BATON ROUGE, La. – LSU coach Paul Mainieri summed up the stakes in LSU's 7-1 win over Oregon State Saturday quite nicely.
"These kids didn't need any more pressure on them than they already have, so I didn't tell them until after the game was over that the difference of winning this game was the difference of having to win one more game or three more games," Manieri said. "It's pretty significant."
By winning, the Tigers (45-16) are in great shape heading into the championship round, getting two chances to win one game that will wrap up the the Baton Roug regional.
They'll sit back and watch Oregon State and Louisiana-Monroe play the 1:30 p.m. elimination game. After the Beavers and Warhawks go through nine innings of pitching staff depletion, LSU will be there waiting with weekend starter Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.36) ready to go against whatever the winner of the ULM-OSU game has left.
And winning that only gets that team the right to try to beat LSU again – on its home field – Monday.
LSU has never lost a regional after winning the "marble" game, a perfect 12-for-12, so yeah, it's a daunting task.
But that doesn't necessarily eliminate the rest of the field.
Oregon State (39-19) has been in an elimination situation and climbed through a loser's bracket before.
"I'm not worried about (having to win) three or anything," OSU coach Pat Casey said. "I'm not worried about our mentality or anything. You have to win one to get to two. I've been in this position. I got beat 11-1 by Miami to open the 2006 College World Series. I think it's the only time I've ever got tight in the entire world series."
The Beavers bounced back and won that CWS and came back and defended their title in 2007.
The climb back for OSU begins with a ULM team that had a breakthrough in winning last week's Sun Belt Conference tournament in the only way the Warhawks, a 28-27 team and a .500 conference team in the regular season, could get into the NCAA tournament.
ULM got hot when it mattered, going 3-1 at the SBC tournament, then knocking off Belmont, 6-3 Saturday after battling LSU in a 4-1 Friday loss.
For the Warhawks, it's a one-game-at-a-time existence, especially considering that few expected them to even be here before last week's run. So a plan for Sunday? Heck, everything they had was invested in the Belmont game.
"We did everything we could to win a ball game today," ULM coach Jeff Schexnaider said. "I'll sit down with my pitching coach and we'll come up with a plan going forward."
Oregon State is in that grind now too. Both ULM and OSU have a weekend starter left. For ULM, right-handers Shelby Aulds (3-2, 4.77 ERA) and Andrew Richardson (0-5, 5.44) are likely candidates, though neither has inspiring numbers. For Oregon State, left-hander Ben Wetzler (7-2, 3.39) is still available from its normal weekend rotation and will start against ULM.
Lots of pen left: LSU, meanwhile, has had two eight-inning starts from Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman, so what has been an outstanding bullpen all year has hardly been taxed.
Left-hander Chris Cotton threw a perfect inning Friday to get the save in the 4-1 win over Louisiana-Monroe and closer Nick Goody pitched a perfect ninth against Oregon State.
"We have a lot of bullpen left," Mainieri said. "We're going to do everything we can to win it (Sunday). But if we have to play Monday, we'll still have a lot of bullpen left."
Record Crowd: LSU is the perennial NCAA champion in attendance and it set a new standard Saturday when a school-record 10,387 poured into Alex Box Stadium for the Oregon State game.
To give perspective on how much more popular college baseball is at LSU than at other areas in the country, consider that the crowd was also the largest regional crowd OSU has ever played in front of. The previous record? 4,600.