Big seventh keys Tigers past USM

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 6, 2004

BATON ROUGE &045; Anthony DeWitt couldn’t have felt any better when he walked off the mound in the sixth.

A couple batters into the seventh he couldn’t have felt any worse.

With a couple of key hits in the seventh the LSU Tigers broke open what was turning into a grudge match against Southern Miss to take a 6-2 win in Saturday’s NCAA regional at Alex Box Stadium. It put the Tigers in the finals at 1 p.m. today against College of Charleston, who downed the Golden Eagles 7-3.

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And it gave the Tigers plenty of confidence going into today after Nate Bumstead turned in the second gem in as many nights on the mound.

&uot;This was a pretty good ball game,&uot; LSU head coach Smoke Laval said. &uot;With Nate Bumstead, the goal was to keep the double play in order and keep them out of a big inning. We knew they could hit some deep balls and some home runs, but as long as there was no one in front of them (it didn’t matter).&uot;

The Tigers got the big inning off DeWitt in the seventh and got him out of the game before two relievers followed and quickly exited after trying to put out the fire. It gave Bumstead plenty of room to work and claim his 10th win, particularly after he started to settle in after the sixth inning.

The Eagles took the lead in the fifth when Jarrett Hoffpauir doubled in Beau Griffin, but after that Bumstead’s line went like this &045; three hits allowed, one walk and four strikeouts.

&uot;Going out, I really didn’t get stuck with that good of stuff,&uot; Bumstead said. &uot;I got out of some big jams with guys on second and third to keep them from scoring. Blake Gill had that great diving play (in the fourth). Everything kind of went my way today. In the later innings I felt more comfortable and felt I could hit locations more than I did earlier in the game.&uot;

Up until the seventh DeWitt was in control, holding the Tigers to just three hits and a run when Jon Zeringue line a shot over the fence in left center.

But in the sixth the senior right-hander walked Blake Gill with two outs to get to Zeringue, and guy who may be the most feared hitter in the lineup found himself at a 3-0 count. But DeWitt came back with a huge strikeout of Zeringue to end the inning.

In the seventh he surrendered a double to Nick Stavinoha &045; one of three for him on the day &045; and later a two-run single to Clay Harris that began to turn the game around.

&uot;DeWitt threw real well, but I knew going in we were going to have to score some runs,&uot; USM head coach Corky Palmer said. &uot;We just didn’t do that. LSU had their big inning, and that was the game. We had the same number of hits as they did, but they got them right when they needed them.&uot;

Said DeWitt: &uot;They hit some good pitches in the seventh. I was ready to work in the seventh. Everything was fine. Coach told me if you make a mistake, they’re going to hit it well. Every mistake I made with my offspeed, they hit it well.&uot;

Stavinoha and Matt Luizza each moved up a bag into scoring position on a passed ball before Clay Harris singled up the middle just out of the reach of USM shortstop Matt Shepherd.

Will Harris then came about as close to a home run as you could imagine when he put one off the top of the wall for a double. Laval came out to offer his take on the ball, the umpires convened and upheld the decision.

But Clay Harris scored on the shot, and Blake Gill later singled in Will Harris with two outs to put the lead at 5-2.

&uot;When we slowed the game down a little bit, we started getting our bats going,&uot; Laval said. &uot;When you keep the offensive pressure on, that’ll work. Timely hitting and hitting throughout the lineup keeps the offensive pressure going.

&uot;I’ve said it all year &045; I don’t care if Clay hits seventh, third or ninth, he’s going to get up there and try to get a base hit.&uot;

The Tigers added a run in the eighth to keep the pressure on when Stavinoha smacked his third double of the game to lead off against reliever Daniel Best. Stavinoha went to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.