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Hawpe, Hodges Lead Tigers Into CWS Driver's Seat

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Hawpe, Hodges Lead Tigers Into CWS Driver's Seat

OMAHA, Neb. ? Through 5 1/3 innings, LSU had no runs on no hits. But after sending eight batters to the plate in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, LSU exploded for 10 runs on nine hits to avenge two 1998 College World Series loses to Southern Cal and win 10-4 on Monday afternoon in Omaha.

LSU advanced into the driver?s seat of its bracket of the College World Series by winning its 50th game of the season against 17 loses.

USC had its 16-game winning streak ended, fell to 44-19 on the season and dropped into the loser?s bracket to play Florida State on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

The Tigers will face the survivor of that game on Thursday at 2 p.m. on espn2 for a chance to advance to the CWS Championship game. Southern Cal or Florida State would have to beat LSU twice to advance to the title game.

Tiger reliever Trey Hodges, who was rumored to be starting the game, pitched six innings and only gave up two runs ? one on a solo home run ? on four hits while striking out three without walking a batter. Hodges improved to 4-2 on the season.

USC starter Mark Prior received the loss and fell to 10-7 on the season. USC used six pitchers in the contest.

Offensively, Brad Hawpe hit a pair of three run homers in the sixth and eighth innings to lead LSU. Ryan Theriot was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBI.

LSU starter Ben Saxon had little trouble through the first three innings to keep the game scoreless until the bottom of the fourth. After allowing a bunt single to Justin Gemoll, Saxon gave up a two-run home run to USC cleanup hitter Beau Craig to fall behind 2-0.

With a large blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand, Saxon was lifted in favor of Hodges. Saxon, who learned that he would start against the Trojans late Sunday night, pitched three innings and allowed two runs on three hits while striking out three and walking one.

Hodges came in to get three straight outs against the Nos. 5-7 hitters in the USC lineup including two strikeouts.

After walking the first batter in the bottom of the fifth inning, Hodges allowed the Trojans? third run on a sacrifice bunt and an RBI single by leadoff hitter Seth Davidson for a 3-0 lead.

USC starter Mark Prior, a transfer from Vanderbilt, frustrated the Tigers early and didn?t allow a hit through 5 1/3 innings. However, LSU teed off on the righthander with one out in the top of the sixth as LSU sent eight batters to the plate.

After Ray Wright struckout to open the inning, Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot earned LSU?s first two base hits of the game to put runners on first and third. Brad Cresse struckout for the second time in the game for the second out before Brad Hawpe smoked a 2-0 offering over the right-center field wall to tie the game at 3-3.

Blair Barbier reached on an error by the third baseman and Wally Pontiff was hit by a pitch to put two on with two outs, however, Cedrick Harris struckout to end the inning.

The Tigers sent eight more batters to the plate in the top of the seventh and came away with two more runs to drive Prior from the game. With one out, Wright walked and advanced to third on a two-base error on an attempted pickoff by Prior that went into right field. Wright scored on a single by Theriot to give LSU a 4-3 lead.

Fontenot then flew out to the shortstop for the second out before Cresse walked and Hawpe singled against USC reliever Ronald Flores to load the bases for Barbier. For the second time in the tournament, Barbier earned an RBI by walking with the bases loaded.

Prior exited the game after pitching 6 2/3 innings and giving up five earned runs despite a season high four fielding errors by his defense. LSU managed four hits and one walk while striking out seven times against Prior.

USC cut the LSU lead to 5-4 with a leadoff solo home run in the bottom of the seventh by first baseman Alberto Concepcion.

LSU continued to produce offensively in the top of the eighth, sending eight more batters to the plate for the third consecutive inning and scoring five more runs.

Harris and Witten led off the inning with a pair of singles and advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt by pinch hitter Johnnie Thibodeaux to drive Flores from the game after only 2/3 of an inning.

USC reliever Tim Petke came in to face Theriot and gave up a two-RBI single to left to score Harris and Witten. Reliever Mark Todd then came in and walked Fontenot to put runners on first and second with one out. Todd was relieved by Pete Montrenes, who struckout Cresse before giving up a towering three-run homer to Hawpe.

The shot to right-center field was Hawpe?s second three-run homer of the game and his 11th of the season. LSU led 10-4.