LSU got yet another outstanding starting outing from an unusual source as Ryan Byrd, who had only pitched 17 innings before today went 7 innings and gave up only 2 runs chunking a bunch of junk. The senior lefty, who had had a quiet career up until this point, had the game of his life when we needed him.
Leon Landry was the offensive star with 3 hits, 2 runs, and an RBI, including some nice hits against lefty Sean Bierman. Jared Mitchell got on base every time up to bat, with two walks, a hit-by-pitch, and two singles.
As a result, LSU did what I never thought we'd be able to do: work our way out of the loser's bracket. I did not think our pitching would be good enough once we used up Ranaudo and Coleman. The key was getting all that good starting pitching. Who would have thought that between Bradshaw, Nolan Cain, and Ryan Byrd, we would get 19.1 innings of work giving up a grand total of 4 runs? That's an ERA of 1.86 between those three pitchers in those three games. That's beyond anything we could have ever expected of them.
We got outstanding starting pitching all week, even in the game we lost. On Wednesday, Austin Ross went 6 innings, giving up only 4 runs. We lost that game because the offense couldn't get going against Vandy pitcher Mike Minor in the opening game. Ranaudo had an excellent outing in our second game and Coleman pitched wonderfully into the 9th inning against South Carolina. Daniel Bradshaw's complete game 3-hitter (in 7 innings) may well make him the outstanding pitcher of the tournament, especially when you consider that he also pitched in relief in the opening game. Cain was the only starting pitcher for the Tigers not to go at least 6 innings, as he went 5.1 in a scheduled 7-inning game, but he was great for those 5.1 innings. And of course Byrd put together the performance of his career to put us in position to win our second straight SEC Tournament.
There are two things about this tournament that really make me feel good about our chances in the big tournament. I have always felt good about our chances in the regional and in the super regional, when pitching depth is not really an issue. Our pair of aces really gives us a leg up in a short tournament like we'll see in those venues. I was worried about the 8-team double-elimination tournament in Omaha, assuming we made it that far. Our pitching depth outside of Ranaudo, Coleman, and Ott has been extremely suspect all year.
This week, however, the question mark became an exclamation point as Austin Ross, Daniel Bradshaw, Nolan Cain, Paul Bertuccini, Buzzy Haydel, Chad Jones, and Ryan Byrd all had good-to-outstanding tournaments. Hopefully this means we can expect to stay in games without Coleman or Ranaudo pitching.
Also, the last couple of days gave us reason to be optimistic about facing left-handers. It started against Georgia lefty Alex McRee and continued against Vandy relievers Sean Bierman and Grayson Garvin, neither of whom was quite able to hold us down.
With LSU hosting a regional beginning on Friday, I imagine that everyone will be available to pitch, except perhaps Ryan Byrd. We could go in any direction in that game, and I'll leave it for another day to give my thoughts on what we should do with our pitching staff in the regional. It sure would be a huge advantage if we could get through Game 1 without using Ranaudo or Coleman. On the other hand, it sure is important to get through the first two games without a loss, because then your opponents have to use up their pitching staffs before you have to play again.