BATON ROUGE — After Louisiana-Lafayette silenced a partially-drenched sell-out crowd at Alex Box Stadium with a solo homer in the ninth inning, LSU’s Chris Sciambra answered with a walk-off shot of his own to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday night.
LSU (52-10) managed only five hits, but Sciambra’s third home run of the season along with Jake Fraley’s two-run homer in the third inning were enough to hold off ULL (42-22). It was the Tigers’ first walk-off home run in NCAA play since Jon Zeringue beat UNC Wilmington in the NCAA Regional fional on June 1, 2003.
The Tigers and Cajuns will meet in game 2 on Sunday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Pregame on the LSU Sports Radio Network will begin at 5:30.
In the top of the ninth, ULL’s Brenn Conrad hit his first collegiate home run in 57 career at bats off Alex Lange, who started for the Tigers and allowed three runs on 10 hits with 11 strikeouts and a walk. Lange left the game after one pitch in the frame with the game at 3-3.
With one out, Sciambra’s line drive to right-center field landed about six rows above Conrad’s home run in the right field bleachers.
“Well, first of all, Alex (Lange) kept us in that game,” Sciambra said. “We really made it way too tough on ourselves and on him to keep us in that game like that. Right whenever he gave up that swing in the top of the ninth I started focusing my attention on ‑‑ I knew I was going to get an at‑bat in the ninth inning. I stopped being a fan for a second and ready to cheer him on for a complete game and got my mind ready to go up there and hit.
“Honestly I had two not great swings to start the at‑bat, and I got a decent pitch to hit again – I missed my first one, and I got that one and I just put a good swing on it and it’s just an unbelievable feeling for me.”
“I’d like to compliment UL-Lafayette for the way they played tonight; they just played tremendous,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “I told (ULL starting pitcher) Wyatt Marks after the game how much I thought he’d improved and he competed really hard. His stuff was good. Jake (Fraley) put a couple of good swings on him early in the game, and then he kind of settled in and didn’t give us a lot of good pitches to hit, and when we did hit them, the third baseman (Joe) Robbins just made some unbelievable plays.
“The shoe was kind of on the other foot tonight, we got out‑hit just like they got out‑hit all weekend last weekend but found a way to win. This game they out‑hit us and somehow we found a way to win, and I think Chris said it right. Alex Lange just put the team on his shoulders tonight and gave us a real chance.”
The drama missing after LSU took a 3-0 lead to the top of the sixth inning turned up a notch when ULL touched Lange for single runs in the sixth inning and eighth.
In the sixth, the Cajuns ended the shutout with three singles off Lange including an RBI by Tyler Girouard with two outs. Lange ended the first-and-third threat by forcing a groundout.
In the eighth, a sudden rain shower wasn’t deemed hard enough for the game to be halted, as ULL mounted a two-out rally against Lange with a single by Stefan Trosclair, a walk and an RBI double by Evan Powell that narrowed the margin to 3-2. Lange again put out the second-and-third threat by forcing another ground ball to Alex Bregman.
In the ninth, Lange was lifted after the game-tying home run in favor of Parker Bugg. Bugg (1-2) retired the next three batters in order to setup the walk-off drama.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Sciambra roped 2-2 pitch over the right-center field wall and half way up the bleachers. After rounding the bases, he tossed his batting helmet into the air, touched home plate in the middle of a mob of teammates. As he made his way toward away from the celebration, Sciambra’s jersey and undershirt were pulled off by his teammates before he was lifted in celebration.
Despite its offensive struggles, the Tigers moved within a victory of a 17th trip to the College World Series.
Saturday’s win was LSU’s fifth in its postseason history with five or fewer hits, the most recent coming June 13, 2004, when the Tigers had five hits in a 4-0 win over Texas A&M in a Super Regional at The Box.