No margin for error: No. 1 LSU bounced by UCLA, UNC in College World Series

Staff Writer
Plaquemine Post South
LSU's Mark Laird takes instructions from first base coach Blake Dean before taking a lead against Oklahoma in the Super Regionals. Laird collected five hits in the Tigers' two losses to UCLA and North Carolina in the College World Series. 
POST SOUTH PHOTO/Peter Silas Pasqua

OMAHA, Neb. – Top-ranked LSU was limited to three runs in two games and eliminated from the College World Series on Tuesday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park by a score of 4-2 to North Carolina after falling to UCLA 2-1 on Sunday night.

LSU (57-11) concluded a memorable season, tying the school and Southeastern Conference record for wins (57), while claiming an SEC West championship, an SEC Tournament championship, an NCAA regional title and an NCAA super regional crown.

"It was a very frustrating game," said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. "We had so many opportunities and couldn't come through with a big hit. We came here to win but in time, I'm not going to let that fact take away from what these kids accomplished this year."

North Carolina (58-11), the only NCAA Division I team to not lose back-to-back games this season, shattered its school record for wins and moved on to face the loser of North Carolina State at 7 p.m. CT Thursday.

First baseman Mason Katz, playing the final game of his career, reached base all five at-bats with three walks and two hits. Right fielder Mark Laird went 3-for-5, while designated hitter Sean McMullen scored two runs and connected for two hits.

LSU starter Cody Glenn (7-3), who had not pitched since May 22 at the SEC Tournament, absorbed the loss, allowing three runs on five hits in two innings pitched. Glenn allowed a two-out, two-run homer in the first to catcher Brian Holberton that put the Tigers behind 2-0 before coming to the plate.

The Tar Heels tacked on another run in the third, but senior reliever Brent Bonvillain kept LSU alive, working 4.1 innings and allowing only a run on five hits.

The Tigers finally got on the board against Thornton in the fifth on Katz' clutch two-out RBI single into left field, scoring McMullen. LSU mounted its biggest threat against Thornton in the seventh, loading the bases following a double by McMullen down the right field line and a single from Laird. Shortstop Alex Bregman grounded into a double play that scored one run but the Tar Heels minimized the damage when Raph Rhymes flew out to centerfield.

Thornton (12-1) exited in the eighth after allowing a walk to Christian Ibarra. He left after scattering nine hits and walking four with three strikeouts. The Tigers again the loaded the bases on a JaCoby Jones single and a McMullen hit by pitch with two outs. Laird's liner into left field just missed falling as the side was retired.

UNC pitcher Chris McCue notched his second save of the season with a scoreless ninth. Bregman lined out to right field. Following a Katz walk, Rhymes flew out to centerfield and Ibarra struck out to end the game.

UCLA broke a 1-1 tie Sunday when Eric Filia's two-out groundball in the top of the eighth inning was misplayed, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

"It was a tough, tough loss that's for sure," Mainieri said. "There's nothing but great teams in this tournament and very little margin for error. They put pressure on us."

Laird had two hits and his seventh double of the year. Katz provided the first homer of this year's CWS with a solo shot in the fourth.

LSU starter Aaron Nola (12-1) suffered his first loss of the year in a tough luck decision, allowing both runs – none of which were earned – on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

UCLA starter Adam Plutko (9-3) held the Tigers to just four hits and one run while walking two and striking out two. Plutko did not allow a leadoff hitter to reach.

Katz broke the scoreless pitcher's duel in the fourth when he launched a one-out, solo homerun - his 16th of the season - into the left field bullpen. I

In the sixth, UCLA centerfielder Brian Carroll dropped a leadoff bunt and catcher Ty Ross' errant throw sailed into right field for an error. Two batters later, he scored on Filia's deep sacrifice fly to tie the game at one apiece.

The Bruins benefited from another unearned run in the eighth to take the lead for good on shortstop Alex Bregman's error on Filia's grounder with two outs that allowed pinch runner Christoph Bono to score from third.

Trailing 2-1, LSU had one last chance in the ninth with runners at first and second and two outs against UCLA's David Berg but JaCoby Jones worked a 3-1 count before popping out to shallow right field to end the game.

"They slapped the ball on the ground and forced us to make a couple of plays," Mainieri said. "We just came up empty on those plays."