The LSU baseball team finally erased Stony Brook’s ghost and punched the program’s 16th ticket to the 2013 College World Series on Saturday when it defeated Oklahoma 11-1.
The Tigers’ (57-9, 23-7 SEC) victory, littered with broken records, great plays and ovations to departing players, almost felt like the perfect retribution after last season’s disappointing finish.
“It’s been a long 365 days, I can tell you that,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Last time we were up here a year ago it was a pretty sad day for us. This doesn’t erase the hurt that we felt that day, because we can not bring that day back... But this does take away some of that bitter taste that we had.”
Oklahoma (43-21, 13-11 Big 12) drew first blood taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning against LSU starting pitcher Ryan Eades.
But it did not take long for the Tigers to respond take control, and when they did, they refused to yield it.
Undeterred by a 52-minute lightning delay, LSU chipped away at the Sooners before blowing it wide open with a 6-run ninth inning.
Junior second baseman Jacoby Jones was the driving force behind LSU’s offense, as he batted 4-for-4 and finished the game a triple away from the cycle.
“I just felt really comfortable in the box,” Jones said. “I was just trying to do whatever I could to get on base for the team, use my legs and find some holes... I got four hits tonight, and it feels good.”
Saturday night marked the last time seniors and juniors departing to play professional baseball will ever play in Alex Box Stadium.
Seniors first baseman Mason Katz and outfielder Raph Rhymes each received standing ovations upon their last at-bats.
Rhymes made the most of his finale at the box, as he went 2-for-4, including an RBI double in the 9th inning. He also made a spectacular grab off of the wall in the 7th that possibly prevented multiple Oklahoma runs.
“This is why we came back,” Rhymes said. “This is why you stick around. The goal when you step foot on campus is to get to Omaha. So, we got a chance and we took advantage of that tonight.”
Senior closing pitcher Chris Cotton also finished his final home game in style with two shutout innings, allowing no base runners.
Cotton, who came to LSU as a walk-on, said he still has a hard time believing what he has achieved.
“Four years ago I could only imagine myself sitting on the sides with the fans and high-fiving the players, not be one of the players,” Cotton said. It’s a dream come true and I’m just living it.”
The victory marked LSU’s 57th win of the season, tying the program’s record for most wins in a single season. For the second straight night, the actual Alex Box Stadium attendance record was set with 11,401 fans.
Freshman shortstop also made history by earning his 104th hit of the season, eclipsing Mike Fontenot for most hits in a single season as a freshman in LSU history.
LSU will take on UCLA in its first game of the College World Series, which is set to begin on Saturday, June 15.