Paul Maineri had an interesting choice to make heading into this weekend. His team had already clinched the SEC West championship, and Vanderbilt had already clinched the overall SEC championship. LSU was also a lock to receive a national seed in the NCAA Tournament, regardless of what happened against Ole Miss. Essentially, nothing was going to be won, or lost, this weekend. So Maineri could have beat his fists on the table and tried like hell to convince his players that this series was still important in efforts to maintain some momentum heading into the post-season. Or, he could rest his regular players and let the team have some fun in the process. When it became clear that Aaron Nola could use a week off to rest his arm and that Jacoby Jones would have to miss this weekend anyway due to an injury, it really guided his decision to rest several players this weekend...and it certainly looks like he made the right decision.
LSU won the series and built momentum anyway.
Cody Glenn had yet another very good start, his fourth in a row. He was perhaps a tad less sharp than he has been recently. Ole Miss got some really good swings off Glenn but at the end of the day, he allowed just one run in seven innings. He also did not walk a batter, which tells me that he is getting more confident and was content to fill up the strike zone and to let his defense make plays behind him. Over his last four starts, Glenn has allowed just four earned runs in 28.1 innings (1.27 ERA) with 16 strikeouts against four walks. The consistency that Glenn has shown during the final stretch of SEC play has been extremely encouraging. To have a guy pitching that well as your number three starter bodes very well in a Super Regional format.
Thursday's game was also a lot of fun because LSU hit four home runs including one inside the parker by Raph Rhymes.
Friday night was a really special night at The Box. The 1993 National Championship Team was honored for the 20th anniversary of their title, and the field was dedicated to Skip Bertman. If that weren't enough, the game was outstanding. Paul Maineri went with a host of pitchers to try and fill in for Aaron Nola. Kurt McCune started and pitched four innings, allowing just one run. McCune wasn't great. He hit a couple of batters, walked one and surrendered three hits. But the results were fine. Then after LSU fell behind by a run, Raph Rhymes came through with some late inning heroics, launching a two run homer in the eighth inning to give LSU the lead for good.
On Saturday, everyone got to play. Mason Katz and Raph Rhymes started the game, but only for the formality of being pulled off the field to an adoring crowd on Senior Day. All of the other regular starters were on the bench, and many of the subs got the opportunity to play a full game. Going against Ole Miss ace and possible first round draft pick Bobby Wahl, it was tough to see LSU scoring many runs. Apparently, nobody bothered to tell LSU's backups that they weren't supposed to hit. LSU hammered out six runs on six hits and Wahl didn't make it out of the third inning. It was his shortest outing of the year. LSU established a 7-2 lead but unfortunately couldn't hold on.
Ryan Eades and the LSU bullpen got a little too carried away with the "we're just having fun today" theme and allowed Ole Miss to claw themselves back into the game and ultimately win it. Eades was not sharp, and this was his worst outing since his start against Alabama on April 20. Once Ole Miss got a little momentum going, it was tough for LSU to stop it. Brent Bonvillain and Kevin Berry didn't fare a whole lot better than Eades and could not hold the lead. So it's a little disappointing that LSU couldn't get a win when their second string performed so well against Bobby Wahl. But the vibe after this game was still a positive one and the team seems to have benefited from the way things played out. I think Randy Rosetta did a great job of capturing that in this game recap.
It was nice to see Mason Katz hit one out on Thursday. He has been stuck on 13 home runs for over a month and was probably feeling a little pressure to get #14. It seemed to have worked because Katz was 5 for 9 on the weekend with a pair of doubles to go along with the home run.
For the second straight weekend, Mark Laird hit the ball well. After going 4 for 8 against Texas A&M, Laird was 3 for 7 against Ole Miss. He was also 2 for 3 against UNO last Tuesday. After being in a free fall for over a month, his batting average has now creeped back up to .291. Needless to say, he's starting to hit again at exactly the right time.
LSU now heads to Hoover for the SEC Tournament and will face the winner of the Alabama vs. Auburn game on Wednesday. Aaron Nola will start Game 1 of the tournament for LSU. With the exception of being a little uneasy about Ryan Eades, I absolutely love where LSU is as a team as they head towards the postseason.
Game 1 Highlights
Game 2 Highlights
Game 3 Highlights