The chances of any team other than LSU advancing out of the Baton Rouge Regional took a major hit Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (39-24) held off Southern Miss 8-4, reeling off four runs over the final two innings to move within one victory of advancing to the Super Regional.
USM (39-20) will take on Arizona State (38-18) at 2 p.m. on Sunday in an elimination contest. The Golden Eagles will have to find a way to regain their swagger at the plate after beating the Sun Devils 15-3 in the regional opener on Friday. ASU stayed alive Saturday afternoon with a 13-5 win to eliminate Stony Brook.
LSU awaits the winner of USM-ASU in an 8 p.m. contest on Sunday. Whoever takes on the Tigers will have to beat them twice to advance out of the regional.
Behind three different pitchers who went at hitters with fastballs of 95 miles an hour or faster, LSU mostly kept the USM lineup in check. The Golden Eagles had only five hits, but managed to strand a total of nine runners as LSU pitchers combined to walk six and hit two batters.
Cole Henry started the game and held USM to a pair of hits over five innings. He was replaced by Todd Peterson, who lasted an inning and began to struggle with his control in the seventh. Zack Hess pitched the final three innings, striking out four and walking one.
“I think when you see three power arms like we saw tonight with Henry, Peterson and Hess, it was like a new guy came in with recharged batteries, sitting there at 95-97,” USM coach Scott Berry said. “We had a difficult time catching up with it.”
The large contingent of USM fans who made the trip to Baton Rouge did have one exhilarating moment Saturday night.
Redshirt junior second baseman Matthew Guidry stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and none out in the bottom of the seventh and went down low to lift a breaking ball into the right field bleachers for a grand slam.
“It was awesome,” Guidry said. “It was pretty fun. Nobody was trying to do too much. We were just trying to stay within ourselves and I just so happened to put a good enough swing on it to where it gave us a little bit of a spark.
“The dugout was feeling it. All the fans that showed up for us tonight were feeling it. It was awesome to see that spark and see the team relax a little bit.”
Fans for both teams exchanges chants of “U-S-M” and “L-S-U” throughout Saturday’s contest and the Golden Eagle fans were at their loudest after the Guidry blast. By the next inning, LSU regained the momentum for good.
The long ball came off Hess, who earned the victory to improve to 4-5.
“I was really hoping the offense would get me a lead again,” Hess said of his mindset after the grand slam. “I didn’t want the people of Baton Rouge to burn down my house tonight. Those guys picked me up all year.”
Hess did his job after giving up the grand slam, holding USM scoreless over the next two innings.
A two-run single by Saul Garza in the eighth inning broke the tie for good.
LSU also received a pair of homers — a solo shot by Cade Beloso in the second inning and a two-run homer by Zach Watson in the sixth.
USM right-hander Cody Carroll took the loss, giving up two runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. USM starter Walker Powell lasted 5 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits.
USM senior lefty Stevie Powers will make the start against Arizona State on six days of rest after throwing twice in the Conference USA tournament. He has provided quality outings late in the season despite pitching with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Arizona State did not announce a starter on Saturday, but a possible candidate is Boyd Vander Kooi. The sophomore right-hander is 4-4 with a 5.26 ERA in 15 starts.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri announced that sophomore right-hander Eric Walker will be the starting pitcher for Saturday night’s contest. He is 5-4 with a 5.32 ERA in 17 appearances, including 14 starts.
All games are available for live streaming at ESPN3.com.