Saturday, June 2, 1990
Louisiana State pitcher Paul Byrd credited "two of the biggest strikeouts of my career" with sending him on his way Saturday to a College World Series victory.
The sophomore right-hander - backed by Tim Clark's two-run homer and Tookie Johnson's three RBIs - beat The Citadel 8-2 before 15,051 fans at Rosenblatt Stadium.
Byrd, improving his record to 17-5, closed the top of the second inning by striking out Dan McDonnell and Gettys Glaze with the bases loaded to preserve a 2-2 tie.
"I felt that was a very big key," Byrd said. "I was able to get the momentum back our way, and to send a message to them that even if they did get two hits, they weren't going to score."
Second-seeded LSU, 53-17, spoiled the CWS debut of The Citadel, 45-13, seeded seventh.
Chal Port, The Citadel coach, agreed that the bases-loaded strikeouts were the key.
"And then Clark hit one out of sight," he said.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound Clark hit the two-run shot off Ken Britt, 10-2, over the two tiers of signs in right field between the 370-foot and 343-foot markers in the third inning to put LSU ahead 5-2.
The line drive - though needing no help - benefited from a 9-mph wind out of the west that was gusting to 22 mph.
The junior right fielder said he hit an off-speed pitch for his 11th home run.
"I thought it lessened their confidence," Clark said. "We got a bigger lead, and they got down."
Second baseman Johnson, also a junior, doubled home a run in the second and added two more with another double in the fifth to complete the scoring.
Junior designated hitter Lyle Mouton also contributed two doubles to the Tigers' 14-hit assault on Britt and two relievers.
But no Tiger drove a ball as far as the solo home run that The Citadel's Anthony Jenkins slammed over the same two tiers of right-field signs that Clark's drive cleared.
"He threw me a slider," he said, "and it hung."
The result: Jenkins' 16th homer.
Otherwise, Jenkins said, Byrd "hit spots real well. His fastball was live, and his curve was sharp."
The key bases-full situation came about on a walk and singles by Jason Rychlick and Mike Branham.
LSU Coach Skip Bertman visited the mound with McDonnell the batter due up. Bertman noted that McDonnell was batting .203 coming into the CWS.
"I wanted to plan for a possible squeeze play," he said. "I felt Paul's stuff could overpower the next two batters."
The Citadel's Britt, a sophomore, said he did not have his best stuff.
"They are a good-hitting club," he said. "They like going with the outside pitch and do it well."
Port said The Citadel lost junior shortstop Phillip Tobin for the rest of the CWS. Tobin dislocated his shoulder trying to slide back to first base as Byrd picked him off in the sixth.
Bertman said the Tigers' lead allowed him to cash some bonuses, including relieving Byrd after seven innings. The 6-1, 170-pounder had thrown 91 pitches.
Bertman said Byrd should be ready after three days' rest.
Another bonus, the coach said, was the chance to give freshman Rick Greene and junior Mark LaRose each an inning of CWS experience without pressure.
Bertman said winning the first game in the tournament is no more important than winning the second game.
The eight teams in the tournament are competing in two double-elimination brackets through Thursday or Friday to determine the two qualifiers for the single-game championship scheduled for noon Saturday.
"The important game, if you stay out of the losers' bracket," Bertman said, "is the third game."
For LSU, that contest would be Thursday night.
"If you win that," he said, "you can sit back and wait for Saturday."