Paul Mainieri told Chris Chinea to expect to get a slider away.
What came? A slider away and the first run of the ball game.
Chinea smacked Evan Phillips’ slider into right field to break a scoreless tie in the seventh inning and, eventually, helped LSU to a 2-0 win over UNC-Wilmington on Saturday night in the key game of the NCAA Baton Rouge regional.
The Tigers (50-10) rolled up 10 hits behind freshman pitcher Alex Lange’s complete-game shutout , but they didn’t notch the scoreboard until Chinea’s seventh-inning shot. LSU left three runners in scoring position before that seventh frame.
The Southeastern Conference hitting leaders, the Tigers finally got to Phillips in that inning. Kade Scivicque started it with a leadoff double and Andrew Stevenson singled to set up Chinea’s line drive.
The junior first baseman had struck out in two previous at-bats against Phillips.
“(Hitting coach) Andy (Cannizaro) talked to me before that bat. Said stay positive,” Chinea said. “Coach Mainieri told me, ‘You’re going to see a slider away.’ Slider came.”
Chinea struck out looking to begin the fifth inning and struck out to end the second inning with Stevenson at second base.
“He had my number,” Chinea said of Phillips. “I came in on my third at bat, and I was going to get that run in.”
Before Chinea’s at-bat, Stevenson expected to bunt.
“I was looking to the dugout for coach to give me the sign. Gave me the fist. Just pull one,” Stevenson said.
The lefty yanked the ball through the right hole – the highlight of his three-hit day.
LSU, playing in the visitor’s dugout, added an insurance run in the top of the ninth on a hit-and-run play.
Stevenson and Jake Fraley singled before Jared Foster drove one to first base. Stevenson, at third base, was running home on contact. UNC-Wilmington first baseman Corey Dick fielded the grounder and stepped on first instead of throwing home.
This all came against UNCW’s best reliever, the hard-throwing Jordan Ramsey, who entered with a 1.60 ERA, 60 strikeouts and 11 walks. He threw 43 pitches, and his status for Sunday is uncertain.
LSU’s win over Lehigh on Thursday was the Tigers’ 100th all-time victory in an NCAA regional or super regional game. LSU improved to 100-31 in regionals and super regionals, a .763 winning percentage.
The Tigers entered this year’s NCAA tournament ranked sixth in regional and super regional wins behind Florida State (150), Texas (148), Miami (134), Cal State Fullerton (112) and Oklahoma State (101).
LSU was tied with Stanford, which did not make the tournament. Including College World Series wins, the Tigers’ all-time NCAA tournament record entering Saturday night’s UNC-Wilmington game was 135-53. LSU’s .718 winning percentage is the best in NCAA tournament history.
In the Grays
LSU brought out the gray pants for Saturday night’s game, sporting a color it rarely does.
The Tigers have worn gray pants just once or twice before Saturday night. They sported the traditional purple tops with the gray pants.
Stevenson’s infield single in the second inning Saturday extended his team-leading hitting streak to seven games. … LSU played its 106th regional home game Saturday night. The Tigers played their first in 1986. ... Saturday’s shutout was the 10th shutout for LSU in NCAA postseason games. The Tigers have been shut out in five NCAA games.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.