CORVALLIS, Ore. — No amount of runs will take away the pain and frustration of being eliminated from last summer’s College World Series in stunning fashion, but Oregon State set out to pound LSU far enough into the turf to give it a try.
LSU ace Zack Hess was tagged for nine runs and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning as Oregon State exacted a measure of revenge in the form of an emphatic 14-1 beat down in front of a rabid, record-setting crowd of 4,009 at Goss Stadium on Saturday night.
“When you play like we did against a team the caliber of Oregon State, you’re going to end up on the wrong side of a big score,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
The rout means LSU will now need to win three games in two days without the benefit of a healthy, rested starting pitcher if its season is to continue beyond the Corvallis Regional.
That long walk along the tight rope will begin with an elimination game against Northwestern State set for 2 p.m. CT. If LSU wins that game, it’ll need to defeat Oregon State at 8 p.m. CT just to force a winner-take-all regional final on Monday.
An eternal optimist would point out that LSU won three games in a row in Omaha after a lopsided loss to Oregon State. A realist would point out that Jared Poche’ and Alex Lange won two of those while Mainieri will be counting on a cavalcade of relievers this time around in hostile territory.
“As I just told the team, if you think about what we have to do to come back and win this tournament, it’s awfully daunting,” Mainieri said. “Let’s just focus on winning the first game tomorrow. Then we’ll worry about game two after that. You’ve just got to deal with the most immediate challenge in front of you and not look too far ahead.”
Oregon State ace Luke Heimlich, wasn’t the razor-sharp buzz saw he was advertised to be, but LSU couldn’t make him pay for any of the seven baserunners he allowed through the first three innings. He yielded just a Jake Slaughter solo home run over seven strong innings.
Already trailing 2-0, LSU failed to score in the first inning after Heimlich loaded the bases with nobody out. Daniel Cabrera grounded into a 1-2-3 double play and Nick Coomes popped up to end the inning. The Tigers put two more men on in the second only to see the rally fizzle when a popped up bunt turned into a double play.
“It was one of those nights when we couldn’t seem to get much done right tonight,” Mainieri said.
Hess appeared to right the ship after Adley Rutschman’s two-out, two-run double in the first inning, but the wheels came off during a third inning that took the LSU ace 42 pitches to complete.
LSU came within inches from getting out of the inning unscathed, but a swinging bunt with topspin bounced off Hess’ glove for an RBI infield single with two outs. Hess then issued consecutive walks to the bottom third of Oregon State’s order, forcing in two runs in the process.
“I was just falling behind in counts,” Hess said. “They have probably three hitters that’re going to go on the first night of the MLB Draft next week. When you’re facing that caliber of hitters and you’re not getting ahead or executing your pitches, they’re going to make you pay for it. That’s what happened tonight.”
Oregon State proceeded to blow the game open by scoring five innings against Hess and mop-up reliever Caleb Gilbert one inning later. Rutschman drove in a run with another double and an error charged to Hal Hughes allowed the inning to spiral out of control.
The thrashing continued long after LSU waved the proverbial white flag. Steven Kwan laced a two-run triple in sixth and Nick Madrigal launched a long solo home run in the seventh. That contributed to the game slogging on for nearly four hours.
LSU announced it’ll start right-hander Cam Sanders against Northwestern State. Sanders struck out 12 in 8.1 dominant innings of relief over three appearances at the Southeastern Conference last week.