CORVALLIS, Ore. — Down to their final two outs, LSU rallied back to extend its season for at least a few more hours.
Nick Coomes tied the game with an RBI single and Jake Slaughter delivered the game-winning knock as LSU scored five times in the ninth inning to stave off elimination with a thrilling 6-5 victory over Northwestern State at Goss Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers’ reward: a rematch with Oregon State later on Sunday evening. LSU will need to defeat the Beavers twice without a rested starting pitcher available.
But that’s a problem LSU is glad to have after staring down the barrel of being eliminated from the Corvallis Regional by an in-state foe and No. 4 seed in the Demons. That seemed an all-too-real possibility after first baseman Peyton Davis launched what appeared to be a game-winning home run off Matt Beck in the eighth.
“Once I gave up that homer, my guys did an unbelievable job picking me up,” Beck said.
The rally started with a walk, as so many of them do. Antoine Duplantis stolen base base on a bang-bang play and Austin Bain grounded a single off the cleat of Northwestern State closer Jose Vasquez to put runners on the corners. Coomes and Slaughter followed with sharp singles to left that tied the game and gave LSU the lead.
That’s when the meltdown kicked into overdrive for the Southland Conference champions. A hit batsman loaded the bases, and light-hitting shortstop Hal Hughes came through with a two-out, two-run double down the left field line that extended the lead. An error brought home the fifth run of the frame and provided plenty of cushion for LSU closer Todd Peterson.
“We got some real clutch hits,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Coomes, Slaughter and Hal Hughes all came through in a big way for us, which is what we were lacking earlier in the game.”
The Tigers will get a couple hours to catch their breath and figure out a pitching plan. The regional finals are set to begin at 8 p.m. CT, roughly three hours after the final out was recorded. Mainieri said he and LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn will be piecing the game together with whoever is healthy and available out of what remains of the LSU bullpen.
“I don’t have any idea what we’re going to do pitching wise,” Mainieri said. “I’m going to ask for a show of hands and see who is available. Then we’ll go from there.”
LSU got off to as fast a start as possible as Zach Watson sent a jolt through the sleepy, sparsely-populated stadium with a long leadoff home run to left on the first offering of the game from Northwestern State right-hander Nathan Jones.
The Tigers had chances to put distance between themselves and the Demons early on, but as has been a theme all weekend, they couldn’t cash in on some golden scoring opportunities. An RBI single from Coomes doubled the lead in the third, but the bats went cold from there.
“We just weren’t coming through, but in this game you always get another chance,” Mainieri said.
Meanwhile Cam Sanders looked like a buzz saw as he struck out the side in the first inning, but he struggled to command his curveball for the rest of the afternoon.
Sanders managed to wiggle in and out of trouble on the strength of his mid-90s fastball alone, but No. 9 hitter Sam Jones turned one around for a game-tying two-run blast to left in the fourth inning.
Northwestern State chased the right-hander from the game when Lenni Kunert, a former LSU commitment, led off the sixth inning with a long solo shot to left. Beck took over and the Demons tacked on an unearned run thanks to a throwing error committed by Slaughter.
Their season down to nine outs, LSU immediately responded with a rally. Watson walked, Duplantis doubled to right and Daniel Cabrera tied the game with a two-run single through the right side.