order they come in. They had their backs against the wall, but responded to the challenge successfully.”
Dillon Bell had three hits, including a homer and two doubles to lead UCI’s 13-hit attack and Eric Deragisch had two hits, including a triple and homer.
Ollie Linton, Jeff Cusick, and Brook Bardeen contributed a double each, while Ryan Fisher and Sean Madigan hit a triple each for the Anteaters.
“Congratulations to an outstanding Louisiana State University baseball team,” UCI coach Gillespie said. “They demonstrated who they are by getting on a roll early and having a great game. They put a world class beating on us.
“Paul Mainieri has done a remarkable job in a short period of time,” Gillespie continued. “It’s clear that what the people here have in this program is genuine and true. Skip Bertman (current LSU Athletic Director) was the root, beginning of this. He’s the genius of a great program that now continues under coach Mainieri. We wish them a lot of success as they go to the Series.”
LSU will be seeking its sixth national championship and first since 2000 when the Tigers face North Carolina to open CWS play at 6 p.m. Sunday in Rosenblatt Stadium.