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|GAME AT A
Point: Sean Ochinko’s three-run home run in the fifth inning turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead for Louisiana State, and the Tigers’ bullpen—four pitchers from that point on—held onto that lead.
OMAHA—Louisiana State had to scramble Saturday night, as coach Paul Mainieri turned to his bullpen in the fourth inning.
He used six pitchers overall against Virginia, and while that wasn’t the plan, it is what worked as LSU beat the Cavaliers 9-5.
“Three starting pitchers in one game, I don’t think I’ve ever done that before,” said Mainieri, who got key innings by winning pitcher Austin Ross and Louis Coleman, who both came on after starter Anthony Ranaudo was removed in the fourth.
“You do what you have to do to win the game.”
Neither team pitched particularly well in a game featuring 28 hits, including four home runs. LSU’s pitchers did the better job at working out of jams, stranding 14 Cavaliers runners. Mainieri credited his team’s defense with keeping the Tigers in the game, getting crucial outs at important points.
“I felt our guys stepped up and hit some balls hard,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said after the school’s first-ever CWS game. “LSU made two diving catches in the outfield, and we just couldn’t get the big hit.
“I thought we had a chance when we got Ranaudo out of the game and got to their bullpen, but we couldn’t break through.”
Both Virginia home runs were solo shots, while LSU drove in five runs with its home runs.
The big blow came from first baseman Sean Ochinko, who struck out in his other three at-bats. He only needed one good swing to help his team, though, crushing a three-run shot off losing pitcher Matt Packer (3-5) in the bottom of the fifth. It was his first home run since April 3 and his eighth overall.
“It feels like 40 games,” said Ochinko, who had homered only once since March 11. “I went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, but I’m here (in the press conference) because I hit that three-run home run. It’s the most important baseball moment I’ve had in my life.”
It turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 Tigers lead. From there, Ross (who threw two innings), lefty reliever Chad Jones, Coleman and closer Matty Ott held Virginia in check, with Ross surrendering the only run Virginia got thereafter.
Coleman threw just 17 pitches in his eighth-inning stint, and Mainieri and Coleman insisted he’d be fine to come back Monday on one day’s rest and start against Arkansas. Mainieri went so far as to use the phrase “glorified bullpen” to describe Coleman’s short stint.
Left fielder Ryan Schimpf, a fifth-round pick of the Blue Jays, provided the put-away punch in the bottom of the eighth, a two-run shot that provided the final margin of victory. It was his team-high 20th homer, and it sent LSU into an all-SEC winners’ matchup Monday against the Razorbacks.