The fans will always wonder what could have been. A season that started with so much promise ended…
LSU's season ends without a win in the CWS
Two days after LSU's one-run loss to UCLA, the Tigers suffered a 4-2 defeat at the hands of North Carolina, the No. 1 national seed. The offensive woes from Sunday carried into Tuesday as LSU stranded 13 runners and loaded the bases twice with nothing to show for it.
The 18-inning frustration quickly turned into disappointment as LSU now returns to Baton Rouge without a trophy to signify their trip to Omaha.
"You have to deal with two disappointments," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "You have to deal with the disappointment of losing a game that you felt you could have won…But at the same time, you also know that it's a loss that ends your season."
LSU fell into an early hole it couldn't climb out of. Cody Glenn, making his first appearance since May 22, started strong, striking out Chaz Frank on three pitches then getting Landon Lassitter to fly to center for the second out of the first inning.
But Colin Moran kept the inning alive with a single before Brian Holberton put the Tar Heels on the board first with a two-run home run, only the second dinger of this College World Series.
Glenn didn't last much longer, exiting two batters into the third inning after a RBI-single by Moran that bounced off the first base bag.
"I thought Cody looked really good to start the game," Mainieri said. "His sinker was working, and he was pounding the zone…[The home run] put us in a hole right away, and then they started to get to Cody there a little bit."
In came Brent Bonvillain, who allowed a hit and walk to load the bases with nobody out. But he battled back, striking out Skye Bolt for the first out. Michael Russell flied out to the infield, and Mike Zolk grounded out to strand three.
"Brent just did a phenomenal job for us," Mainieri said. "He gave us a chance to win. That's what you ask for."
LSU mounted a threat of its own in the bottom of the inning. Andrew Stevenson started it with a leadoff single to the opposite field. Mark Laird had an infield hit with one out, but he was erased on the base paths by an Alex Bregman grounder.
Mason Katz walked to load the bases for Raph Rhymes, who popped out to second, ending the inning.
That was one of several jams UNC starter Trent Thornton evaded. The Tar Heels' closer for most of the season, Thornton surrendered just two runs despite surrendering nine hits and four walks in a seven-inning start.
"We got ourselves in positions where we needed a two-out hit and we couldn't get it," Mainieri said. "The age-old question, was it good pitching or was it poor hitting? I don't know what the answer to that is. He competed hard. Our guys competed hard. We just didn't get the big at-bats when we absolutely needed them."
LSU did chip into UNC's lead in the fifth inning with a RBI-single by Katz, who went 2-for-2 with a walk on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Bonvillain kept LSU within shouting distance, tossing four scoreless innings before finally surrendering a run in the seventh.
Moran got his third hit of the game to open that frame, then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Chris Cotton entered at that point, and Bolt drove in the run with a two-out single to left.
Down to their final nine outs, the Tigers continued to cut into the deficit in the seventh. Sean McMullen opened the inning with a double down the right field line, and he advanced to third on a Laird single. Even though the run came in, the rally lost steam when Bregman grounded into a double play, the feather in the cap of a 0-for-8 CWS.
"This is the first time he's been at the College World Series," Mainieri said. "He hasn't played like a freshman all year, and I don't think he played like a freshman today…He'll be better for this experience. I don't have any doubt about that. I love the kid. He's a great player and his best days are ahead of him."
The Tigers mounted one more serious threat in the next inning, loading the bases for the second time. But it ended the same way as the first when Laird flied out to end the inning without a run added to the scoreboard.
LSU's final hope in the ninth came and went when Bregman, Rhymes and Ibarra all went down, completing a hitless tournament for the trio in the heart of LSU's lineup.
"We came up a little bit short," Mainieri said. "But I'm not going to let that fact take away from these kids and what they accomplished this year. They are champions. We just didn't win the big one, and we went two-and-out. We're going to have to deal with that."
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