From the first inning of Sunday afternoon's super regional game two in Knoxville, it was easy to tell it could turn into a home run derby. Jake Rucker and Dylan Crews swapped home runs and it looked to be settling into an offensive slugfest.
But then LSU watched as another ball left the ball park. And another, and another, and another after that as the highly explosive Volunteer offense jumped on the LSU pitching to advance to the College World Series with a 15-6 win. The six home runs in the game from the Volunteers are the most in a single NCAA Tournament game, breaking the record held by Liberty that was set just eight days ago.
It's the first time a team has beaten LSU five times in the same season since the 1984 Mississippi State team did it in 1984, the first year under Skip Bertman.
LSU ace Landon Marceaux, who had been so dominant for much of the season, came out tired as his velocity and location suffered almost right from the start. Keep in mind, Marceuax had started game one of the regional and came back to throw 45 pitches in a relief outing against Oregon just a few days later.
He was hovering around the 87-88 mph range on his fastball and very early on lost faith in the breaking ball command. After his third inning trot to the dugout, he could be seen having a discussion on the ESPN broadcast with Paul Mainieri and the writing was on the wall.
Marceaux only lasted three innings as Tennessee was able to jump out to a 3-2 lead before turning it over to the Tigers' bullpen. Dylan Crews did everything he could early to keep the Tigers close as the right fielder blasted two solo home runs in the first three innings to make it interesting.
But from that point on, LSU was outmatched offensively. Mainieri elected to insert freshman Garrett Edwards, who lasted just 12 pitches into his outing, allowing a two run homer, before coming out with arm soreness. Edwards had battled a forearm strain down the stretch of the season and seemed to be battling some discomfort during his short outing.
A six run fifth inning would be the dagger in the Tigers back as the Volunteers batted around the order on relief pitchers Will Hellmers and Trent Vietmeier, allowing two more home runs in the inning and putting a dagger in LSU's season.
It also didn't help that very little run support was gained throughout the course of the Volunteers run. LSU only had three hits entering the sixth inning, two of which were the two missiles by Crews.
But this team but a little pressure on Tennessee with back-to-back innings with two run homers from Tre Morgan and Brody Drost to cut the lead to 11-6 after the seventh inning. The two teams would combine for 10 home runs in the game.
The loss also officially puts a cap in Mainieri's legendary career as this team made a longer run than most probably thought it could after the 1-8 start to SEC play. Now the attention for the LSU baseball goes to finding the next head coach of the program.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.