BATON ROUGE -- With his 119th pitch at 1:09 a.m. Sunday, SEC Freshman of the Year Alex Lange earned his 12th strikeout in a complete-game shutout that put the LSU baseball team in the NCAA Regional final, 2-0, over UNC Wilmington.
Lange (11-0) stood at the edge of the mound, raised his arms to the sky and listened as the crowd roared in celebration.
Hours earlier, the same sky opened in the bottom of the fifth inning of NCAA Regional game 3 and caused a three-hour, 16 minute rain delay. The start of LSU and UNCW was pushed from 8 p.m. to 10:15, but it didn't keep the LSU faithful away.
LSU (50-10) advanced to the winner's bracket final on Sunday at 7 p.m. CT when the Tigers will meet the winner of the 3 p.m. elimination game between No. 2-seeded UNCW and No. 3 Tulane.
The Tigers scraped across single runs in the top of the seventh and ninth to give Lange just enough breathing room. After midnight, LSU finally found success against UNCW starting pitcher Evan Phillips in the seventh. Catcher Kade Scivicque hit stand-up double off the left-center field wall before Andrew Stevenson ripped the first pitch he saw through the right side to put runners on the corners. Chris Chinea hit the next pitch from Phillips to right, scoring Scivicque and sending Phillips to the dugout.
Phillips (2-2) took the loss despite giving up only one run on eight hits with three strikeouts an no walks. He was lifted in favor of hard-throwing Jordan Ramsey, who allowed singles to Stevenson and Jake Fraley in the ninth before giving up a run on an RBI groundout by Jared Foster.
Lange, who became the first LSU freshman to record 100 strikeouts in a season, closed out the ninth inning with three-straight K's.