Da Boot Sports
By: Jason Watson Jr.
OMAHA, NE- LSU baseball will live to play another day after defeating Tennessee in an elimination game by way of a 5-0 shutout.
Defense was the story of the game for the Tigers’ pitching staff tossing a combined nine strikeouts and giving up just six hits to the Vols.
Jay Johnson opted to start Nate Ackenhausen on the hill and he pitched the best game of his season, eventually ending his night with seven K’s, giving up just four hits on 93 pitches over six scoreless innings of work. Those 93 pitches were 26 more than the junior’s season high of 67 which came in the Tigers’ lone win of the SEC tournament against South Carolina. “Acken” earned the win and Riley Cooper got the save.
LSU’s bats got going quickly versus Tennessee’s Drew Beam (9-4 on the year.) Dylan Crews was walked to lead off the game for the Tigers and advanced to 2nd base on an early wild pitch. After Tre’ Morgan made it runners on the corners with a base hit to left, Cade Beloso followed it up with a single of his own, earning an RBI in the process. 1-0 Tigers.
A quiet 2nd and 3rd inning was the result of a true pitcher’s duel. Beam had earned six strikeouts heading to the top of the fourth, but Ackenhausen had held his own with three K’s for the LSU mound crew. The wind was not aiding either offense to that point with several hard hit balls falling short, deep in the outfield.
The Volunteers looked ready to get their first run across in the bottom of the 5th after Ackenhausen hit his second batter of the night and allowed a two out double to Maui Ahuna. Suddenly, Tennessee had two in scoring position, but a pop out blooper into shallow right finished off the side, preserving LSU’s one run lead.
First baseman Morgan led off the top half of the 6th with a double out left. He then immediately found himself at home plate earning the Tigers’ 2nd run of the night after Gavin Dugas laid down a bunt single. An errant throw from Vols’ senior, Zane Denton, allowed both runners to advance. Cade Beloso earned a walk next in the lineup.
Jordan Thompson popped out with another bunt attempt, and then Brayden Jobert grounded out to first, enabling Dugas and Beloso to get to second and third base. With LSU now bound to strike, the Volunteers called for a pitching change. Freshman AJ Russell came in and delivered the final out.
With both teams struggling offensively, LSU fans cheered and rooted as the score stood 2-0. LSU’s starter came back out to begin the 7th inning, but was quickly pulled after his 3rd HBP of the game, this time giving Tennessee a lead off runner.
Riley Cooper came into the game to relieve.
Cooper came in and delivered two speedy outs, but then walked a batter, putting runners at first and second. Ahuna stepped up to the plate and hit a ground ball to Thompson that seemed a sure out, but a bobbled error allowed the bases to become loaded with two outs. A dangerous position to be in, LSU and Riley Cooper battled and got a ground out from Hunter Ensley, leaving 3 stranded Vols.
Tre’ Morgan led off the 8th inning for the Tigers and was hit by Aaron Combs, Tennessee’s new pitcher. Dugas came up to bat next and was struck by a pitch that could have been a lot worse. Combs’ pitch struck Dugas in the helmet, narrowly missing his face.
Tennessee, having now allowed two base runners with zero outs, called for another mound visit and pitching change. Seth Halvorsen would be called on for the bump.
Halvorsen would throw just 3 pitches to Jordan Thompson before he was pulled for Camden Sewell. Sewell forced Thompson to roll into a fielder’s choice, getting Dugas out at 2nd, but an unforced error from the second baseman allowed for Thompson to safely make it to first.
Runners on the corners, 2 outs, and the Vols hit another LSU batter. Jobert took his base, then a wild pitch from Sewell brought in Morgan from 3rd making the score 3-0 Tigers. Milazzo would ground out to end the inning.
A two out double from Tennessee got a runner into scoring position, but that would be as far as he makes it ‘round the bases as Blake Burke grounds out, sending the game to the 9th and stranding one Volunteer runner.
Josh Pearson led off from the nine spot in the final frame and earned a walk. With the top of the order coming up, LSU was looking like they were in good shape to win. Who else but the Collegiate Slugger of the year, Crews, to pad the Tigers’ lead with a 2 run blast to right field, extending the lead to five.
After giving up a walk to Dugas, Beloso doubled, putting the Bayou Bengals in scoring range once again. With a Jordan Thompson groundout to third, Tennessee was now down to the final 3 outs of their season and facing a 5-0 deficit to overcome.
A quick 1-2-3 inning was in store for Cooper to deliver. After a fly out and strikeout, the Volunteers had one last fly out to the warning track that Pearson was able to snag effectively ending Tennessee’s season and keeping LSU alive for at least one more bout.
With the loss, Tennessee has been eliminated from the College World Series. LSU will move on to a rematch against Wake Forest at 6:00pm CST on Wednesday night. LSU will have to beat the Demon Deacons twice to advance to the championship
series as they sit in the driver's seat at 2-0. It has been done before, so until the final out… GEAUX TIGERS!
*John 14:6 - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior)
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