LSU 11, Southern Miss 4
From the middle of the diamond at a raucous Alex Box Stadium, Michael Hollander knew what was coming Sunday night against Southern Miss in the championship game of an NCAA regional tournament.
Heck, by that point of the game and at this point of LSU’s magical baseball season, everybody had a pretty good hunch what was looming with red-hot Blake Dean at the plate and the bases full of Tigers.
Dean put the exclamation point on what Hollander started in a six-run LSU uprising with a bases-clearing triple as the Tigers broke away from the pesky Golden Eagles for an 11-4 triumph.
LSU extended its single-season school record winning streak to 23 games, an SEC record. But this one carried a little more meaning, as the Tigers (46-16-1) move on to the super regional round for the first time since 2004.
UC Irvine (41-16) will visit The Box later this week for the best-of-three series that will be the curtain call for the 71-year-old stadium.
Southern Miss 8, New Orleans 2
Bryan Cryer could sense the finality setting in.
Moments after Southern Mississippi’s Kyle Maxie extended the Eagles’ lead back to six runs in the top of the eighth, University of New Orleans coach Tom Walter walked from his dugout to take out Cryer, his senior right-hander, for the last time in his collegiate career.
Cryer talked with Walter while flipping a baseball into the air until reliever Ryan O’Shea made his way from the bullpen. He handed over the ball to O’Shea and received a warm greeting on his way to the dugout from his teammates who formed a receiving line of sorts — some exchanging handshakes and others brief hugs.
It was a show of reverence for Cryer who worked himself from unknown walk-on four years ago to the school’s career strikeout leader and the Sun Belt Conference’s pitcher of the year this season. An inning later after Southern Mississippi put the finishing touches on an 8-2 victory Sunday to eliminate third-seeded New Orleans (43-21) from the NCAA regional, it also signified the end for Cryer who remains uncertain about his playing career beyond college.