The hometown kid did it.
LSU designated hitter Chris Sciambra, a Baton Rouge native, launched a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning Saturday night, giving the Tigers a 4-3 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening game of the best-of-three Baton Rouge super regional.
In front of a slam-packed Alex Box Stadium, Sciambra took Cajuns reliever Will Bacon’s 2-2 pitch halfway up the metal bleachers beyond the right-field wall — a bottom-of-the-ninth dinger that put a scintillating end to an electric night.
“I just put a good swing on it,” Sciambra said. “It was an unbelievable feeling for me.”
“That was one for the ages right there,” coach Paul Mainieri said.
It has the Tigers (52-10) just one win from advancing to the College World Series.
Freshman ace Alex Lange struck out 11 and allowed nine hits in an eight-inning gem of a start. He was just three outs from a second straight complete-game win before UL-Lafayette pinch hitter Brenn Conrad’s first-pitch homer evened the score at 3 in the top of the ninth.
LSU reliever Parker Bugg (1-2) retired the final three batters of the ninth to set up Sciambra’s moment. The senior slammed the one-out pitch and knew it was well over the wall.
He raced out of the batter’s box, raising his right hand with his index finger toward the sky, mimicking Warren Morris’ celebration during his national championship-delivering homer at the College World Series in 1996.
“What a fitting moment for him,” Mainieri said. “A great moment for him and our program.”
Sciambra’s homer was the first hit for LSU in 17 straight at-bats as the Cajuns (42-22) surged back from a 3-0 deficit after the third inning and got a four-hit, seven-inning start from Wyatt Marks.
Outfielder Jake Fraley hit a two-run homer in the third and had an RBI double in the first to give the Tigers the early lead before UL-Lafayette scored a run in each the sixth, eighth and ninth.
The winner of the super regional meets the TCU-Texas A&M super regional winner next Sunday in the College World Series opener in Omaha, Nebraska. TCU beat Texas A&M 13-4 in the opener Saturday. Game 2 of that series is at 1:15 p.m. Sunday.
Game 2 of the Baton Rouge super regional will start at 6:05 p.m. Sunday on ESPN2.
Lange stranded a runner at third in the third inning and left a runner at second in the fifth — both of those on crowd-rousing, inning-ending strikeouts. He threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of his first 13 batters and tossed just 21 pitches in his first two frames.
“Alex Lange just put the team on his shoulders tonight and gave us a real chance,” Mainieri said. “I wouldn’t trade my guy for anybody in the world.”
UL-Lafayette didn’t get two on base at the same time until the sixth inning. Tyler Girouard’s RBI single in that frame was just the third run Lange has allowed in his previous 33.2 innings, and it cut LSU’s lead to 3-1.
The Cajuns sliced it to 3-2 on Evan Powell’s RBI double in a pressure-packed eighth inning that ended in rousing fashion. With the tying runner at third base, shortstop Alex Bregman zipped Greg Davis’ hopper to first baseman Chris Chinea, who made a clutch pick of the short toss for the final out.
The Box roared its approval as the skies continued to dump rain on the packed place. Mainieri had, presumably, asked the home plate umpire to stop the game, but he refused, and Bregman-Chinea combined for that inning-ending play.
“You can’t control the rain,” Lange said. “You have to pitch through it.”
Festivities began well before the first pitch or the final out.
Tailgaters were sprinkled throughout the Alex Box parking lot — patches of red mixed in with waves of purple and gold. Music was blaring, and grills were smoking — a scene more similar to a game days across Nicholson Drive at Tiger Stadium.
This was a Saturday night at Alex Box.
The stadium was more than half full when LSU players raced out for infield drills 45 minutes before first pitch as Garth Brooks’ country hit “Calling Baton Rouge” blared in its traditional fashion.
Moments before first pitch, the two fan bases broke out in chants of “L-S-U!” and “Ragin’ Cajuns!”
By the end of the first inning, the 700 standing room-only spots — down the walkways in left and right field and in the mezzanine — were full, along with most of the 10,326 seats.
UL-Lafayette had two sections of seats in the grandstands, totaling about 600 seats, and red was sprinkled throughout a mostly purple-and-gold stadium.
Paid attendance was announced at 11,179.
Fraley, batting second in a jostled lineup, sent the crowd into a roar early. He drove in Mark Laird, batting leadoff, with a ripping double down the right-field line to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead, then crushed a 0-1 pitch into the bleachers beyond right field — very near where Sciambra’s shot landed.
A former LSU bat girl caught Sciambra’s homer and returned it after the game, team spokesman Michael Bonnette said.
He’ll want to keep that one around.
“I was telling myself not to hit a home run that at-bat,” Sciambra said. “I wasn’t trying to. I just got big, which I tend to do sometimes.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.