OMAHA, Neb. — LSU's lineup features five hitters batting over .300, including a couple of All-Americans.
But the Tiger who carried the load on offense Saturday wasn't any of those. In fact, it was the guy with the lowest batting average out of all nine players in the lineup coming into the contest.
Junior catcher Michael Papierski had the day of a lifetime, homering from both sides of the plate in his first two at-bats as LSU beat top-ranked Oregon State for the second straight day to earn a spot in the championship series.
Papierski had four of the Tigers' first five runs batted in, including opening the scoring with a three-run shot that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Stepping up against Beavers starter Bryce Fehmel with two on and two out in the second, the catcher swung at a 3-1 pitch and hit a towering drive that carried into the stands in right-center to put the Tigers up 3-0.
"I thought when Pap hit that three-run homer in the [second] inning," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, "it loosened our team up totally."
After LSU tacked on another run in the third and chased Fehmel from the game, the switch-hitter turned around to face the lefty Brandon Eisert. This time it was a 2-1 pitch that he put a great swing on and lifted it out to left field.
"Definitely feels good to get this win and to go to the College World Series finals," Papierski said. "I put some good swings on fastballs today, and after that the wind helped a little bit."
The pair of swings put Papierski all over the College World Series record books. He became the only documented player in the championship's history to homer from both sides of the plate in a game, was the first player to have a multi-homer CWS game since TCU's Bryan Holaday in 2010 and was the first LSU player to do it since Brad Cresse in 1998.
The catcher said after the game that he had never managed to homer from both sides in the plate in a game at any level of his playing career.
Papierski has gone on a home run binge in Omaha, bashing three of his 11 dingers for the season. His first came in LSU's opening game against Florida State leading off the fifth inning. While certainly no one could predict the day he had, his coach said Saturday's performance was a culmination of the work and mindset that the junior has taken on in order to keep improving.
"Even when he was hitting under .200 in the year, you never saw him get discouraged because he did a workman's-like job behind the plate. He knew where the value to our team was," Mainieri said. "As he hit in the second half of the season, it's obviously made us a better team."
Papierski and the Tigers will take their momentum for knocking off the No. 1 team in the country into the best-of-three championship series, which begins Monday at 7 p.m. ET.