- David Helman, Reporter, RecruitingNation
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BATON ROUGE -- There are five giant letters staring players in the face when they do their "postgame" press conferences at LSU's Alex Box Stadium.
Hung on the wall across from the microphones in big, bold font, the letters spell out "Omaha" for all to see. It's quite a mental image considering the two teams answering the questions, Stony Brook (50-12) and No. 7 LSU (46-16), are two wins away from Omaha, Neb., and a trip to the College World Series.
That pressure is more than enough for all 16 teams in this Super Regional round of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship. But it will be a bit more for the Tigers and Seawolves on Saturday after one of the most surreal afternoons in LSU baseball history.
The Tigers opened their Super Regional against the Seawolves on Friday morning, as they have many times in the past.
Unlike past years though, Friday's game did not end. Instead, a titanic extra-inning battle between the two teams was suspended until Saturday morning by apocalyptic rainfall and nearby lightning. Game 1 will resume in the top of the 12th inning Saturday morning at 10:05 a.m., with Stony Brook coming to the plate in a 4-4 tie.
"It's a unique situation -- we'll both wake up tomorrow and come out here early in the morning, and who knows how long the first game is going to last," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
Game 2 will begin just 50 minutes after the deadlock is decided, meaning that Saturday morning's loser will have less than an hour to digest its fortunes before appearing in an elimination game with Omaha at stake.
"It's a funny situation, because not many chances is it a 0-0 (series) with Omaha on the line in one day," center fielder Mason Katz said. "But we still have to finish this first game. We're not talking about the second game, because we've got to do our job in the first game."
As strange as the situation seems, it might be the only fitting conclusion for a game as absurd as Friday's. Playing in front of an impressive weekday-morning crowd of 9,222, the Tigers seemed certain to drop the opener in an abysmal offensive performance that saw them knock just three hits in seven innings.
Stony Brook stranded 12 runners, but needed just a two-run shot from left fielder Sal Intagliata to hold a 2-1 advantage as the game wound toward what seemed to be the end.
Then came the game-saving rallies -- yes, there were multiple -- when the LSU offense rose from the dead to tie the Seawolves on three separate occasions. It began innocently enough, when LSU second baseman JaCoby Jones smacked a leadoff home run into left field to open the ninth inning, tying the score, 2-2. In a venue as renowned for late-game heroics as LSU, this part was almost expected.
"I asked (Mainieri) if he wanted me to take the first pitch or swing away, and he said to hit it out," Jones said.
What wasn't expected was the Seawolves' counter punch at the start of extra innings, when left fielder Steven Goldstein crushed a solo homer of his own to retake the lead, 3-2.
The Alex Box crowd had the relief of Jones' shot coming with no outs, but things weren't so easy the second time around. Two quick outs sent pitch-hitting first baseman Tyler Moore to the plate with his prospects looking bleak. The freshman battled to a full count and, on the Tigers last strike of the afternoon, he delivered more magic -- another game-tying homer.
"I was just trying to stay alive and hit something hard in play," Moore said.
Enough is enough. Two separate home runs to save the game for an LSU squad at the end of its rope. Surely the drama was over, and that certainly seemed to be the case when the Seawolves took the lead in the 11th inning on a sacrifice fly.
Of course, on the third pitch of the bottom of the 11th frame, Katz proved that line of logic wrong with another game-tying solo shot -- the Tigers' third in three straight innings. Even in the magical Alex Box, the euphoria was tinged with a hint of the surreal.
"We heard a lot about the eighth-inning magic and ninth-inning magic, and we've been a very resilient team," Katz said. "We have a good group of guys that, in any situation, no one gives up."
With so much drama on display, the eventual downpour seemed destined to happen -- a bizarre finish to a bizarre day. And if the two teams can dodge the rain drops Saturday, someone just might punch a ticket to Omaha in one afternoon.
11dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough