LSU knew it would need its offense to take another big step towards advancing and on Sunday afternoon, the Tigers rocked Gonzaga for nine runs and 12 hits to advance to the regional championship against Oregon with a 9-4 win.
Heading into the game it was expected to be an offensive back and forth after both teams had used its primary starting arms. That's exactly how the first inning played out as Gonzaga jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on AJ Labas, who struggled with his command and location in the opening frame, a combination that's haunted him the last four starts on the mound. But the veteran would respond to aid the Tigers in more ways than one by lasting eight innings into the game.
Labas would settle into his afternoon but the real story was the LSU offense. The Tigers opened with four straight hits to open the first, two of which went for extra bases as LSU nearly batted around the order in a four run start. Dylan Crews continued his phenomenal regional with a 3-for-5 day, pushing him to 7-for-13 for the weekend with two home runs and three RBI.
LSU came out extremely aggressive at the plate and on the bags as the first inning was played to near perfection. An RBI triple from Gavin Dugas was the highlight of the inning and that was followed by a two run sixth inning that helped the purple and gold take an early 6-2 lead and chase Gonzaga starter Alec Gomez out of the game.
The hot hitting continued into the third with situational hitting coming to the forefront as leadoff walk followed by a Drew Bianco double would put runners at second and third. Both Jordan Thompson and Alex Milazzo would put the ball in play to score two more runs to separate the Tigers even further at 8-3. Zach Arnold also continued a hot weekend with a homerun in the sixth to bring him to 5-for-9 for the regional.
With LSU creating that separation with its offense, it was important that Labas settle in and go as deep as possible into the game and he would definitely find a groove. After the two run first inning, he'd sit the Zags down in order in two of the next three innings, including a nine pitch fourth.
He retired 10 straight Gonzaga hitters at one point in the game before the Zags were able to work a little two out run in the sixth on back-to-back hits. Labas would go eight innings on the afternoon before turning the ball over to Ty Floyd, finishing with eight strikeouts and four runs on 123 total pitches.
It was the kind of performance needed to keep the bullpen saved for the Oregon game as Labas made big pitch after big pitch to help the Tigers secure the win.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.