Golden Baseball Magazine
Welcome to the Tiger Den
Every issue of the Golden Baseball Magazine contains an article on LSU baseball.
All past articles are archived.
LSU Post-Season Play 1989 – Part 1
After making it to the College World Series in 1986 and '87, the 1988 Tigers finished the season 39-21, which was not good enough to earn them a spot in the NCAA Touranment.
With an outstanding pitching staff, the '89 Tigers finished the regular season 44-12 to earn the #2 seed in the SEC Tournament and the #8 ranking nationally.
Skip Bertman started junior right-hander Ben McDonald (11-2, 2.29 ERA) in the opening game against Georgia. The Bulldogs responded with sophomore left-hander Dave Fleming (11-2, 1.92 ERA), who lost to McDonald earlier in the season in 10 innings, 4-3, in Athens GA..
The Baltimore Orioles, who had the first pick in the major league draft in June, sent front office personnel to scout McDonald.
A little tired after fighting a 24-hour flu the day before, Big Ben got into trouble right away. The first two hitters reached base when J. R. Showalter singled and Doug Radziewicz doubled over the third-base bag.
Bertman said, "They barely touched fastballs, and then something that rarely ever happens did when a pitch hit the heel of (C Mike) Bianco's glove and rolled away." Showalter scored, and Radzie­wicz moved to third on the wild pitch. UGa led 1-0 with no outs. But McDonald bore down and struck out the next two hitters and got the third on a groundout.

L-R: Ben McDonald, Matt Gruver, Tookie Johnson
After that, McDonald allowed no hits through the next seven innings and walked three. Meanwhile, the Tigers took the lead in the fifth. 3B Phil Espinosa led off with a double off the top of the left-field wall. Then LF Matt Gruver's bunt hopped over Fleming's glove for an infield hit. After a sacrifice moved the runners to second and third, C Mike Bianco smacked the first pitch for a two-run double and added a third tally when SS Tookie Johnson bounced a single up the middle to score Bianco and make it 3-1 LSU.
LSU DH Wes Grisham led off the sixth with a home run, his 13th of the season. Two innings later, he doubled in a run.
The Bulldogs put a scare into Tiger fans with two runs in the ninth, but McDonald got the final out to win 6-3. The victory was the 27th of his career to move him into third place on LSU's all-time list.
The Tigers' next foe was Florida, the tournament host, whom the Tigers had swept in a three-game series at Alex Box Stadium. In the fourth meeting, LSU played errorless ball, outhit the Gators, and struck out 14 but didn't win the game.
LSU scored four runs in the bottom of the third thanks to three hits, two errors, and a balk. Espi­nosa and Gruver each drove in a run, but the Tigers left the bases loaded on their way to stranding nine runners in the game.
Tiger starter Curtis Leskanic threw 95 pitches in 4 1/3 innings. "The first three innings, they were swinging at the slider," he said. "They chased it. After that, they started laying off it and waiting for the fastball."
Florida scored two in the fourth and two more in the fifth to tie the game. LSU retook the lead, 5-4, in the sixth on Johnson's sacrifice fly.

L-R: Wes Grisham, Curtis Leskanic, Mark LaRosa
The Gators took the lead for good in the top of the seventh when 1B Steve Kerr ripped a bases-loaded, two-run double off reliever Mark LaRosa to make it 6-5. LaRosa then uncorked a wild pitch that allowed another run to score, and Jose Fernandez's single put the Gators up 8-5.
Espinosa's homer in the bottom of the inning made it 8-6, and Paul Byrd kept the game close with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit, scoreless pitching.
The Tigers opened the ninth by putting the first two batters aboard. Florida coach Joe Arnold brought in right-handed reliever Todd McCray and moved southpaw starter Johnny Wiggs to right field. After McCray stuck out Espinosa and Gruver, Arnold brought Wiggs back to face DH Richard Doughty, who grounded to short to end the game and give the Gators their 10th straight victory. Florida 8 LSU 6
LSU now faced the daunting task of winning two games in one day to stay alive in the tournament.

L-R: Russell Springer, Kevin Berry, Keith Osik
Who would start for the Tigers against Auburn in the elimination game? After McDonald won the opener against Georgia 6-3, LSU pitching allowed 16 runs, all earned, in the next two games. Bert­man went with righthander Russell Springer.
LSU, as the visiting team, opened the scoring with two runs in the top of the third. SS Keith Osik slapped an RBI single up the middle to score Tookie Johnson. Bianco later drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded to score Osik. 4-2 LSU. But Auburn matched those runs in the bottom of the third.
Then the fourth inning went the same way – two for Auburn followed by two for Auburn.
DH Kevin Berry and LF Gruver led off with back-to-back singles. Both scored on an error by 3B Tim Edge. 6-4 LSU.
A single and a double knocked Springer out of the box in the bottom of the fourth. Mark LaRosa, the losing pitcher the previous day, took over. Both runners scored to re-tie the contest.
The Bengal Tigers took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 6th on a bad-hop RBI single by Phil Espinosa.
Auburn scored four in the seventh to build an 8-5 lead they would not relinquish. LaRosa had retired seven straight batters but gave up a first-pitch lead-off home run to Chris Hart to tie the score. After two singles, cleanup hitter Clark Preble swatted another first-pitch homer for an 8-5 lead.
"We knew he liked to come right at you on the first pitch to get ahead," Preble said. "This one came right across the letters."
Tommy Youngblood pitched two-hit, shutout ball over the final three innings to earn the win.
The early departure from the tournament probably cost LSU a chance to host an NCAA Regional. But their 45-14 record made them a shoo-in for an at-large bid.
To be continued ...

Golden Baseball Magazine