CWS Game Six: Louisiana State 9, Arkansas 1

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Louisiana State had a 4-1 lead and seemed in control when Arkansas loaded the bases in the third, using a double and two walks in between two strikeouts. Coach Dave Van Horn sensed it might be the Razorbacks’ best chance and pinch-hit with Jacob House, but Louis Coleman struck him out on three pitches to end the threat.

Mikie Mahtook has produced an offensive spark since being added to the lineup in March, but he was just 4-for-20 in the postseason entering the CWS. He’s heated up again, though, lashing three hits in the first game, then mashing a three-run homer in the first inning to set the tone against the Razorbacks.

Might Have Missed:
LSU scored eight of its nine runs with two outs. The one exception was freshman shortstop Austin Nola’s solo homer in the sixth, part of a five-run inning that put the game away. It was just Nola’s seventh extra-base hit of the season, his third home run.

OMAHA—Brett Eibner had his chances to put Louisiana State away Monday.  The Tigers’ hitters just wouldn’t let him.

Ryan Schimpf, the team’s leading home run hitter, worked a 13-pitch walk as the second batter of the game. And on a 3-and-2 pitch with two outs in the first inning, Mikie Mahtook fouled off a tough fastball, then sat on a slider and drilled it for a three-run homer.

LSU had a lead, and LSU had Louis Coleman on the mound. That combination proved lethal for Arkansas as the Tigers cruised to a 9-1 victory and became the first team in the College World Series to improve to 2-0.

As a result of its victory, LSU took control of its bracket and will be off until Friday, when it will play the winner of Wednesday’s Arkansas-Virginia elimination game.

“They did a good job going deep in counts and fouling balls off,” Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn said of the Tigers. “Mahtook battled, he fouled off a fastball and then got a slider that was up . . . (Eibner) couldn’t finish him off.”

No Arkansas pitcher could finish off the Tigers, who scored eight of their nine runs with two outs. Senior DH Blake Dean struck the other big blow in LSU’s five-run sixth inning, with a two-run homer off T.J. Forrest. Then the Tigers showed their offensive versatility, scoring two more runs on two hits, a walk and a throwing error from the outfield, forced in part by LSU’s speed pressuring the defense.

“They’ve got a great lineup,” Van Horn said. “They’ve got good speed, they’ve got a couple of lefthanded hitters who can hurt you, it’s a really solid college lineup. They’ve got a lot of ways to beat you.”

Louisiana State (53-16) is especially potent with senior All-American righthander Coleman on the hill. He improved to 14-2 on the season with six fairly crisp innings, needing 106 pitches. Coach Paul Mainieri removed him a bit early in case Coleman needs to come back for a start Saturday in a potential bracket championship.

Coleman overcame a shaky first inning with five strikeouts between the second
and the third. He was most visibly excited about fanning pinch-hitter Jacob
House in the third, coming off the mound pumping his fist. From there, Coleman was in control, and Arkansas never mounted another serious threat.

“We talked about it, we knew it could be a three-game swing, that if we won that our road would be a lot easier,” said Coleman, referring to the CWS schedule that affords Monday’s winner three days off. “That’s what my mentality was, and now I get to go to the zoo.”

While Coleman got off the night’s best quip, he had time to think about it with a big lead and relatively early exit. Louisiana State was expected to have one of the nation’s most explosive
offenses this season thanks to all its returning starters such as Dean
(an All-American a year ago), Mitchell (a 2009 first-round pick who often hits sixth or seventh in the lineup) and LeMahieu. That offense
finally seems to be finding its form at Rosenblatt Stadium, with a spark from a resurgent Mahtook.

It’s not exactly the “gorilla ball” attack that LSU featured when Skip Bertman was winning five national championships from 1991-2000, but it is a potent, varied offense, and one that looks ready to deliver another deep Omaha run.

“Our pitching has been pretty consistent all year,” Mainieri said, “as well as our defense. Our hitting at times has been awesome and at times not so good. Tonight, you saw what we’re capable of . . . It seemed like just about everybody was throwing up some good at-bats tonight. When we’re clicking, we’re a good offensive team one through nine.”