LSU freshman pitcher Eric Walker took a five-hit shutout into the 9th inning of his first NCAA Tournament appearance and led the No.4 national seed Tigers to a 5-0 win over Rice to clinch the Baton Rouge Regional Championship Sunday night.
Walker, who allowed two hits in the ninth before turning things over to Zack Hess, struck out eight and didn't walk a batter to improve his record to 8-1.
LSU (46-17) will host either Southern Miss or Mississippi State in a Super Regional. The Bulldogs and Golden Eagles are scheduled to play Monday in Hattiesburg, with the home team needing just one win to clinch a trip to Baton Rouge. SEC rival Mississippi State and former LSU assistant Andy Cannizaro would need to win twice to advance.
LSU scored all the runs it would need in a three-run second inning, highlighted by an RBI double from freshman Josh Smith and an RBI single from fellow freshman Jake Slaughter. Smith had two of the Tigers' five hits, and three of LSU's runs were unearned, because of two Rice errors that led to the three-run rally.
Hess struck out the side, following two Rice singles off Walker in the ninth with his first strikeout and a walk to load the bases, but Rice (33-31) saw Darryn Sheppard strikeout on a 97 mph fastball and Charlie Warren go down swinging to chants of "LSU, LSU, LSU" from a packed Alex Box Stadium.
LSU has now won 14 games in a row.
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