LSU avoided elimination from the College World Series for the second time. And now the Tigers are right where they expected to be all along.
Cade Beloso hit a go-ahead, three-run home run, freshman Griffin Herring pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief in his longest outing and LSU forced a second group final with a 5-2 victory over national No. 1 seed Wake Forest on Wednesday night
The winner of Thursday night’s rematch will advance to play Florida in the best-of-three championship series that begins Saturday. The Gators clinched a spot with a 3-2 win over TCU.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE SPORTS COVERAGE ON FOXNEWS.COM
«We look forward to playing major baseball in June,» Tigers coach Jay Johnson said. «We play every game like we’re playing major baseball in June. For example, Tuesday March 22 against McNeese is a playoff game for us. The thought process behind that is if you do that all year then you can stay in character when you get to the postseason.»
Wake Forest (54-11) will look to bounce back from its first loss in its eight NCAA Tournament games. The Demon Deacons, who haven’t lost back-to-back games this season, are trying to reach the championship round in their first CWS appearance since the 1955 team won the national title.
«We’ll go out ready to play tomorrow like we’ve done all year,» Wake Forest coach Tom Walter said. «We’ve responded to adversity all year. Tomorrow will be no different.»
LSU hopes to stage a rematch of the 2017 Finals, which Florida won.
NC STATE SWIM STAR KYLEE ALONS CHANGED IN STORAGE LOCKER DURING 2022 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS: REP
«It’s the same game we’ve been playing since February,» Beloso said. «We’re going to go out there, have fun, we’re going to compete to the best of our ability and let the rest take care of itself. Everyone knows the stage. But you don’t have to push any further.» about yourself.»
Coaches didn’t announce starting pitchers, but LSU aces Paul Skenes and Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder weren’t ruled out.
The Deacons scored 75 runs and hit 19 home runs in their first five NCAA Tournament games, all played at home. They have just eight runs, their fewest in three games since April 2021, and a home run at Charles Schwab Field, where the wind has been blowing for three days. They’re hitting .198 here, and lead hitter Nick Kurtz is 0-for-9 and Justin Johnson is 0-for-12.
«We play in a pretty small ballpark and the balls that usually go out there don’t go out here,» Pierce Bennett said. «We just have to adjust to keep our line shots hard and low. It’s hard to do. Hitting is hard. You can’t really do that intentionally all the time.»
The Tigers erased a 2-0 deficit in the third inning when Dylan Crews scored on a wild pitch to tie it and Beloso tossed Seth Keener’s 2-0 offer into the right-field bullpen. As Beloso approached home plate, he removed his helmet, punched Gavin Dugas in the chest and slapped Tre’ Morgan on the arm, then all three did pushups in front of their celebratory dugout.
NCAA SUSPENDS MEMPHIS COACH PENNY HARDAWAY FOR THREE GAMES FOR RECRUITING VIOLATIONS
It was just the fourth home run allowed by Keener in 69 innings this season.
Herring, who hadn’t pitched since June 5 and had never pitched more than three innings, steadied the Tigers after starter Javen Coleman and Blake Money combined for just five outs.
The lefty entered with LSU down two runs and held one of the best offenses in the country scoreless.
«Pure adrenaline,» Herring said. «This place is amazing. I think I was able to feed off the adrenaline instead of letting it get to me, like a shot of steroids. Pretty cool.»
Johnson drew laughs when he chimed in: «We’re going to make sure adrenaline isn’t on the NCAA’s list of banned substances.»
Herring allowed three hits, walked one and struck out six. He came out with runners on the corners and one out in the sixth.
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Gavin Guidry came on and struck out co-national home run leader Brock Wilken and Justin Johnson to end the threat. The Deacons got two runners in the eighth before Riley Cooper, who shutout Tennessee in the final three innings Tuesday, lined out Tommy Hawke.
Cooper, who earned his second save in as many nights and third of the season, worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth to strike out Nick Kurtz and Wilken and got Johnson to ground out to end the game. game and prepare the winner. all end supports.
«It’s just another game,» Bennett said. «Simply put, we’ve been doing it all year. We haven’t lost a series all year. Knock on wood on that.»