30 Greatest Tigers of the Decade: #3 Louis Coleman

#3 Louis Coleman


Louis Coleman is not the most talented pitcher in the history of LSU, Ben McDonald is.  Heck, Coleman probably wasn't even the most talented pitcher on his own team, as Anthony Ranaudo is a possible #1 overall pick.  Coleman is too small, his arm angle is a little weird, and he doesn't have overpowering stuff.  He simply gets people out, and usually in the tightest of spots.  Coleman is perhaps the greatest pitcher to ever don the purple and gold, based on results.

First, an admission.  I love Louis Coleman (not on a personal level, we've never met).  There are players you root for and then there's that other level of player that is in your own personal elite.  For me, my favorite Tigers ever are Kevin Mawae, Vernel Singleton, and Louis Coleman.  That's the list.  I like guys who bleed purple and gold.  I'm just warning you, I cannot be objective about Coleman in the slightest.  He was an All-American his final two seasons, but that just scratches the surface.  I hate to use the cliche, but Coleman was a winner. 

Louis Coleman wasn't a starter for LSU until April of his freshman year, which is a fairly typical developmental curve.  I mean, most freshman don't get to start weekend games.  Coleman was not just a weekend starter by the end of the season, he was the Friday starter by the end of April.  If Skip had one flaw as a coach, it would be the way he overused pitchers, and Smoke emulated his mentor in that regard.  Coleman endured large pitch counts as a freshman, including a 138 pitch outing against Alabama.  So it came as no surprise that his career went off the rails a bit in his sophomore year, as injuries dogged him and his ERA bloated to 5.59 ERA.  He wouldn't be the first college pitcher to have a promising debut and then flash out due to overuse, and Tiger fans moved on before his junior year.  He was just another arm on the slag heap.

Paul Mainieri then saved Coleman's career.  Instead of rushing his recovering pitcher back in the rotation, and the 2008 team definitely needed help in that regard, he used Coleman as a relief ace.  Coleman thrived in that role, throwing 55.1 innings over 23 games and posting an 8-1 record with 2 saves.  Oh, he also led the team with a 1.95 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 62/10.  Most of that performance was post-April 15th.  Mainieri delayed Coleman's season, and he threw 42 of his 55 innings after April 15.  Coleman responded by saving his best work for the postseason: 3-1 and a 2.61 ERA over 7 games.  He won the SEC tourney title game, pitching six scoreless innings in relief, only allowing three baserunners.  He was the pitcher of record during the Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played In the Box, going three scoreless innings to minimize the damage in a 7-2 game before the bats made their remarkable rally against UC-Irvine.  People tend to forget the rally was in the eighth inning, and Coleman calmly walked out in the ninth and mowed down the Anteaters in order.  He pitched in all three games in Omaha, and earned the first win by a Tiger pitcher in Rosenblatt since 2000. 

He turned down the pros to return for his senior year as the team's designated bullpen ace.  But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming the next relief ace, the rotation unexpectedly struggled and Coleman took up the mantle again as a weekend starter.  And, of course, he was dominant.  Over 129 innings, he posted a 2.93 ERA and a K/BB ration of 142/23.  That, by the way, is a ridiculously good ratio.  But Coleman's reputation is built on winning, and winning the big games.  He was 3-0 during the NCAA tournament his senior, and he was the man on the mound in every series clinching game: he allowed 1 run in 7.2 innings against Minnesota in the Baton Rouge Regional and then shut down Rice to three runs over 8 innings in the clinching Super Regional game.  When LSU finally won the College World Series against Texas, it was Coleman on the mound for the final two innings.  Of course.  When LSU won a big game, it always seemed that Coleman was the pitcher on the mound. 

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