Monday, June 15, 2009 • Attendance: 23,417 • Box score
Louisiana State pitcher Louis Coleman knew exactly what was at stake before taking the mound Monday night to face Arkansas at the College World Series.
“We talked about how this could be a three-game swing,’’ Coleman said. “Win tonight and it makes the road a lot easier. Lose and you have to play three.
“That’s what my mentality was, and now I’ll be able to go to the zoo.’’
Coleman and his teammates earned a couple of days off with the 9-1 mauling of the Razorbacks. The display, before 23,417 fans at Rosenblatt, showcased Coleman’s skill on the hill as well as a Tigers’ offense that combines patience and aggression.
The win, No. 1-ranked LSU’s 12th straight, left the Tigers (53-16) in control of Bracket One as they advanced to Friday’s championship game. Lose that one, and LSU still has another shot on Saturday at reaching the best-of-three championship finals that begin Monday.
Coleman pitched six innings — LSU coach Paul Mainieri pulled him after 106 pitches with an eye on the rest of the tournament — to improve to 14-2. Coleman allowed six hits and walked three, but he won most of the crucial spots to keep the Razorbacks from mounting much of a challenge.
“We were getting runners on, but we weren’t driving them in,’’ Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “Give credit to Coleman. I thought Louis pitched great, we didn’t pitch so great and we really didn’t do a whole lot.’’
Complementing Coleman was an LSU attack that finished with 13 hits, including home runs by Mikie Mahtook, Blake Dean and Austin Nola.
Mahtook’s seventh homer of the season was the biggest blow as it staked Coleman to a 3-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
A freshman from Lafayette, La., Mahtook hit Arkansas starter Brett Eibner’s 31st pitch of the first inning into the left-field bleachers. DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a single and stole second before Ryan Schimpf fouled off seven pitches in drawing a 13-pitch walk.
Eibner came back to get Blake Dean to fly out, then struck out Micah Gibbs. Eibner was a strike away from getting out of the inning, but Mahtook fouled off a 2-2 pitch before taking ball three. Eibner’s 3-2 offering ended up as a souvenir.
“He tried to sneak a fastball by me and I fouled it off,’’ Mahtook said. “He had thrown me three sliders before that, so I was sitting on the slider. I got enough to get it out.’’
Arkansas got a run back in the first but left a runner on base. The Razorbacks stranded two in the second after Schimpf’s RBI double made it 4-1, then loaded the bases with two outs in the third inning.
Van Horn decided to pinch-hit Jacob House for Andrew Darr. Three pitches later, Coleman was out of the jam as House went down swinging.
“If we get that hit, we’re right there,’’ Van Horn said. “Coleman did a good job of pitching out of some jams. He gets a little tougher with runners in scoring position.
“We felt like we were one big hit away early in the game, but then they put it out of reach there in the sixth.’’
Nola opened LSU’s five-run sixth inning with his third homer. Dean’s two-run shot, his 16th of the season, made it 7-1, and Jared Mitchell’s single and an error brought home the final two runs that allowed the Tigers to kick it into cruise control.
“It’s hard to find much to be upset about in that ballgame,’’ Mainieri said. “We left a few too many runners on base, but that’s about the only thing I can say.
“I thought we played solid on defense, Louis was outstanding and got stronger as the game went on, and when you give Coleman a good lead, you feel pretty confident.’’
Arkansas, which had a six-game winning streak snapped in dropping to 40-23, now must face Virginia in a Wednesday elimination game.
“This team has bounced back a lot this year,’’ Arkansas first baseman Andy Wilkins said. “This is a little speed bump. We have Virginia on Wednesday, and we’re not out of this yet.’’