There have been countless moments in the storied history of LSU baseball that diehard fans will remember forever. From Warren Morris’ walk-off in 1996, to the infamous rally possum comeback 20 years later, there have been no shortage of time capsule moments in the history of the program. LSU’s miraculous 10-run eighth inning and seven-run comeback win over Kennesaw State can be added to that list.
The Tigers just looked lost for most of their regional opener against Kennesaw State. Ma’Khail Hilliard and Riley Cooper both struggled on the mound early, and it seemed like LSU had no answers for the Owls’ bats. Kennesaw State extended its lead to 11-4 in the fifth inning, and LSU seemed all but out of the game.
The Tigers needed some magic to happen and that started when fifth-year senior Devin Fontenot stepped on the mound in relief for Cooper in the fifth inning. Fontenot was lights out, striking out six batters in 3.1 innings and stopped the bleeding, not allowing any more runs. His heroic performance is what set up an eighth inning that few could even imagine.
“We don’t win the game if Devin [Fontenot] doesn’t come in and settle the game,” Head Coach Jay Johnson said. “It’s the best performance out of him this year when we really needed that.”
LSU still trailed by seven runs entering the eighth inning, but momentum had shifted just a bit with Fontenot’s performance on the mound. Kennesaw State’s Jack Myers was entering his fifth inning of work on the mound and seemed to be running out of gas. LSU’s batters noticed that and to say they took advantage would be an understatement. The first run came on a single from Jacob Berry after Josh Stevenson and Dylan Crews reached on a walk and a hit by pitch. Then, three hits in a row from Josh Pearson, Jordan Thompson and Tre’ Morgan had the Tigers firmly in striking distance down just 11-9, still with no outs.
A fielder’s choice two batters later from Brayden Jobert cut the deficit to just one before Crews completed the comeback with a double scoring two runs and giving LSU a 12-11 lead.
“With Dylan, I’ve never been so confident that a player was going to get a big hit in my entire life than when he walked up to the plate,” Johnson said.
The player who has delivered for LSU all season and already holds the honor of SEC Co-Player of the Year did it again, this time on the biggest stage. Pearson added two more insurance runs to make it 14-11, and the game had been completely flipped on its head.
After trailing by seven runs, an insane, 10-run eighth inning saw LSU take a comfortable three-run lead, and Kennesaw State looked completely defeated. Paul Gervase came on to close things out for LSU in the ninth and did so without much drama, recording his sixth save of the season. The game finished as an instant classic and one that fans will talk about for a long time. Crews, one of the heroes in the eighth inning, was at a loss for words for what transpired.
“Honestly I’m just still in shock of what just happened,” Crews said after the game. “When you’re down by that much and all of a sudden you’re just able to string hits together and then look at the score board and you’re two and one runs away from tying the game. It changed for me when Tre’ [Morgan] got that single up the middle. I feel like it really gave us a chance to go out and finish it.”
This win moves LSU into the winner’s bracket and sets the Tigers up to face Southern Miss with a spot in the Region Championship on the line. The Golden Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the region and will be a tough task for the Tigers on the road. Despite enjoying the wild win his team came away with in game one, Johnson remained focused on the next task and made sure that was the key point heading into game two.
“We’d love to sit around and celebrate it because it’s a win that should be celebrated, but we’ve got to get ready to go tomorrow,” Johnson said.
LSU’s matchup with Southern Miss is set to begin at 6 p.m. and will be streaming on ESPN+.