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LSU rally evens Super Regional

UCI takes 7-2 lead into the ninth, but is overcome by host Tigers to force deciding game today.

June 08, 2008|By Barry Faulkner

BATON ROUGE, La. — The UC Irvine baseball team had the place they call “The Box” in the ground, as well as its occupants, the LSU Tigers, with three outs remaining in what could have been the clinching game of the NCAA Super Regional.

But the No. 8-ranked Anteaters, specifically normally reliable relievers Tom Calahan and Eric Pettis, the latter an All-American with a school single-season record 17 saves, couldn’t shovel dirt on the tenacious Tigers.

The result was a ninth-inning comeback to rival any the 70-year-old facility — in its last season — has had, helping LSU (47-17-1) claim a 9-7 win to extend the best-of-three series.

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The deciding third game, from which the winner will advance to the College World Series, is scheduled today at 4 p.m.

UCI sophomore Bryce Stowell (8-2 with a 2.77 earned-run average), the MVP at the Lincoln Regional last week after helping blank Oral Roberts in the championship game, will face LSU starter Blake Martin.

Martin, a junior lefty, is 5-3 with a 4.88 ERA.

“That was one for the ages,” LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said after No. 5-ranked LSU, which has now come from behind to win 29 times, scored two in the eight inning and five in the ninth to live to play another day.

UCI had been 37-0 when leading after seven innings and 39-0 when leading after eight this season before Sunday.

“It’s just a tremendously courageous game for us,” Mainieri said. “I know it’s a tough loss for Irvine. I feel for [the Anteaters]. But we’re not quite ready to say goodbye to Alex Box Stadium yet.”

Neither were most of the 6,971 on hand, who helped generate energy after the Anteaters (42-17), the designated home team Sunday, scored six runs in the fourth to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead.

UCI sophomore left-hander Danny Bibona, with the aid of some impressive defensive execution, limited LSU to two runs on eight hits through seven innings.

“It was one more in a full string of well-pitched games by Danny,” UCI Coach Mike Gillespie said. “I was really proud of the way our guys skilled it up and executed. We did a lot of good things. But, in the end [LSU] did what a good hitting club does when you get those kinds of opportunities.

With UCI seemingly in control, Jared Mitchell greeted Bibona with a leadoff home run in the eighth. A two-out walk by Calahan allowed Matt Clark to single in another run and trim the deficit to 7-4.

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