Johnson pitches Stony Brook past LSU, forcing deciding game
BATON ROUGE, La. -- A punch in the gut 10 minutes into Saturday's continuation of Game 1 against LSU could have made Stony Brook feel as though the chance of a lifetime was slipping away.
Right about when things looked worst, though, Tyler Johnson took matters into his own right hand and revived the Seawolves' dream of a trip to the College World Series.
For the third time in nine days, Johnson was spectacular, pitching a three-hitter as Stony Brook beat LSU, 3-1, in the second game of the best-of-three Baton Rouge Super Regional.
The Tigers (47-17) left the Seawolves (51-13) reeling earlier Saturday when Mason Katz's one-out single to left-center drove in Tyler Moore from second base for a 5-4 victory in 12 innings -- a game that started Friday at noon EDT and was suspended after 11 innings because of heavy rain.
With the sting of that loss so fresh, Stony Brook could have wilted. Instead, Johnson and a handful of timely hits against LSU ace Kevin Gausman -- drafted fourth overall in the first round by the Orioles this past week -- helped the Seawolves force a deciding third game at 1 p.m. Sunday, with the winner earning a trip to Omaha, Neb.
"At this point of the year, you're doing it for the guy next to you," said Johnson (12-1). "I knew I had to go out there and do what I did. That was the biggest motivation for me."
Gausman was on the mound when the first game resumed and retired Stony Brook in order in the top of the 12th before Katz's game-winner. The loss in the second game left him at 12-2 with a 2.77 ERA.
Johnson -- who is 3-0 with a 2.49 ERA against Miami, Central Florida and LSU -- not only was up to the task of trying to match Gausman but was better than the LSU righthander.
"He threw a phenomenal game," Katz said. "He's a great pitcher. He works both sides of the plate with a good sinker."
Added SBU coach Matt Senk, "Tyler just keeps outdoing himself every time he gets the ball."
SBU scored twice in the third on a double by Kevin Courtney, who had three of his team's six hits, and RBI singles by Sal Intagliata and Willie Carmona. In the fifth, Courtney's drive just over the rightfield fence -- only the third homer off Gausman this season -- made it 3-0.
In the two games against LSU, SBU starters Brandon McNitt and Johnson have allowed six hits and no earned runs in 16 innings. The only run off Johnson scored in the sixth. When Johnson threw low to first on JaCoby Jones' infield hit, Jones collided with Courtney, flipped over him and wound up at second, although replays clearly showed he never touched first. Raph Rhymes then grounded an RBI single past diving second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum.
With two outs in the ninth, third baseman Carmona fielded a routine grounder and air-mailed his throw to first well over Courtney's head for Stony Brook's fifth throwing error in two games. But Johnson got Moore -- one of three LSU players to hit a tying home run in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings of Game 1 -- to pop up his 127th pitch to Carmona to end it, with Johnson collapsing to his knees.
After SBU blew the three late leads Friday, it took only 10 pitches from Frankie Vanderka in the bottom of the 12th for LSU to win the continuation of the suspended game. Senk said the resiliency his team showed is typical. "We are a very tough-minded group, a gutsy group,'' he said. "They love playing the game, they love playing together and they just keep on playing to keep on playing. I can't be more proud.''
In Game 3, LSU will pitch sophomore righthander Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.55), a teammate of Stony Brook centerfielder Travis Jankowski in the Cape Cod League last summer. Senk was undecided about his starter.