Stanford 8, Auburn 3
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ It’s tough to keep LSU’s power hitters from getting one over the outfield wall. Even a stiff wind that stumped other hitters all day long couldn’t do it.
When the defending champion Tigers finally connected, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Brandon Larson’s two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth off Rice’s Matt Anderson tied the game at 4-4 and set up LSU’s 5-4 win on the opening day of the College World Series.
The second-seeded Tigers (54-13) advanced to Sunday’s winners’ bracket game against No. 3 Stanford (44-18), a 8-3 first-game winner over No. 6 Auburn earlier Friday. Seventh-seeded Rice (47-15) meets Auburn (49-16) in an elimination game Sunday.
``This whole team likes hitting,″ Larson said. ``With the way that we swing the bats, I think we’re capable of hitting any kind of pitching.″
It was Larson’s 38th homer of the year, upping LSU’s NCAA record total to 179 for the season. It also marked the 68th game in a row the Tigers have homered.
Rice’s players weren’t about to let the loss get to them. It’s the Owls’ first appearance in Omaha, and they were just happy to be there.
``I think we have already rebounded,″ first baseman Lance Berkman said. ``We’re not going to give up. We still have some pretty good pitching left, and we know we belong here.″
Anderson, Rice’s pitching ace and a projected first-round draft pick, entered the game with 1.82 earned run average, a 10-1 record and nine saves. He was third in the nation in ERA.
First-game jitters and two strong opposing arms proved costly to Auburn, which lost its CWS opener against Stanford. Three errors led to four unearned runs, including three in a five-run fifth, to give Stanford the win.
``It’s pretty frustrating,″ said All-America Tim Hudson, the Tigers’ center fielder who committed an error that led to a run. ``We’ve had a solid defensive ball club all year. It’s just so happened we had a few mishaps today and it cost us a few runs.″
The Tigers managed only six hits and stranded 14 runners against Cardinal starter Chad Hutchinson (8-3) and reliever Jeff Austin, who picked up his fourth save.
``I can’t remember when we’ve had a game where we didn’t hit one ball hard,″ Auburn coach Hal Baird said. ``I didn’t have a (radar) gun, but I would expect both of those guys were throwing in the low- to mid-90s consistently.″
Stanford’s five-run fifth started with singles by Luke Quaccia, Jay Pecci, Joe Kilburg and Ed Muth. Kilburg scored the third run of the inning when Josh Hochgesang’s bouncer went off the glove of third baseman Chad Wandall for an error.
Jon Schaeffer, who scored on a two-base error of his sinking liner to center and Jody Gerut’s double in the second, hit a sacrifice fly to drive in another. The Cardinal made it 6-2 when Gerut’s pop-up behind second was dropped in a collision of three Tigers.
``We had one bad defensive inning,″ Baird said. ``Credit Stanford with a well-pitched game and timely hitting.″