On a night with so much festivity surrounding the game, LSU pulled off a come-from-behind victory worthy of the fireworks that followed it.
Raph Rhymes' eight-inning, two-run, go-ahead home run sent the 10,015 fans into a frenzy as No. 2 LSU (48-7, 23-6 SEC) pulled off a late 5-4 win to clinch the series against No. 23 Ole Miss (35-20, 14-15). On the newly christened Skip Bertman Field at Alex Box Stadium, LSU's late heroics surely made proud the 1993 National Championship team in town for a pregame ceremony.
"It was a big night, and you have to step up to that occasion," said closer Chris Cotton. "It loomed over a little bit and we pulled through. Raph had that big two-run home run and we pulled it out."
After falling behind in the eighth inning, LSU turned to its seniors one night before their final regular season home game. Mason Katz battled from a 0-2 count to lead off the eighth with a bloop single off his bat handle. Then Rhymes, who had an inside-the-park homer on Thursday, belted a deep shot to left-center for the game-winning run.
"That's what seniors do for you," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "It's all the experience, the confidence that they have. We didn't play great tonight, but we found a way to win in the end."
It was all Cotton in the ninth, as he retired the heart of the Rebels' lineup in order to earn his 12th save of the season.
"We've got a lot of seniors, so somebody has to step up," Cotton said. "Hopefully we can do the same tomorrow, and I think we can."
That Rhymes homer overcame LSU's second deficit of the game as Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. LSU starter Kurt McCune — returning to the rotation in place of Aaron Nola, who was given the week off to rest — allowed three of the first four hitters to reach base, including a RBI-single by 3B Andrew Mistone.
While the LSU bats slumbered through the first three innings, the Tigers woke up in the fourth, jumping back ahead with a pair of runs in that inning and another in the fifth.
Alex Bregman and Katz opened the fourth with consecutive singles to put runners on the corners for Rhymes, who brought home a run with a sacrifice fly. Ty Ross would bring in another on a bases-loaded walk.
Mark Laird tripled to open the fifth, and Bregman's grounder to second scored him to make it 3-1 after five.
But Ole Miss clawed back, tying it in the seventh before regaining the lead in the eighth.
Nick Rumbelow, who worked a hitless sixth inning, surrendered a pair of runs in the seventh. Ole Miss RF Will Jamison led off the frame with a single to left, and advanced all the way to third on a stolen base and wild pitch. After a walk to LF Tanner Mathis — who has reached base in all nine of his at-bats this series — Jamison scored on a single to right by Austin Anderson.
Mistone would drive in his second run with a grounder to third.
Joey Bourgeois, who entered to start the eighth, surrendered the go-ahead run for Ole Miss. Bourgeois walked Sikes Orvis on four pitches to open the inning, and pinch-runner Cameron Dishon advanced to second on a wild pitch. Bourgeois got the next batter to strike out on a pitch in the dirt, but while Ross threw to first to complete the out, Dishon began advancing to third.
LSU 1B Tyler Moore tried to catch Dishon, but his errant throw sailed to the wall, allowing Dishon to score.
"It was a little bit of a struggle there for Joey," Mainieri said. "Rumbelow pitched a great first inning, but he lost his command. We were able to pick those guys up and pull it out. We'll take it."
LSU responded in the bottom of that inning, as Rhymes' two-run blast propelled the Tigers to their best regular season and SEC record in program history.
"We won games in every imaginable way," Mainieri said. "We've blown out teams. We've gotten leads and held on. We've rallied from behind. Today was one of those…and what a great win. It's been a great season."
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LSU will look to clinch its final regular season series of 2013 against Ole Miss on Friday night at…