LSU rallies for 6-5 win over Stanford, 5th championship

Sunday, June 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OMAHA, Neb. - Even Jeremy Witten's trip to the 1996 College World Series can't compare.

Witten, a fifth-year senior, swore he would never be able to top the emotion he felt when LSU beat Miami for the 1996 title on Warren Morris' two-out, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

He's had a change of heart.

"I don't know if I'll ever be able to match this," Witten said.

Brad Cresse singled off Justin Wayne in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Ryan Theriot from second as the Tigers beat Stanford, 6-5, on Saturday for their fifth CWS championship since 1991.

Theriot slid across home plate, jumped up and tossed his batting helmet into the air. His teammates surrounded him, then seconds later, they all made a beeline for Cresse, who was standing alone between first and second.

Blair Barbier, the team captain, huddled the players together in the dugout before the eighth inning. He had two questions for them: "Can you believe? Do you believe?"

His teammates answered him with three runs in the eighth and the game-winner in the ninth, improving to 5-0 in championship games.

Theriot started the ninth-inning rally with a single to left, and Mike Fontenot followed with a walk, setting up Cresse's heroics.

Cresse, LSU's leading hitter this season, stepped to the plate having gone 1-for-12 in the series with eight strikeouts.

He lined Wayne's 0-1 pitch over the infield, and Theriot easily beat left fielder Andy Topham's throw home.

"You always want to go out winning the national championship, and it came true," Cresse said. "Last night, I dreamt about being up at the plate with winning run on base. I dreamt of a home run, but I'll take a single."

Trey Hodges (5-2) pitched four scoreless innings for his second win of the tournament. He also picked up a save and was selected the CWS' most outstanding player.

Hodges retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced.

Wayne (15-4) gave up four hits and four runs in relief of starter Jason Young, Stanford's ace.

Coach Mark Marquess pulled Young after giving up four hits and two runs in four innings.

The move backfired - eventually.

Wayne started the fifth inning and seven of his first nine outs were strikeouts, four of them looking.

But LSU (52-17) tied it at 5 in the eighth inning with two home runs.

Barbier, after fouling off three pitches to stay alive, reached out and slapped Wayne's 2-2 changeup over the left-field fence to make it 5-3. It was Barbier's ninth homer of season and third of the CWS.

Wayne walked Wally Pontiff, and with one out, Witten lined a two-run homer into left.

Stanford (50-16) had been undefeated in CWS championship games.