BATON ROUGE, La. _ University of Southern Mississippi second baseman Matt Guidry’s grand slam in the seventh inning Saturday night at the Baton Rouge Regional not only tied the score but appeared to have swung the momentum in the Golden Eagles’ favor.
That swing lasted all of about five minutes.
Thirteenth-ranked Louisiana State University immediately answered with three runs, two on a two-run single by catcher Saul Garza, and the top-seeded Tigers went on to a 8-4 victory.
“I don’t think we ever wavered,“ said LSU starting pitcher Cole Henry, who shut out USM through the first five innings. “We all know we’re not going down without a fight.”
The loss sent the third-seeded Golden Eagles (39-20) into a 2 p.m. rematch Sunday with second-seeded Arizona State University (38-18). The two met in Friday’s opening round, with USM using a 12-run inning to power a 15-3 victory.
The winner of the USM-Arizona game will turn around and take on LSU (39-24) at 8 p.m. in the championship round.
The Sun Devils remained alive with a 13-5 win Saturday that eliminated fourth-seeded Stony Brook University (31-23).
USM coach Scott Berry said the Golden Eagles have no intention of packing up shop.
“You’ve got to flush it, man,” Berry said. “It is what it is, but just like all the good things that we did are behind us now, so are the others. It’s a new opportunity and we have to understand the sense of urgency about this game.
“But there’s not one person in this program or on this team who’s ready to go home. I know that. So, with that being said, I firmly expect our guys to go out there and compete, and do everything we can to make that 8 o’clock game (Sunday).”
Henry, who came in with just a short stint under his belt at the Southeastern Conference tournament after being shut down for about a month with a sore arm, was at times overpowering.
He allowed just two hits, a single to Guidry in the third inning and a double to Storme Cooper in the fifth, walked three and struck out six.
Yet, USM had its chances early, only to come up empty with men on second and third with one in the second and first and second and two outs in the fifth inning.
“We had some opportunities,” Berry said.
LSU led 1-0 thanks to a solo home run by designated hitter Cade Beloso in the second inning off USM starter Walker Powell, who allowed two runs on seven hits over 5 1/3 innings and was greatly aided by three, inning-ending double plays in three of the first four innings.
“I didn’t think it was a bad pitch,” Powell said. “He’s just a good hitter. I put it pretty much where I wanted. If he hadn’t swung at it, it was going to be a ball.”
LSU pushed the lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Beloso and a two-run home run by Zach Watson.
Henry was pulled after 85 pitches, and reliever Todd Peterson came into the game. He got into trouble in the sixth inning by walking Matt Wallner with one out and then giving up a single to center by Bryant Bowen that sent Wallner to third base.
But the Golden Eagles again came up empty, with Cole Donaldson flying put to short right field and Fred Franklin looking at a called third strike.
After USM reliever Cody Carroll held LSU scoreless in the top of the seventh inning, Peterson loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, walking Danny Lynch and then hitting Cooper and Gabe Montenegro.
He was lifted in favor of Zach Hess, who went 1-2 on Guidry before the former Oak Grove High School star went down and sent a low slider soaring into the right field bleachers for only the third grand slam in USM regional history.
Guidry, who hit a grand slam in the 2017 regular season against Rice University, joined Kerry Valrie (1990) and Brad Willcutt (2003).
“He made me look really bad on the pitch before,” said Guidry, who ran his “reached-base-safely” Sterak to 54 gamed. “He came back with pretty much the same pitch, and I guess I just saw it better out of his hand.”
The game stayed tied for about 10 minutes.
Left fielder Daniel Cabrera led off the LSU eighth inning with a double, and Carroll followed by hitting Beloso with a pitch.
That ended Carroll’s evening and brought in Hunter Stanley, who walked Watson to load the bases and then gave up Garza’s single past a drawn-in infield.
“You had 11,000 people screaming so loud you couldn’t hear anything, and I’m looking at him at the plate and I couldn’t believe how calm he was up there,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “His calmness gave me all the confidence in the world that he was going to get the job done.”
First baseman Chris Reid knocked in Garza for the inning’s third run and a 7-4 lead, and the Tigers tacked on their final run in the ninth inning on a wild pitch.
The late-inning outburst not only got Hess (4-3) off the hook, but gave him the win as he finished off the game with two scoreless innings.
“What I was hoping was that my teammates would score a few more runs after that so I wouldn’t get my house burned down,” Hess said kiddingly. “I was very happy to see that.”
As was Mainieri.
“This was critical victory for us (Saturday),” Mainieri said. “It’s the difference between having to win one more game or three more games.”
(2) Arizona State 13, (4) Stony Brook 5
BATON ROUGE, La. _ The second-seeded Sun Devils banged out 16 hits to overcome a pair of early deficits Saturday afternoon at Alex Box as the fourth-seeded Seawolves became the first team eliminated from the Baton Rouge Regional.
Arizona State will face at noon Sunday the loser of Saturday’s night winner’s bracket showdown between top-seeded Louisiana State and third-seeded Southern Miss.
Stony Brook (31-23), which lost 17-3 to LSU Friday night, grabbed a 2-0 after one inning on a two-out, two-run single by Sean Buckhout.
After Arizona State (38-18) tied the game in the third inning on Spencer Torkelson’s double and Alika Williams’ single, the Seawolves went up 3-2 on Brad Hipsley’s infield single in the bottom of the inning.
But the Sun Devils scored twice in the fourth on Trevor Hauver’s single and a wild pitch to take the lead for good, then added four more runs to push the lead to 8-3.
Stony Brook got within 8-5 in the seventh inning on run-scoring singles by Buckhout and Johnny Decker, but the Sun Devils scored five runs over the final two innings to ice down the victory.
ASU starter R.J. Dabovich (7-1) picked up the pitching win after allowing five runs on six hits over 6 2/3 innings. He walked five and struck out six.
Stony Brook starter Bret Clarke (8-1) took his first loss of the season after allowing seven runs on 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings. He walked five and struck out two.
Hauver, Gabe Workman and Sam Ferri each had three hits for the Sun Devils, while Hauver, Torkelson, Williams and Carter Aldrete each drove in two runs.
Buckhout and Decker each had two of the Seawolves’ nine hits.