BATON ROUGE, La. – A record crowd watched as Anthony Ranaudo was dominant for 9.0 innings and No. 3 national seed Louisiana State knocked off Baylor 3-2 in 10 innings to advance to the championship round of the Baton Rouge Regional Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Austin Nola’s bases-loaded RBI single in the top of the 10th proved to be the game winner in a game dominated by solid pitching on both sides.
“What a performance – one of the greatest I’ve ever witnessed in this setting, and with the stakes that were up in this game,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “(Ranaudo has) not just unbelievable talent, but he was courageous. He made big pitches at critical times, and basically put the team on his shoulders.”
For LSU, it was the first extra-inning game of the season, while Baylor suffered its first extra-inning loss after winning all four such games earlier in the year. The actual attendance of 9,149 was an Alex Box Stadium record.
“We were all treated to two teams of players that just gave us a great effort,” Baylor head coach Steve Smith said. “I don’t know how to put words to what I thought Ranaudo did tonight. If there’s a difference between a horse and a stallion, I would call him a stallion.”
Jared Mitchell got the Tigers on the board when he hit a two-out, full-count pitch over the right-field wall for a solo homer in the top of the second against Baylor starter Shawn Tolleson.
Ranaudo faced the minimum and recorded five strikeouts in the first three innings, while Tolleson allowed just one run through the first three frames.
LSU looked like it might break the game wide open when it loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. Micah Gibbs and Mikie Mahtook singled, then Tolleson walked Mitchell on a 3-2 pitch.
DJ LeMahieu extended the Tigers’ lead to 2-0 with a fielder’s choice grounder, but Mahtook was forced out at third after heading back to second base despite being forced to advance. Mitchell was picked off of second on the next play, and Tolleson got Tyler Hanover to ground out, ending the threat with only one run allowed.
Ranaudo walked Joey Hainsfurther with one out in the fourth, but came back to strike out Shaver Hansen and Aaron Miller to end the inning.
Miller moved to the mound in relief of Tolleson at the start of the fifth. Tolleson allowed two runs on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 4.0 innings. Miller allowed a leadoff single to Austin Nola, then walked Leon Landry, but he bounced back to strike out each of the next three batters swinging.
“The only reason it was a game was because we were able to get out of some innings throughout the game,” Smith said, “without that it isn’t the classic that it turned out to be.”
Ranaudo set the Bears down in order again in the fifth, but he finally allowed a run when Gregg Glime cut the LSU lead to 2-1 in the sixth with a leadoff home run just inside the right-field foul pole.
“It sparked us when we were down 2-0 and then we got that one run and we’re within reach,” Baylor shortstop Shaver Hansen said. “To see Gregg hit a home run right there, in a big-time situation, was big for us.”
Miller went back to work, striking out two and setting the side down in order in the top of the seventh, but Ranaudo matched his effort, striking out the side in order in the bottom half of the inning.
“I probably felt better in the ninth than I did in the first,” Ranaudo said. “For some reason that’s just the way I work. I feel like I get stronger as the game goes on, and I felt like toward the end of the game I could put the ball in a tea cup.”
The Tigers threatened in the eighth after Miller issued a walk and allowed a single to Mahtook with one out. He turned the ball over to Kendal Volz, who got Mitchell to pop out for the second out, but an error loaded the bases for LeMahieu. Volz got LeMahieu to chase a 1-2 slider in the dirt to escape the inning with LSU still leading 2-1.
Miller worked 3.1 shutout innings and allowed no runs on two hits with six strikeouts.
Baylor tied the game at 2-2 without the benefit of a hit in the bottom of the eighth. Pinch hitter Brooks Pinckard drew a leadoff walk, and Glime advanced him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Pinckard moved to third on a ground out, and after Dustin Dickerson walked, Hainsfurther reached on an error by Hanover that allowed Pinckard to score.
Volz worked around a pair of two-out walks in a scoreless ninth, but again Ranaudo answered by striking out the side in order in the bottom half of the inning.
LSU finally broke through against Volz in the top of the 10th. Mitchell drew a one-out walk and moved into scoring position with a steal of second base. LeMahieu walked, and pinch hitter Sean Ochinko reached on an infield single to load the bases, setting up Nola’s game-winning single.
“Coach told me to be aggressive, so I swung at the first pitch and completely missed it,” Nola said. “But I knew with Jared (Mitchell) on third all I had to do was hit it out of the reach of someone or hit it in the air, and even if it was shallow Jared was going to score.”
Matty Ott worked a perfect 10th to notch his 15th save of the season. Ranaudo earned the win by allowing two runs on three hits with three walks and 14 strikeouts in 9.0 innings. Volz took the loss; he allowed one run on two hits and four walks with a pair of strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
“We feel very grateful to win this game,” Mainieri said. “Baylor’s kids really pitched awesome, especially the last two (Miller and Volz). They were both fantastic. We didn’t hit in the clutch much, but I give so much of that credit to the Baylor pitchers.”
Baylor faces 21st-ranked Minnesota in an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bears defeated the Golden Gophers 5-0 on Friday. The winner of that game will need to beat LSU twice to win the regional, with the first game scheduled for 6 p.m. Sunday, and if necessary, the championship game at 1 p.m. Monday.