By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — With two teams riding 39 games of cumulative winning streak into TD Ameritrade Park on Monday night, something had to give.
Turns out it was LSU.
The Tigers found out the hard way that it’s ill-advised to give away much of anything against an opponent that’s lost only four times all season. No. 1 Oregon State capitalized on uncharacteristically sloppy play to hammer LSU 13-1 in the highly-anticipate winner’s bracket showdown.
An error led to two unearned runs in the fifth inning. Then, in the sixth, LSU’s bullpen walked four Beavers before Hunter Newman served up the first grand slam in TD Ameritrade Park history to KJ Malone to blow the game wide open.
“We gave them a lot,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “You just can’t give a team that’s that good that much. Too many walks. Not great defense. Their pitcher threw well and we didn’t hit the ball well. We did nothing well tonight. We’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for Wednesday.”
That’d prove far more support than the nation’s stingiest pitching staff required. Beaver right-hander Bryce Fehmel twirled eight brilliant innings of two-hit ball and was in complete control of the game throughout.
LSU will now face Florida State in an elimination game on Wednesday at 6 p.m. needing to prevail in that rematch to get another crack at the mighty Beavers. LSU defeated the Seminoles, 5-4, on Saturday night.
Needing to win three times in a row to advance, a daunting road now stands before LSU. Defeat a Florida State team it needed a mini-miracle to outlast on Saturday only to turn around and need to beat a team with four losses twice in as many days.
But it’s not unprecedented. Last year Coastal Carolina lost it’s winner’s bracket game and took the long route to the national championship.
“It’s been done before,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s not the easiest route, but fortunately there’s some days off that allow your pitching staff to recover a little bit. We’ve just got to get the job done Wednesday and live to play another day.”
One thing’s for sure: that won’t happen if LSU plays like it did on Monday night again.
Oregon State got on the board early against LSU starter Eric Walker. Leadoff man Steven Kwan beat out a beautifully-executed bunt single on the first pitch of the game. Trevor Larnach singled him home with a bullet up the middle.
Walker looked sharp early, but the freshman right hander left the game after his fourth pitch of the third inning. LSU coach Paul Mainieri and trainer Cory Couture came out to the mound at Walker’s behest, and he was lifted from the game due to forearm tightness.
“It certainly wasn’t what we had hoped for, that’s for sure,” Mainieri said. “When you have to take your pitcher out after two innings, obviously it’s going to tax your staff.”
Caleb Gilbert took his place and held the Beavers at bay for two innings, but LSU couldn’t manage to get anything going against Fehmel in the early innings.
A rare error committed by Robertson presented Oregon State with an opportunity to extend the lead. A hit-and-run single, compounded by an ill-advised throw, put runners on second and third. Larnach then dunked a two-out, two-strike, two-run single into shallow right field.
LSU got a chance to answer back after an Oregon State error and a walk brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the inning. Instead a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play poured cold water on the simmering threat.
That’s when the wheels came off entirely.
LSU relievers issued six walks and hit a batter between the fifth and sixth innings. All seven of those baserunners came home to score, with Harrison’s grand slam and a two-run double from Madrigal doing most of the damage. Newman left having allowed five earned runs in one inning.
There’d be no shutout, however, as Zach Watson blasted a long solo home run to left off Fehmel in the bottom of the seventh. To that point he’d allowed only one hit, a seeing-eye single by Watson in the second.
“A heck of a way for a 17-game winning streak to end,” Mainieri said. “But just right from the start things didn’t go well for us.”
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