[Information provided by: LSU Athletics]
In front of a record crowd of 10,752 at Alex Box Stadium, the LSU baseball team fought back from a 5-1 deficit to advance to the regional final, 8-5, over Sam Houston State on Saturday night.
LSU (54-9) committed three of its five errors in the bottom of the first inning that forced starter Aaron Nola to throw 42 pitches in the frame and led to five unearned runs.
This came on the heels of an Alex Bregman home run that was ruled a double, taking away a 2-0 advantage in the top half of the inning.
However, Nola (11-0) recovered and threw another masterful performance for the overflow crowd. The Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year allowed six hits with six strikeouts and three walks in seven innings. SEC Tournament MVP Chris Cotton gave up a hit and a walk in the final two innings but kept the Bearkats scoreless to earn his school record-tying 16th save of the season.
The Tigers battled to within 5-4 after three innings but couldn't muster a run against Jason Simms, who pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Caleb Smith. In the top of the eighth, LSU touched bullpen ace Alan Scott (2-1) - who entered with a 0.60 ERA in 30 innings - for four runs that provided the final margin.
LSU will face the winner of the losers bracket final between Louisiana-Lafayette and Sam Houston State (2 p.m. CT)
First pitch of the regional final is set for 7 p.m. CT on www.ESPN3.com (no over-the-air television). Pregame on the LSU Sports Radio Network is available free on www.LSUsports.net/live starting at 6:30 p.m.
In the top of the first inning, LSU third baseman Christian Ibarra gave the the Tigers an early 1-0 lead on a bases-loaded walk that scored Bregman.
Sam Houston State then took advantage of the LSU errors in the bottom of the frame to post five unearned runs. Tigers centerfielder Andrew Stevenson ended the Bearkats rally in the first with a spectacular diving grab in centerfield.
LSU cut the Sam Houston State lead to 5-3 in the second inning with a fielder's choice by Jared Foster and an RBI single from Bregman, who finished the night 3-for-6.
The Tigers pulled within a run in the third inning on a groundout by designated hitter Sean McMullen that scored JaCoby Jones. Simms entered to strikeout Foster and kept the Tigers off the scoreboard before leaving with one out in the seventh inning.
With one out in the eighth, Bregman connected on his third hit of the night with a line-drive single to center that sent the capacity crowd to its feet. Bregman moved to second on a walk of Katz, then tied the game at 5-5 when Bearkats shortstop Carter Burgess wasn't able to field a chopper on the infield by Rhymes.
The comeback complete, LSU continued to feed off the crowd and the Bearkats reliable pitching staff withered. Ibarra was hit by pitch to load the bases and send Scott to the showers. Sam Houston State reliever Michael Burchett's first pitch deflected away from the catcher and Katz scored to put the Tigers back on top, 6-5. Two more runs came home on a RBI single to left by catcher Ty Ross (2-for-4) and Alex Edward's bases loaded walk.
Cotton took the mound in the eighth, retiring three of four hitters faced. He then returned to the hill in the ninth, shutting the door while allowing one hit in two innings of work while striking out three. In the lefty's past 13 outings (14 2/3 innings pitched), he's allowed only three hits and two runs (one earned) with a walk and 14 strikeouts.