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LSU Post-Season Play 1987 – Part 1
Skip Bertman's fourth Tiger team made it to Omaha but not without struggles and turmoil.
Ranked #1 in the preseason polls, LSU went 8-2 in pre-conference play, including a three game home sweep of perennial power Wichita State. The top hurlers were two seniors, right-hander Stan Loewer and lefty Mark Guthrie, and 6'3" junior southpaw Gregg Patterson. Leading the hitters were junior OF Jack Voight, senior C Jack Faulkner, and junior OF Albert "Joey" Belle.
The Tigers went 40-15 in regular season play but a mediocre 12-10 in conference, with no sweeps for or against them. Nevertheless, they made the six-team SEC Tournament as the #5 seed. LSU's players looked at the conference tournament as an opportunity to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

L-R: Stan Loewer, Mark Guthrie, Gregg Patterson, Joey Belle
LSU opened the tournament in Athens GA against Auburn, the team they had taken two of three from in the last weekend series. Bertman went with his ace, Patterson, who led the SEC in ERA with a miniscule 1.09 and hadn't allowed a run i his last 16 innings.
Gregg's scoreless quickly ended when Auburn scored three in the second after the first two batters reached base on errors. Bertman stuck with the southpaw, who lasted seven innings and gave up seven runs, only two of which were earned. The Tigers also mistreated Auburn's ace, Mark Chap­man, who gave up five runs in five innings.
Trailing 7-5 in the top of the seventh, the Tigers tied the game when Terry Belle, Albert's brother, ripped a two-run double. The score stayed tied amid light showers into the ninth inning. DH Richie Vasquez gave LSU an 8-7 with a solo home run off Auburn's top reliever, Greg Olsen.
Reliever Barry Manuel, in his second inning of work, got into trouble in the bottom of the 9th by walking Kevin Howard and future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas. Both runners advanced on a ball in the dirt on the third strike on the next batter. PH Tommy Youngblood launched a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Trey Ganious then lined a 1-1 pitch over LF Todd Waggoner's head, scoring Thomas easily from second with the winning run.

L-R: Terry Belle, Barry Manuel, Pete Bush
After their poor performance the day before, the Tigers handled the pressure of the elimination game with solid pitching, steady defensive play, and enough offense to beat the SEC's best-hitting team 4-2. Mark Guthrie, battling an undisclosed illness, gutted out three scoreless innings before giving way to Stan Loewer. The Tigers finally got to UGa starter Scott Broadfoot with single runs in the fourth and fifth. The first tally came home on 1B Pete Bush's single on an 0-2 pitch. Then Joey Belle delivered an RBI single in the fifth.
In the seventh, LSU struck for two more runs that proved to be the difference in the game. Vasquez drilled a leadoff double down the left-field line and was replaced by speedy PR Rob Hartwig who moved to third on a wild pitch. After a groundout left the runner stranded, SS David Cuningham executed a beautiful suicide squeeze on a pitch up around his eyes. CF Mike Papajohn drove a double down the left-field line to send Broadfoot to the showers and bring in future St. Louis Cardi­nals ace Cris Carpenter. 2B Andy Galy walked to load the bases. Belle then laced Carpenter's 3-2 pitch to the warning track in left field for a sacrifice fly that scored an insurance run.
The Bulldogs finally got to Loewer in the top of the eighth with two out and no one on. Three singles loaded the bases, and 3B Michael Turner lined a two-run single into center field to cut the LSU lead in half. That brought in freshman right-hander Ben McDonald out of the bullpen.
Georgia loaded the bases on 1B Pete Bush's error. Ben got the next batter to ground to Bush, and this time Pete made the play for the 3-1 out to end the inning. McDonald allowed a single in the ninth but no further damage to seal the much-needed victory.

L-R: Andy Galy, Ben McDonald, Dan Kite
The next day, LSU eliminated Kentucky 4-1. Right-hander Dan Kite gave the Tigers what they needed, not only a victory but a complete game. He allowed just five hits to earn his second nine-inning victory over the Wildcats during the season. "He was overpowering at times," said Bertman. "He's a Kentucky killer, I guess. His only complete games this season have come against them."
The Tigers scored three of their four runs on homers–a solo shot by Terry Belle and a two-run clout by Pete Bush. Jack Faulkner drove home the other run.
A few hours later, the Tigers faced Auburn again with the winner advancing to the championship game against unbeaten Mississippi State. Ben McDonald pitched the first four innings, allowing just one run as he scattered six hits. Reliever Andy Berg then gave Bertman 3 1/3 good innings: just one run on three hits. Finally, Barry Manuel had his fastball working, striking out four of the last five outs.
Galy drove in two Tiger runs with a double and scored another. Faulkner and Bush had the other RBIs.
Since Mississippi State was undefeated, the Tigers had to beat them twice on Sunday. Patterson held the Bulldogs to one run in the first four innings before they exploded for eight in the fifth to coast to a 13-3 triumph.
The game was interrupted shortly after it began by an emotional outburst by RF Joey Belle. He lost control after being subjected to racial taunts from the stands and charged a Mississippi State fan in the first inning. The fan was holding a long two-by-four while standing on a hill beyond the outfield fence when Belle left the playing field through a gate in the right-field corner. LSU 1B Pete Bush reached Belle just beyond the fence and subdued the volatile player before the incident became more serious.
LSU earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament but not a host spot. They would join four other Louisiana teams, UNO, Tulane, Louisiana Tech, and Southern, along with #1 seed Cal State Fuller­ton in the South II regional at UNO.
To be continued ...

Golden Baseball Magazine