"It's not an awe inspiring offense, but it's good enough." - Head Coach Paul Mainieri
It was a game that was the season in a nutshell. All of the strengths and weaknesses, the joys and frustrations of watching the 2012 Tigers were on full display as LSU rallied to defeat Oregon St. 6-5 in 10 innings and advance to a home hosted Super Regional for the 1st time since 2009.
LSU took a big 3-0 in the first, chased away the Beaver starter with a 2 run bomb by Rhymes (the only homer of the Regional), and appeared to be cruising to a blowout victory over an understandably gassed Oregon St. team that had just spent all afternoon surviving an elimination game against ULM. But then LSU just chilled for 5 innings as the Beavers clawed their way back. Ryan Eades was neither great nor terrible in his 9H, 5R, 5K, 5 2/3 IP performance, but he was left in two batters too long, an ongoing frustration I have with Mainieri and his use of relief in general. Rumbelow was warmed up and by TV accounts was ready to go when Eades had his first mound visit in the 6th, with 2 on and 2 out and the game tied. He proceeded to HBP and give up a 2 RBI single that gave OSU the lead before being relieved. Just about everyone who was watching the game knew it was time to pull him, but Mainieri left him in, probably in some thought that he could just power through and get the final out. It didn't happen, and that's the kind of mistake that can cost you games.
So we're left in the 7th with LSU against the ropes, down 2, with an offense that had been completely shut down by Scott Schultz, whose 3H, 2R, 9K, 8 2/3 IP outing was the best performance by an opposing pitcher in Alex Box this side of MSU's Stratton (Whose Bulldogs were eliminated by Samford) or Appy St.'s Arrowwood (Appy goes for the UVA Regional crown today). LSU had just 1 baserunner in the 5 intervening innings and seemed hopeless at the plate. LSU starts the 7th with a HBP and a free baserunner on a fielding error, but kills itself with a horrible double steal move that left just the lead runner at 3B. He scored on another freak bouncer at the OSU 3B, who had 4 errors on the night, but that would be all in the inning.
After a horrible 1-2-3 8th, LSU was in the final frame, down 1 and needing production from an offense that wasn't there. But finally, LSU got to Schultz with a pair of double liners to the walls from Ross and Edward that brought the tying run home. OSU had to pull Schultz to start the 10th, but they clearly did not have what they wanted in relief as LSU touched up 4 Bever relievers for a run by Austin Nola off a WP and loading the bases. But LSU would leave them loaded and would hand the 1 run save opportunity to Nick Goody. To say I and the collective LSU fan base was nervous would be an understatement, but Goody flipped the switch and was LIGHTS OUT, K'ing the side, including two batters who were responsible for 3 of OSU's 4 runs. It was a second straight night of dominance by the reliever and maybe we can stop being worried about him.
The ups and downs of LSU baseball in 2012. Screaming offense out of the gate, followed by dead cold. Boneheaded baserunning mistakes paired with an All-American infield. 7 men left on base including bases loaded with no outs. But somehow, with the largest crowds in Alex Box history behind them, the Tigers manage to pull through. I don't know if I can take a summer of the Cardiac Cats, but I'm not sure I would have it any other way.
For now, the Tigers rest and wait. Miami was embarrassed to a 2 and cue finish in their regional, so we await tonight's final game between Terry Rooney's (Mainieri's 1st LSU pitching coach) UCF and plucky upstart 4 seed Stony Brook. There is also the small matter of the MLB Draft, also this evening. I think I'll setup a Live Watch thread for both later today once I gather some more information.
2012 Baton Rouge Regional All-Tournament Team
MOP: Austin Nola, LSU
P Kevin Gausman, LSU
P Aaron Nola, LSU
C Ty Ross, LSU *
1B Joey Rapp, UL-Monroe
2B John Tommasini, Oregon St.
SS Austin Nola, LSU *
3B Judd Edwards, UL-Monroe
OF Michael Conforto, Oregon St.
OF Ryan Barnes, Oregon St.
OF Joey Matthews, Oregon St.
DH Danny Hayes, Oregon St.