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Lions finally get Tigers off their back

By Jonathan Rhodes
On March 5, 2018

Redshirt sophomore pitcher Bryce Tassin closes the home game against Louisiana State University Tigers. The Lions held the Tigers to a historic 5-4 victory. Nikisun Shrestha/The Lion's Roar    

After 10 years and 12 meetings, the Lions baseball team has beaten the Louisiana State University Tigers 5-4. It has been nearly 30 years since the Lions have beaten LSU at Pat Kenelly Diamond at Alumni Field.

After the victory this past weekend, the Lions went to Baton Rouge to play in a round-robin series against Sacred Heart University, University of Toledo and have a rematch against LSU. The Lions lost to Sacred Heart 5-3 last Friday and lost their second match against LSU 4-2 on Sunday. They defeated Toledo 7-5 on Saturday.

Head Coach Matt Riser was glad to defeat the Tigers and boost the confidence of the team and the fans.

“It was nice to get the monkey off our back,” said Riser. “At the same time, we keep it in perspective that it is a mid-week game. To do this in front of the home crowd is what is really special. Not having to play it in Baton Rouge, but for them to come here at home, was nice for all of our fans who came out here for support.”

Redshirt junior Carlisle Koestler got the win striking out six batters and allowing only one run in the seven innings he played in. Koestler kept the LSU batters at bay early in the game until the Lions could put some runs on the board in the third inning.

“Proud of the young man,” said Riser. “He didn’t complain, have any excuses or ask, ‘Why this and why that?’ He didn’t question what we were doing, just did a good job of embracing it. Obviously, that is why he is having big success.”

The victory against LSU was needed, according to Riser, to encourage the team after losing back-to-back games to the University of Conneticut the previous week.

“It’s so good to be back in the win column,” said Riser. “Coming away from last weekend we felt that we were the better club and should have had a sweep. Not to take anything away from UConn, but it’s tough to get back on a horse after a weekend like that. Just to get back in the win column is big for us.”

After getting a five-run lead, LSU responded in the eighth inning by getting a three-run home run. The Lions brought in relief pitcher redshirt sophomore Bryce Tassin to close out the game when the bases were loaded in the top of the ninth inning. The game ended with a double play made off the bat after the Lions strategically allowed the bases to be loaded to set up a force.

Riser said he was not worried about the outcome of the game once it became a nail biter.

“This isn’t the world series,” said Riser. “If we won the game, it is not the national championship, and if we lost the game, it is not the end of the season. I was excited to see some guys handle some moments there late in the game, Tassin to be able to come and do his deal to help with the double play. At the end of the day, I could be losing my mind on the dugout or be as calm as ever. It is about what they are doing on the field.”

Senior outfielder Drew Avans had four runs batted in, one run and two hits, one of which was a homerun. Avans has had a slow start at bat, but is glad to have his confidence back.

“I was talking to Mike Taylor about getting my swagger back, so this helped out a little bit,” said Avans. “The fan support was huge. We rode their energy from pitch one to the last pitch. You could see it right after we won that you couldn’t hear anything. It was awesome.”

The Lions will return to the Alumni Field tonight at 6 p.m. for their second match against Toledo, and they will travel to New Orleans to face Tulane tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.

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