Coming in to pinch hit for first baseman Buzzy Haydel with one out and the bases loaded, Gibbs drilled a 2-2 offering into the gap in right center field to break open a 1-1 tie and bring senior Derek Helenihi home for the victory.
LSU improved to 14-4 on the season with the victory, while Northwestern State fell to 10-6 with the loss.
Right-hander Matty Ott (2-1) earned the win in what turned out to be a fantastic game by the LSU pitching staff, which combined to allow only six hits and one earned run. The Demons’ DD Lott (0-1) was charged with the loss.
“Sometimes a tough, hard-fought win like this is better than a 15-run win,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “This type of a win can do wonders for a team because it teaches them how to win a close game.
“Blake (Dean) came through with a big hit to lead off the inning when the team needed it most. Leon Landry pinch hits against a left-hander and shows a good eye at the plate, and Micah Gibbs, with two strikes on him, wins the ball game for us. There are three guys who have been struggling, and maybe this gets them going and reminds them that they’re pretty good ball players.”
The Tigers and Demons traded runs in the first and second innings to tie the game at 1-1 after two. Left fielder Blake Dean drove in a run for LSU on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first, and the Demons returned the favor with a sacrifice fly to plate a run in the top of the second.
LSU left-hander Chris Matulis struck out seven through five innings to hold Northwestern State to one run. The Tigers then put runners on first and third with two outs in the bottom of the frame but couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Catcher Sean Ochinko hit a grounder back to the Northwestern State starter Ryan Zimmerman to end the inning.
The Tigers’ relief trio of Jordan Nicholson, Daniel Bradshaw and Ott kept the Demons off the scoreboard after the fifth as the three combined to strike out five and did not surrender a hit or a walk in the final four innings.
The LSU offense came alive in the bottom of the ninth. Dean led off the frame with a base hit to right, and Helenihi entered as a pinch runner. Second baseman Ryan Schimpf drew a walk one batter later, and pinch hitter Leon Landry followed with another walk to load the bases before Gibbs delivered the game-winner.
LSU returns to action Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. (CDT) as the Tigers host McNeese State.