CORVALLIS, Oregon. – LSU had given up the advantage, and here Jake Slaughter was opposed to the exact type of pitcher that LSU fought against, in the exact situation in which he had failed all day.
Nick Coomes was second base in the bottom of the sixth in a 3-3 game on Friday (June 1) with reliever Jacob Erickson of 5 feet 9 on the mound for the State of San Diego. The southpaw launched the challenging off-the-shoulder exercise that LSU coach Paul Mainieri said on Thursday he hoped his team would not have to face.
The Tigers were 0 out of 10 with runners in scoring position, and Slaughter put himself down 0-2. Erickson said he then tried to throw balls at the feet of the receiver to attack Slaughter.
But Slaughter remained patient, as a coach after the coach told him and the Tigers to do against out-of-speed pitchers like this. He waited for his release and pulled out the full count.
Then Erickson threw a change-his immediate throw-into the low zone, and Slaughter leaned back and led him to center field to bring Coomes. Soon Zach Watson and Antoine Duplantis drove two more and LSU went on to win 6-4 and advance to the group of winners in the NCAA Regional.
"I think we had to hit one of those guys eventually," Coomes said with a laugh.
Coomes went 3 for 4 on Friday, with all three hits when he opened an inning. He continued to impress Mainieri with his blow and effort behind the plate.
Coomes talked about how all year long LSU has fought pitchers like Erickson, and how the coaching staff has continually tried to teach them to look back and handle the ball to right field. Finally, guys like him and Slaughter took a step forward when it mattered to beat him.
"By the time you see so many guys, you'll learn that your coaches know what they're talking about and you're going to do it," Coomes said.
Coomes and Slaughter scored two runs every Friday, with Slaughter going 1-for-1 with two walks and one hit per pitch.
The day could be defined by that kind of patient but productive in the bats until the clutch finally arrives. Freshman Hal Hughes left two crucial sacrificial headdresses. Junior Brandt Broussard had a couple of pbades in the sixth inning to establish the hits of Watson and Duplantis who eventually won the game.
Hughes and Broussard also brought two second-inning runs with ground sacrifice.
"It's no secret that the last two places in our order did not reach the high average there," said Mainieri. "What we need are productive outputs, and that's what we did today."
It was not the nicest LSU baseball game. Mainieri simply said that his team played "well". But he was able to take an early advantage and recover after losing it.
Nick Bush pitched five solid innings despite allowing three runs in the fourth. Then, Devin Fontenot took over and allowed only one entry in three innings before Todd Peterson closed things in the ninth inning.
San Diego State coach Mark Martinez knew his team had a chance. He knew that his Aztecs held LSU for much of the game, but he could not beat the Tigers even when they only played "well".
"I thought they took advantage of some of our mistakes," Martinez said, "and that made a difference in the game of baseball."