It was the balk heard round the world as in traditional LSU fashion, the Tigers advanced to the super regionals with an absolutely bonkers finish, knocking off Oregon 9-8. The win helped LSU accomplish a feat that's only been done five times since 2014, win a regional after losing the first game of the weekend.
LSU was just hoping for any old way to get Cade Doughty in from third base in the eighth. The Tigers had already tied the game at 7-7 with a fielder's choice from designated hitter Cade Beloso, who landed safely at first on the play home. That's where the crazy kicked in.
With Beloso standing at first, Oregon closer Kolby Somers kept the Tigers' veteran hitter honest with a series of throws to first base to ensure he wouldn't steal. But Somers made one too many attempts and was called for a game altering balk that brought in the go ahead run.
It was the kind of play that you wouldn't expect which made it all the more prevalant for it to occur during an LSU rally, something past teams have made quite famous over the years.
"It was just an awesome victory for our team and one for the ages," coach Paul Mainieri said.
"I'm sitting on the bench and the guys are running around going crazy," pitcher Landon Marceaux said. "They wanted me on the mound and that means a lot to me. But it was hard for me to remain calm and keep my composure. I might've gave a bazillion people heart attacks but we got it done."
The Tigers would tack on an insurance run on an RBI single from Jordan Thompson to take a 9-7 lead and turn the ball over to ace Landon Marceaux, who gave a 45 pitch relief outing just two days removed from a 101 pitch starting role. With the 9-8 win, LSU also won its first road regional since the 1989 season under Skip Bertman. It now sends the Tigers off to Knoxville for a super regional against Tennessee, a place LSU was swept in conference play.
Marceaux pleaded with Mainieri for two days to get the ball in this kind of situation to close the game out and he delivered with a gutsy performance.
"To win four straight just shows the resiliency of this team and it's unbelievable," Marceaux said. "I'm so happy for the guys, happy for coach and this team."
It's hard for words to adequately describe the impact outfielder Gavin Dugas made for the Tigers against Oregon in this regional.
For most of this season, LSU has done a nice job of reinvigorating that "Gorilla ball" mindset in its offense, starting 2021 with home runs seemingly every game. The Tigers went back to that strategy with three home runs over Monday's game seven, headlined by a pair of bombs from Dugas.
"He's been doing it all year, he's had just a phenomenal year and he was the MVP of this tournament and rightfully so," Mainieri said. "He's just been amazing, had an amazing season for us. We don't win this regional tournament without what Gavin Dugas does for us.
"It's been an awesome experience and I credit everything to this team, this coaching staff," Dugas said. "It's really good energy going through this team the last couple of days and that's what I most attribute this to."
LSU has relied on Dugas and Dylan Crews for much of the weekend as 10 of the first 22 runs were brought in by the pair of deadly hitters. But it was Dugas, who blasted a home run on Sunday against the Ducks and would once again set the tone offensively with home runs in each of his first two at bats.
On the flip side, LSU entered the game knowing it'd have to piece together its pitching. The Tigers had a number of arms at its disposal thanks to stellar relief efforts out of Garrett Edwards and Javen Coleman in the bullpen but through three innings the purple and gold spent three pitchers.
Ma'Khail Hilliard, who threw 65 pitches just two days ago in a start, went one inning on short rest. The Tigers would turn to a pair of freshmen in Ty Floyd and Michael Fowler, both of whom gave up a pair of runs to put LSU in an early 4-2 hole.
Floyd struggled with command in his lone outing and while Fowler's command looked decent in his two innings, he made one critical mistake by allowing a two run homer to Pac 12 Player of the Year Aaron Zavala. Through six innings, Oregon was hitting .625 with two outs as most of its runs came on two out pitches.
Freshman Will Hellmers was able to weather the storm by pitching two scoreless innings, allowing LSU to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 6-5 advantage by the seventh inning, a stretch that was capped off by a Drew Bianco two run homer to put LSU out in front.
Bianco's impact in this game, not just at the plate, where he picked up two hits, but in centerfield, can't be overstated. Time after time he laid his body on the line and made great grabs to keep the lead from blowing up on the purple and gold.
But in what proved to be an exhilerating back and forth game, the Tigers came out on the winning end and will extend Paul Mainieri's career for at least another week.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.