After taking bullpen prior to his Saturday start, Louis Coleman sat in the dugout and took in the LSU crowd.
The man head coach Paul Mainieri tabbed as the “final piece” to the LSU puzzle – a one-time relief arm turned Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year – was set to take the mound for his final time in Baton Rouge.
“I wanted to go out there and do something special not only for the team, but for the fans, too,” Coleman said. “I wanted to give it everything I had.”
That he did – tossing eight innings of three-run ball to put the Bayou Bengals through to the World Series.
At the plate, there was support.
LSU tapped Rice ace Ryan Berry for five runs over the opening five frames.
DJ LeMahieu, who scored the Tigers’ opening run after doubling down the left field line to lead off the first, said that getting out to a quick start on Berry was heavy on the minds of the LSU batters.
“I think we had a lot of momentum coming off [Friday’s] win and we wanted to start the game out right, especially being the visiting team,” he said.
Unfortunately, the Tigers stranded two in the first – allowing the Owls to escape with just one run afforded.
“We had the bases loaded and could have gotten a few more runs,” LeMahieu added. “We could see his location was not as good as we had heard – and his numbers are unbelievable. It was good to get on him early and make him throw a lot of pitches.”
Berry – who had walked just 15 batters all season – walked two Tiger batters before he had recorded his second out of the game.
“It was very embarrassing for me,” he said. “I tried to do the best I could out there, but I could not hit my curveball. I think I walked four guys in five innings, and that is pathetic for me.”
LSU capitalized, putting runners on base in every inning Berry pitched.
The end, which could not come soon enough for the junior right-hander, came at the hands of one of Mainieri’s grittiest seniors.
Up 4-2 in the top of the sixth, Derek Helenihi – who got the nod to start at third over Tyler Hanover – launched a home run down the right field line.
“Berry had such good numbers that you just hope to get a good pitch to hit and take advantage of it,” he said. “I got a couple of good pitches to hit early in the count, and I put some good swings on them. Eventually, it worked out well for me.”
A Diego Seastrunk solo shot in the bottom of the frame gave the Owl dugout life – but the fat lady had already begun clearing her throat.
Matty Ott, the Tigers’ All-American freshman closer, took the ball from Coleman in the ninth and tossed a hitless frame – punching the Tigers’ ticket back to Rosenblatt Stadium.
The handoff – Coleman going eight innings to pass the ball to Ott in the ninth – is a plan of action that seems to hold nothing but positive results.
“That was exactly what I had visualized happening for us,” Mainieri said. “You can’t win this game without pitching, and we are blessed to have it.”