LSU's Saul Garza (LSU Athletics)


Baton Rouge: Alex Box Magic Carries LSU


• LSU gets late-inning heroics in thrilling win
• Arizona State stays alive with overall effort

BATON ROUGE, La. — There are few things in college baseball better than postseason action at Alex Box Stadium.

Saturday’s night game between Southern Miss and LSU was another example of that.

For the first five innings of the winner’s bracket game, it was all about the starting pitchers. USM righthander Walker Powell was in control the first five innings despite allowing a run, while for LSU, freshman righthander Cole Henry was sensational. Ultimately, this game came down to the bullpens, where LSU used the combination of Todd Peterson and, especially, Zack Hess to defeat the Golden Eagles, 8-4, to advance to the regional championship game.

“It was a critical victory for us. Everyone knew how critical the winner’s bracket game was,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Our guys were into it and gave it everything they had tonight. The whole game, I thought they just played phenomenal. We had a couple of little mistakes here and there, and that was it.”

This game had a little bit of everything, from Hess at the back-end of the game, Saul Garza’s meteoric offensive rise and of course, the young freshman Cole Henry.

Not too long ago, Henry was an absolute tear for the Tigers. He was putting together consistent starts in the rugged SEC and he not only looked like one of the nation’s premier freshmen, he looked like one of the nation’s best pitchers … period. Then, the righthander experienced elbow soreness and was put on the shelf for 32 days.

Henry finally returned to the mound at the SEC tournament last week. There, he tossed a beautiful first inning against South Carolina, striking out two batters on 95 and 96 mph fastballs, respectively, before having a shaky second inning and being lifted from the game.

In essence, Henry just needed to work off a little rust before regional weekend. And when forming his rotation for the weekend, Mainieri didn’t flinch, he started Landon Marceaux in the opener and saved his big gun, Henry, for the winner’s bracket game.

He didn’t disappoint. 

“In my opinion, Cole Henry is going to be, if he’s not already, one of the best pitchers in the country,” Mainieri said. “He hadn’t pitched in a month and threw an inning plus last week, and he goes out there and pitches like a seasoned veteran. He dominated the game for five innings.

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