Tuesday, June 6, 1989
Louisiana State extended its stay at the College World Series by eliminating Miami 6-3 Tuesday night.
And the Tigers, displaying confidence on and off the field despite the pressure of having to win, say they don't plan on returning home before the weekend.
"Ben McDonald will pitch the first game of our doubleheader against Texas, and Curtis Leskanic will pitch the second," LSU Coach Skip Bertman said.
The Tigers' victory over third-seeded Miami, before 14,000 at Rosenblatt Stadium, assured LSU of playing at least one more game at the CWS. LSU meets second-seeded Texas at 7:10 p.m. Thursday.
Sixth-seeded LSU, 55-16 and 2-1 in the CWS, must win Thursday to force a second meeting with Texas on Friday. Bertman, asked if he thought there would be a second game, replied confidently, "Yes, I do."Seminoles vs. Shockers
Earlier Tuesday, Wichita State ousted fifth-seeded Arkansas 8-4 to stay alive in its double-elimination bracket. The fifth-seeded Shockers play top-seeded Florida State tonight at 7:10 p.m.
A Florida State victory would put the Seminoles in Saturday's national championship game. A Wichita State win would force a Friday rematch.
Miami Coach Ron Fraser, whose team ended its season 49-18, said the Tigers have played excellent baseball since they dropped a 5-2 decision to the Hurricanes in their opener.
"They're not playing like a team with its back to the wall and with only one loss to give," Fraser said. "I've been in that situation before. When you're playing like they are, you feel you can beat anybody."Many Heroes
Tuesday, the Tigers scratched out their 55th victory of the season by relying on:
The standout pitching of starter Russell Springer, who held Miami to six hits and struck out nine in 8 1/3 innings.
A rare but redeeming relief appearance by ace Ben McDonald, who finished the Hurricanes off in the ninth by striking out Miami hitters John Viera and Jose Trujillo.
Timely hitting by Pete Bush, Mike Bianco and Tookie Johnson. Bianco put the Tigers ahead for good with a two-run homer in the sixth inning that snapped a 2-2 tie.Confident in Springer
Add it together and it equals a victory in a game Bianco said the Tigers never thought they would lose.
"We knew Russ would beat them," the LSU catcher said. "That's why we pitched him. We knew that if we'd get him the runs that it would be only a matter of time."
Springer, who underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery last fall, put together what Bertman said was his best performance of the season.
"Remember, he's coming off arm surgery," Bertman said. "He was on a pitch limit for a long period of time. Tonight was the most he's ever thrown - about 140."
Springer foiled Miami's plan to get to him early by holding the Hurricanes to Viera's third-inning single in the first four innings.
"We just flat-out didn't hit," Fraser said.Teams Trade Leads
LSU took a 1-0 lead into the fifth before the Hurricanes broke through with a pair of runs to gain their first lead. F.P. Santangelo doubled in one run and starting pitcher Will Vespe singled in the second.
Springer pitched out of trouble by getting Henry Hernandez to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Bush, their No. 9 hitter, doubled with one out to score Phil Espinosa, who had reached base on an error.
"Coach talks about hitting throughout the lineup," Bush said. "Our big guys, Wes Grisham and Craig Cala, are only going to come up four times each a game. That means the other guys in the lineup are going to have to be able to come through for us."
Rey Noriega put Miami back ahead in the top of the sixth by hitting a two-out, solo homer. Back came the Tigers in the bottom half of the inning.
Cala singled to open the LSU rally. One out later, Bianco connected off Vespe for his eighth homer to put the Tigers ahead for good. Johnson made it 5-3 later in the inning when he extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a single.
"Mike's homer was big because it helped us answer their homer," Bush said. "The rally shifted the momentum back to us, and then Russ just put it in cruise control."
Springer retired nine of the next 10 batters he faced after Noriega's homer. But when he walked Jorge Fabregas with one out in the ninth, Bertman called for McDonald, the Tigers' 14-game winner and the No. 1 pick in Monday's professional draft.
"I wanted Russ to finish the game," Bertman said. "I felt he could finish. But I didn't want him to get up into the high pitches because he could get a chance to pitch for the national championship on Saturday.
"That's why we're here. We really think we can win it."'Canes Overmatched
McDonald, who allowed a pair of two-run homers in the first-game loss, made his fifth relief appearance of the season. It ended with his fourth save, as Viera and Trujillo were overmatched against McDonald's 95-mph fastballs.
"We were fortunate to win because we've got two great pitchers - Russ Springer and Ben McDonald," Bertman said. "Otherwise, I don't think we could have beaten them." One to Go
Before the season, LSU players and coaches inscribed "56" under the bill of their caps, symbolizing the number of wins needed to break the school record.
The Tigers notched win No. 55 by beating Miami. They can break the mark against Texas.
"We set that as one of our goals," first baseman Pete Bush said. "One of our goals was to win the SEC. We didn't get a chance to do that."
The Tigers' third goal was to win the national championship, Bush said.
"We've still got a legitimate chance at two of them," he said. "Two out of three isn't bad."