A sterling performance by LSU ace Aaron Nola was all for naught at the College World Series, and now the Tigers are facing elimination.
The Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year limited UCLA to five singles over eight innings, but two LSU errors led to the Bruins' runs in a 2-1 loss Sunday night.
The Bruins got their leadoff man on base every inning from the fourth through ninth, and their offensively challenged lineup was able to capitalize with some help from the Tigers.
"It was real frustrating, letting that leadoff guy get on," said Nola (12-1). "But it's happened to me before through the year. I battled as hard as I could until the last pitch. Unfortunately, we booted a couple balls around. You've got to forget about that, and we're going to come out Tuesday and compete."
The No. 4 Tigers are the third of the three remaining national seeds to lose at the CWS. No. 1 North Carolina lost to North Carolina State on Sunday, and Mississippi State knocked off No. 3 Oregon State on Saturday.
"It was a tough, tough loss, that's for sure," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "I'm certainly glad it's a double-elimination tournament. That would be a tough one to end the season on."
LSU (57-10) will play North Carolina on Tuesday, with the loser going home. UCLA (45-17) will meet North Carolina State that night.
Adam Plutko and two relievers limited LSU to five hits. LSU scored its only run on Mason Katz's fourth-inning homer. The Tigers, one of the best fielding teams in the nation during the regular season, made mistakes that allowed the Bruins to tie the game in the sixth and take the lead in the eighth.
Plutko (9-3) allowed four hits in seven innings, and David Berg worked out of trouble in the ninth to earn his 22nd save.
LSU made it interesting until the end. Katz reached on shortstop Pat Valaika's throwing error in the ninth but was erased on a double play, with second baseman JaCoby Jones' throw to first narrowly beating Raph Rhymes.
Christian Ibarra walked, and pinch-hitter Tyler Moore hammered a ball up the middle that knocked down Berg to put runners on first and second. Berg faked as if to make a wild pickoff throw into center field, but pinch-runner Jared Foster didn't take the bait and stayed put after diving back to second base.
Berg ran the count to 3-0 on Jones before inducing a fly ball to right to end the game.
Both runs against Nola were unearned. He's now pitched 24 NCAA tournament innings without allowing an earned run.
LSU opened the scoring in the fourth when Katz drove Plutko's 89-mph high fastball into the left-field bullpen for his 16th homer of the season and the first in four CWS games.
The Bruins got the run back in the sixth after Brian Carroll bunted for a single and took second on catcher Ty Ross's wild throw to first. Carroll moved to third on a groundout and scored on Valaika's sacrifice fly.
Pinch-hitter Ty Moore, batting .208, singled to left on Nola's first pitch of the eighth inning. Christoph Bono pinch ran and moved up on a sacrifice. He scored the go-ahead run when Eric Filia's hard grounder to shortstop bounced off national freshman of the year Alex Bregman for his fourth error in six NCAA tournament games.
"We knew Aaron would give us a chance to win, and he did," Mainieri said. "Unfortunately, uncharacteristically for us, we made a couple of mistakes defensively that cost us dearly. And had we made all the plays for Aaron, they may not have scored. So we'll just have to regroup, pick ourselves up by the bootstraps and get ready for Tuesday and North Carolina."