Giovanni DiGiacomo was in a funk. He had gone 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts on just seven pitches before his 10th inning appearance. But with the bases loaded and one out in extra innings, DiGiacomo put together a career at bat, blasting a hard ground ball up the middle on the sixth pitch to extend LSU's season with a 6-5 win over Central Connecticut State.
The Tigers will now wait to face the loser of Oregon-Gonzaga on Sunday at 5 p.m. in another elimination scenario.
"I'm really proud of our guys," coach Paul Mainieri said. "They went out there and laid it out on the line and win or lose they weren't going to have any regrets today. I'm just happy I get to keep working."
Centerfielder Dylan Crews set the tone for the offense as he moved back to the leadoff spot, a position he was in earlier this season, and made the most of the change. He blasted no doubt home runs in the first and third innings to kick off what would be high scoring innings for a Tigers' offense stuck in a rut.
LSU would go on to score two runs in the first and three more in the third after putting up one run total in the previous two games combined. The Tigers offense had posted just four hits against Gonzaga the previous night but had nearly that many after the first inning.
"I really like the leadoff spot, I know I'm going to get pitched to a lot more," Crews said. "When I saw my name in the lineup as a leadoff spot, I was very happy. I happened to get two balls out so that was good."
Hitters were much more aggressive and much more efficient with runners in scoring position (4-for-9) throughout the afternoon, none bigger than DiGiacomo's ninth inning hit. Zach Arnold would add three hits on the day and Tre Morgan would tack on two more in the Tigers win.
As for the pitching, LSU mixed up its rotation by going with Ma'Khail Hilliard on the mound for the elimination game and it was a mixed bag in the end. Hilliard started the game with great command but a five run second inning, headlined by a couple of misplayed balls in the outfield and a two run homer, severely hindered an otherwise nice outing from the senior.
The Tigers were also helped by some stellar defense by first baseman Tre Morgan, who made about three picks in the dirt to save baserunners and potentially runs throughout the course of the game.
The command was a bit up and down as he did issue a pair of walks in the opening frame but most importantly, he put up zeros in the third and fourth innings as the Tigers climbed back into the game. LSU would turn to freshman Garrett Edwards in the fifth, who turned in five rock solid, scoreless innings on the mound with the game still very much up in the air.
He threw strikes and had complete command of all his pitches, retiring 14 of 16 batters in that five inning stretch, leading into the bottom of the ninth with both teams still gridlocked at 5-5.
"LSU fans are gonna love watching this kid for the next couple of years," Mainieri said. "He just keeps growing with every passing outing and he has tremendous poise. When he has to make a big pitch, I have all of the confidence he's going to do it. He made so many big pitches.
"As soon as Garrett got in I knew he was going to do well," Crews said. "His stuff's been getting a lot better and it was just a matter of time before we were gonna get that walkoff. Hats off to him."
LSU had a prime opportunity in the ninth getting a runner all the way to third but a popout ended the threat, sending the game to extra innings for Devin Fontenot.
Fontenot needed just nine pitches to come out of the 10th unscathed, proving to be the electric pitcher LSU needed.
"Having this win was a good momentum booster for tomorrow," Crews said. "We're feeling good, feeling light but today doesn't mean anything for tomorrow."
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.