Jake Latz’s 75 mph breaking pitch plunked Rice outfielder Dayne Wunderlich in the left arm.
Alex Box Stadium released a collective groan. Latz dropped his head in disappointment. Paul Mainieri emerged from the dugout, striding to the mound and signaling toward the bullpen.
It was the second inning.
The Latz experiment failed — at a most critical time.
The highly regarded 2015 signee lasted just 1.1 innings in the decisive championship game of the NCAA Baton Rouge regional Tuesday.
The redshirt freshman hit his final batter, walked another, threw a wild pitch and allowed two runs in a 31-pitch outing.
Latz had recently recovered from a year-long elbow injury, and he’d thrown just 5.1 innings in 2016. Mainieri chose him over a handful of others, including No. 2 starter Jared Poché, the grizzled junior who gave LSU six innings of one-hit relief as the Tigers rallied for a 5-2 win.
Latz started LSU’s game against Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference tournament, throwing two scoreless innings and striking out a pair.
He couldn’t mimic that production Tuesday on a hot June afternoon. Latz threw 23 fastballs during the outing, 14 for strikes. He tossed eight breaking pitches, with just three landing for strikes, the last four for balls.
Times, TV, tickets
The Baton Rouge super regional schedule between LSU and Coastal Carolina is as follows:
Game 1: 8 p.m. Saturday, ESPNU
Game 2: 8 p.m. Sunday, ESPN2 or ESPNU
Game 3 (if necessary): 1 or 4 p.m. Monday, ESPN2; or 7 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU
An announcement is expected Wednesday from the LSU athletic ticket office regarding tickets that may be available for the super regional. Season ticket holders were allowed to pre-order tickets before the NCAA tournament began.
LSU center fielder Jake Fraley stole his 28th base in 64 games in the eighth inning, tying him with Josh Dalton (67 games, 1998) for eighth-most in a season in school history.
Fraley now has 59 career stolen bases in 171 games, breaking a tie for seventh in LSU history with Jeff Reboulet (125 games, 1985-86).
Besides LSU, weather was the big winner in the Baton Rouge regional.
Five of the first six games of the regional were affected, in some way, by rain or lightning — each of them either including a mid-game delay or a postponed starting time. In all, the regional’s first six games included 34 hours, 23 minutes of weather-related delays.
Tuesday’s game was not affected by weather — unless you count the fact that it was pushed back a day to start with.
Did you notice?
Greg Deichmann’s mammoth two-run home run in the seventh banged off the top of the ESPN camera just to the left of the batter’s eye in straightaway center field, right over the 405-foot mark.
The measurement: 420 feet.
It was Deichmann’s team-leading 10th homer of the season.
“I think that’s the longest ball I’ve seen hit in this park since we changed the bats in 2011,” Mainieri said.
For the record, a stuffed rally possum was sitting on top of the camera.
Mainieri said he briefly considered catching Jordan Romero on Tuesday but had to rest him because Romero tweaked his back on a swing during Monday’s 10-6 loss to Rice.
Romero was the designated hitter Monday.
Michael Papierski caught the game, leading off the eighth with a crucial home run, his third of the season.
Tuesday’s contest was LSU’s 199th NCAA tournament game. The Tigers are now 143-56 (.719) in NCAA play. ... This was the third regional LSU has hosted that has lasted five days and the second to end on a Tuesday. The first was in 1991. ... LSU (45-19) is now a combined 17-3 in May and June . ... This was the Tigers’ 19th comeback win this season. ... LSU is now 6-7 against Rice in NCAA tournament games but has won five of the last six meetings.