BATON ROUGE, La. – Tyler Johnson has given all his spectacular right arm can take to get his little baseball program from Long Island to within one victory of its first College World Series.
Johnson threw a three-hitter and allowed an unearned run, and Stony Brook defeated LSU 3-1 on Saturday to even the best-of-three Baton Rouge super regional at one game each.
Too bad for the Seawolves (51-13) that after throwing 356 pitches in three games over the past nine days, Johnson won't likely be able to throw at all in Sunday's deciding game against the Tigers (47-17).
"I was thinking about it today, after I finished," said Johnson (12-1), who did not allow a hit until the fifth inning and threw 127 pitches. "But I think you might have to bury me in (LSU's) Alex Box field. As much as I'd like to, I don't know if that's going to happen (Sunday). I'd do anything for this team, but I might fall apart."
LSU could not muster the late-inning magic of the series opener, when the Tigers hit three game-tying homers before winning a rain-postponed game in the 12th inning Saturday morning. There was, however, a brief moment when a comeback seemed to be in the air after third baseman William Carmona overthrew first base on a routine grounder with two outs in the ninth, bringing Tyler Moore to the plate as the tying run.
"I saw it come out of (Carmona's) hand and kind of put my head down and was like 'Oh man,'" Johnson said. "Two seconds later I went right back to, 'You've got to get the next guy out. You've been doing this for 8 2/3 innings. It's your game. Go out and get this guy.'"
Moore then popped up and Johnson put his hand on his hat in what called a "please-God-catch-this-moment" as Carmona settled under the ball for the final out.
Stony Brook, which started Division I baseball in 2000, usually plays home games before a few hundred fans. Now in its first super regional, Stony Brook became the first team to win an NCAA tournament game in LSU's 10,000-plus-seat baseball cathedral since it opened in 2009, dropping the six-time national champs to 9-1 in tournament games in the current Alex Box, built just down the road from the old one.
Perhaps if the Seawolves can win again Sunday against an LSU program seeking its 16th trip to Omaha, they'll return to the New York metro area as the toast of the town.
"I've been hearing from my friends and family back home and they've been saying we're the buzz in Long Island right now," said Stony Brook first baseman Kevin Courtney, who was 3 for 3 with a home run. "This is a great story. It's the best thing you could ask for."
Stony Brook coach Matt Senk said he had not decided who his Game 3 starter would be. LSU coach Paul Mainieri said Ryan Eades (5-2) will start for the Tigers.
"This is why you come to LSU, to pitch in games like this; if you're afraid, you came to the wrong school," Mainieri said. "It's not going to be easy for the other team to stop us at the end. We feel confident in ourselves, and Ryan's got to lead the way."
Kevin Gausman (12-2), who won Game 1 by pitching the last inning, also started Game 2 and lasted seven innings, giving up three runs on six hits and striking out six.
He was dominant in the first two innings, but lost his command as intermittent showers passed over as Stony Brook, playing Game 2 as the "home" team, batted in the bottom of the third.
Courtney doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Sal Intagliata's one-out single up the middle with the infield drawn in. Intagliata scored soon after on Carmona's single to make it 2-0.
"I was having trouble getting that feel for my pitches," said Gausman, who generally avoids using rosin but did so after the rain started. "It's definitely not an excuse. I just couldn't find it and I felt like I didn't have that pinpoint accuracy."
Courtney made it 3-0 with his fourth homer of the season, a towering shot to right in the bottom of the fifth.
LSU cut it to 3-1 in the top of the sixth when Raph Rhymes singled home JaCoby Jones, who'd collided with Courtney on an infield single and advanced to second when the throw got away.
Saturday's action started at 10:05 local time, when Friday's thrilling first game of the series was resumed in the top of the 12th.
Mainieri's decision to put Gausman on the mound for the resumption of Game 1 played out ideally for the Tigers when he retired the side in order and LSU's Mason Katz singled home Moore in the bottom of the inning to cap a 5-4 victory.
The fact that Katz and Moore, who led off with a single, both had key hits in the winning rally was fitting. They each had crucial home runs Friday as LSU prolonged their wild super regional opener with the Seawolves with game-tying homers in the bottom of the ninth, 10th and 11th innings.
Frankie Vanderka (2-3) took the loss for Stony Brook, getting only one out on Austin Nola's sacrifice bunt that moved Moore into scoring position.
Vanderka then intentionally walked Jones, who had hit the Tigers' dramatic tying homer in the ninth, setting up Katz's winning liner to left-center.
By the time Game 2 had ended, though, Katz and the Tigers knew they'd been outplayed for the better part of both games.
"We need to be better in every aspect of our offense," Katz said. "The last few days has not been good. ... We had those clutch innings late (in Game 1), but you're not going to pop one out three innings in a row often to save yourself. We very easily could have lost that (first) game."