Well, that was pretty darn unbelievable.
You think we'd know better than to doubt this team, to doubt these Tigers. The comebacks have been pretty unbelievable this year. Kentucky, South Carolina, New Orleans, Alabama, just to name a few. It just seems that every time you think we're gonna lose, somebody (usually Dean or Clark), comes up huge. But this really felt like the end. Down 7-2 and showing no signs of life, it looked like this was a good example of a team needing disappointment to grow off for next year.
And then we came alive and the hits just kept falling. UCI's pitches couldn't find the strikezone. And a day which seemed to be marred by LSU's rotten luck and UCI's good fortune just completely changed. All of a sudden, it was LSU just finding the hole with their hits. All of a sudden, LSU runners were just beating the throw.
Because I was going to write about how one bad play can kick off a big inning. And not to be a party pooper, it's still a good point. Bradford double clutched on the throw to Gibbs on a suicide squeeze and the runner just beat the tag. If Bradford fields it and just throws home without taking an extra step and then putting anything on the throw, the runner is out by a mile and we're talking about how over-aggressive baserunning can just kill you. Instead, UCI scores and then they just kept getting hits. Just a bunch of dinks and bloops, but at the end of the 4th, it added up to a 7-2 lead. And it never would have happened if Bradofrd just makes the play.
Now, here's the difference between being a good strategist and a bad one: Luck.
In the top of the fourth, right before UCI's gambit of a suicide squeeze paid off because Bradford didn't make the play, LSU also ran for home. LeMaheiu hit a chopper to short with Gibbs on third. Gibbs ran on contact, the ball was a high chopper which the shortstop waited for, and then he made the throw home. The throw beat Gibbs but the catcher didn't get the tag down in time. But the umpire called Gibbs out anyway because, well, he can't call a consistent strike zone, so why do we think he can get a tag right? Because the ump missed the call, suddenly LSU made a terrible baserunner error instead of just being a ggressive and putting pressure on the defense.
And in the 9th, looking for an insurance run, LeMahieu (again) hit the ball to shallow centerfield. Dean made a break for home. The centerfielder was a sub for Linton, who had just left because of cramping, and he made perhaps the worst throw I have ever seen. Even then, Dean barely beat the tag. Suddenly, LSU are great baserunners who stole an important run.
If anything, Gibbs decision to try and take home was the better of the two. Only his decision didn't work and Dean's did. That's the way it goes sometimes. You can make the right call and it doesn;t work or you can make a bad decision and then get bailed out by a centerfielder who can't even throw the ball to the mound.
But that 9th inning makes everything go away. It was just one of those innings where every little thing worked for LSU and nothing worked for UCI. It was the complete opposite of the rest of this weekend. So now LSU has all of the momentum headed into Monday.
But momentum, as the saying goes, is tomorrow's starting pitcher. UCI will start Bryce Stowell (2.77 ERA, 101 K, 35 BB). So let's hope that's just an expression.