June 4, 2004
BATON ROUGE, La. - Sophomore right-hander Justin Meier fired a seven-hit shutout and eighth-ranked LSU scored six runs in its final two plate appearances as the top-seeded and host Tigers defeated Army 9-0 in Game 1 of the Baton Rouge Regional, Friday afternoon at sold-out Alex Box Stadium.
Army freshman left-hander Nick Hill matched zeroes with Meier through three innings, but fortunes turned for both teams in the fourth. The Black Knights loaded the bases in the top of the frame when Nate Stone ripped a one-out double to right field, Nolan Cork was hit by a pitch and Jeremy Stache followed with single to right. But Meier struck out Kyle Scogin on a 3-2 pitch to escape unscathed.
The Black Knights were not as fortunate in the bottom of the inning as the Tigers plated three runs on four hits against Hill. A two-run triple by Blake Gill and an RBI single by J.C. Holt accounted for the scoring as LSU grabbed a 3-0 lead after four innings of play.
Army (37-14) managed a two-out double by Schuyler Williamson in the fifth inning and a one-out single by Justin Long in the sixth, but was unable to advance either base runner. Hill, meanwhile, retired LSU without a run in both the fifth and sixth innings as the Black Knights entered the seventh trailing 3-0.
After retiring Ryan Patterson on a flyout to deep center field to open the bottom of the seventh, Hill yielded consecutive opposite-field singles to Matt Liuzza and Jon Zeringue. The third team All-American was removed at that point in the contest after throwing 112 pitches.
Sophomore right-hander Dan Pluff relieved Hill and induced Nick Stavinoha to ground to Stache at third base. Stache fielded the ball cleanly but dropped it as he made a move to tag the base runner advancing from second base. By the time Stache recovered and fired to first, all runners were safe, loading the bases. Pluff then walked Clay Harris to force in the Tigers' fourth run of the game.
Freshman left-hander Brad Johnson relieved Pluff and proceeded to balk in a run before yielding a two-run opposite-field single to Tiger second baseman Ivan Naccarata for a 7-0 LSU cushion.
Meier retired the Black Knights in order in the eighth inning and the Tigers tacked on a pair of insurance runs on three hits in the bottom of the stanza against relievers Logan Brannon and Monte Jones.
Army placed its first two runners on base against Meier to open the ninth when Nolan Cork and Jeremy Stache stroked leadoff singles to center field. But Scogin grounded into a double-play and Wes Bumgardner struck out to end the game.
Meier (6-2) struck out nine and did not walk a batter in tossing his first career shutout. Hill suffered the loss for the Black Knights, allowing a season-high 11 hits and five runs. He struck out three and walked three in falling to 10-3 on the year. The Patriot League's Pitcher of the Year, Hill saw his personal six-game winning streak snapped in the setback.
"First of all, I'd like to congratulate LSU; they played a great baseball game," said Army head coach Joe Sottolano. "They were obviously very prepared and went about their business extremely well.
"I don't think this was one of our better efforts, but I think our players went out there and really competed. I thought Nick (Hill) competed extremely well, especially in that environment, and it's an impressive environment to say the very least. It's easy to be overmatched and get caught up in all the emotions, but I thought we did a good job of avoiding that. I was very impressed with LSU, their staff and their players."
LSU, ranked eighth nationally by ESPN/Sports Weekly and 12th by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball, lifted its record to 42-17 with the victory. The Tigers also recorded their 100th win in NCAA Tournament history, improving its all-time tourney record to 100-37. LSU is one of six teams to register at least 100 NCAA Tournament wins.
All nine starters scored one run for the Tigers, who smacked 14 singles to go along with only one extra-base hit in the win.
It marked just the second time that Army has been shut out this season and the first time since the Black Knights' second game of the year on Feb. 21. Stache equaled his career high with three hits, while Stone extended his career-best hitting streak to 19 games with his fourth-inning double. Army left 10 runners on base in the contest.
"We knew it was going to be a packed house," said Williamson, the Patriot League co-Player of the Year. "We have never played in front of a crowd this size. It was loud and we expected that. It didn't affect our play that much, although there were a few instances where we had some miscommunication.
"I think Nick (Hill) pitched a great game. I have to give LSU credit. Whenever we made a mistake pitching, they capitalized on it. Whenever we left a pitch up, it got hit. They did a great job."
Army moves on to Saturday's elimination game, where the Black Knights will face the loser of Friday's evening's other opening-round regional matchup between second-seeded Southern Miss and third-seeded College of Charleston. First pitch for that contest is slated for 11 a.m. (CDT) at Alex Box Stadium. Should Army win, the Black Knights would play in another elimination game on Saturday evening.