LSU advances to College World Series

BATON ROUGE -- LSU starter Louis Coleman allowed only three runs in eight innings, and the top-ranked Tigers completed a two-game sweep of No. 6 Rice with a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium to advance to the College World Series for the 15th time in school history.

A record crowd of 9,651 was on hand to watch the Tigers advance to Omaha in its inaugural season at the new stadium.

LSU (51-16) extended its win streak to 10 games and improved to 117-44 all-time in NCAA Tournament games, which is the highest winning percentage (.727) in tournament history. The Tigers will be making back-to-back trips to the CWS for the first time since 2004.

Rice finished its season with a record of 43-18.

"Omaha, here come the Tigers," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri.  "We're going to go up to Omaha and I know our fans are going to go up. We're going to have a lot of fun up there. This year we're going to go up there with seven great ball clubs. I figure one team has to win, so it might as well be us. We're going to go up there with the idea that we're going to put another trophy in the trophy case and give it our best effort.

"I don't know if I feel great or relieved. This has been a real grind to get to this point because this season started with such promise for our team. Our kids have been under the microscope all year, and a lot has been expected of them. They just are so remarkable in their consistency, poise, composure and how they have been able to handle those expectations. I'm just so happy for all of them. They deserve it. Now we go get to have a great experience together in Omaha."

Coleman (13-2) earned his fourth straight win as the SEC Pitcher of the Year allowed nine hits and struck out five batters. Freshman closer Matty Ott secured the victory with his 16th save of the season.

Rice starter Ryan Berry (7-2) suffered only his second loss of the season after giving up five earned runs on eight hits and four walks in five innings of work.

Third baseman Derek Helenihi led the Tigers at the plate with two hits and two RBI. The senior also blasted his fourth home run of the season. Designated hitter Blake Dean also had two hits on the afternoon, and catcher Micah Gibbs and center fielder Mikie Mahtook each drove in one run apiece.

The Tigers got off to a quick start, jumping out to a 1-0 advantage in the top of the first. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a double down the right field line, and left fielder Ryan Schimpf and Gibbs each walked to load the bases with one out. Mahtook then followed with an RBI grounder to bring home LeMahieu.

Rice second baseman Brock Holt tied the game at 1-1 in the third with a solo shot over the wall in right center field.

LSU regained the lead with a run in the top of the fourth to go up, 2-1. Following a double by right fielder Jared Mitchell and a base hit by first baseman Sean Ochinko, Helenihi singled through the middle of the infield to plate Mitchell.

However, the Owls came back to tie it at 2-2 in the bottom of the frame. Designated hitter Diego Seastrunk doubled into the gap in left center and reached third on a fielding error before left fielder Michael Fuda drove him in on a perfectly placed bunt single down the first base line.

The Tigers added two runs in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 advantage. Schimpf walked to lead off the inning, and Dean drilled a double into the gap in left center to put two men in scoring position.

Gibbs then drove in Schimpf on an RBI grounder to second, and Dean later scored on a wild pitch by Berry.

Helenihi launched a solo homer to the opposite field to give LSU a 5-2 lead in the sixth inning, but Seastrunk returned the favor with a solo dinger of his own in the bottom of the frame to cut the deficit to 5-3.

Meanwhile, Coleman remained strong deep into the game, allowing only one hit in the seventh and eighth innings and keeping the Owls off the scoreboard.

Ott entered in the ninth and retired three of the four batters he faced. The right-hander fanned Holt to end the game.