Designated hitter Cade Beloso launched a three-run homer, and relievers Riley Cooper and Gavin Guidry combined to fire 5.2 scoreless innings Sunday night, lifting LSU to a 8-3 victory over Kentucky in Game 2 of the NCAA Baton Rouge Super Regional at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
No. 5 LSU (48-15) clinched its 19th trip to the Men’s College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska over No. 12 Kentucky (40-21).
The Tigers return to action on either Friday or Saturday in Omaha when they take on the winner of the Hattiesburg Super Regional – either Southern Miss or Tennessee at Charles Schwab Field. Game 3 of the Southern Miss- Tennessee Super Regional will be played at 5 p.m. (CT) Monday.
College World Series will be telecast on the ESPN family of networks, and fans can listen to LSU games on the LSU Sports Radio Network.
LSU will make its first CWS appearance since 2017, when the Tigers were the national runners-up. LSU has six College World Series titles, which ranks second all-time behind Southern California’s 12 CWS championships.
“Everybody knew what was on the line today,” said LSU coach Jay Johnson, who led the Tigers to the CWS berth in his second season at the helm of the program. “But it feels so much better to accomplish it when you’ve invested everything the right way. So just staying focused, being present, that’s what makes our team special. That’s what makes talented guys play great.
“We have a really good record this season against a hellacious schedule. But nothing has ever been too much for our players. And they kept forging forward with a little adversity. And they’re champions.”
Cooper (4-3) earned the win as he entered the game in the fourth inning in relief of starter Ty Floyd and blanked Kentucky over 3.0 innings, allowing just two hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
Guidry picked up his third save of the year by firing 2.2 scoreless innings with just one hit, no walks and four strikeouts.
Kentucky starter Austin Strickland (4-2) was charged with the loss, as he allowed five runs on five hits in 2.2 innings with four walks and one strikeout. Center fielder Jackson Gray led off the bottom of the first inning with his sixth homer of the season for a 1-0 advantage.
LSU tied the game in the top of the second inning on a fielder’s choice RBI grounder by center fielder Dylan Crews.
The Tigers expanded the lead to 4-1 in the third when first baseman Tre’ Morgan doubled, catcher Hayden Travinski singled and Beloso unloaded his 14th homer of the season into right-center field.
LSU added another run in the third on third baseman Tommy White’s RBI single.
Solo home runs by Wildcats catcher Devin Burkes in the third and by right fielder Nolan McCarthy in the fourth narrowed the deficit to 5-3.
Neither team scored for the next four innings until the top of the ninth, when LSU plated three runs. Second baseman Gavin Dugas scored from third on a wild pitch, and Crews, in what’s expected to be his final plate appearance at home, ripped a two-run double to account for the final score.
“That’s been our motto since day one, ‘one pitch at a time,’” Crews said. “When you think about it, really, it just kind of breaks down the game in the best way possible. You just control the strike zone, control the ‘offensive line’ in baseball, and good things will happen at the end of the day. I think what we’re doing right now is very good and very special. And we’re trying to carry it forward in Omaha.”
Guidry retired the side in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win and send the Tigers back to the CWS.
“They’ve earned the right to go play for a national championship,” Johnson said. “And saying that is probably the thing that gets me the most. They’ve earned the right to go play for a national championship, and that’s what we intend on doing and going for it. And I will not promise we’ll win it, but everything will be invested by everybody to go do that.”