Road series, so no pictures and only Thursday's video highlights.
The Tigers could not pull off the impossible in Starkvegas this weekend as the season replayed itself in a single series to the delight and horror of us all. Unable to qualify for Hoover for only the second time since 1985 (and the 2nd time in the last 5 years), LSU is now in the unfamiliar position of waiting to find out our next destination and if there even is another game this season.
The 17-1 blowout on Thursday was the high mark of the season in both runs scored and margin of victory as LSU had one of it's most complete games of the year. Every starter scored a run as LSU blasted the Bulldogs for 14 hits. This game was a brief glimpse at the sort of offensive production we were supposed to see with the new bats this season as Raph Rhymes and Mason Katz both had 2 doubles to accompany the homers by Mikie Mahtook and JaCoby Jones. Kevin Gausman's second excellent starting performance in a row (1 run on 4 hits, 7Ks 1BB in 7.2 IP) is very encouraging, as he has adapted to the "Friday Night" role very well.
The recurring nightmare of this season reared it's ugly head on Friday as LSU yet again squandered a meager early lead at the last possible moment. Up 5-0 in the 3rd, MSU slowly chipped away at the LSU lead while 4 baserunning mistakes including back-to-back runners thrown out at home in the 4th kept the Tigers off the board for the rest of the night, leading to a 5-4 LSU lead after 7. It had been quite a while since Matty Ott had had a high pressure, SEC save opportunity, but with Berry already having pitched 2 innings and losing effectiveness, he was the only option. The 8th went well enough as two ground balls handled excellently by Jones and a K put MSU down in order, but LSU failed to capitalize in the 9th, setting up a showdown between Ott and the 8-9-1 of the MSU order. It could only have been worse if Ott had given up a home run. A grounder into center with 2 on and 1 out tied the game, and to make matters worse, it was mishandled by Mahtook for his first error of the year allowing MSU to keep 2 RISP. Ott then intentionally walked MSU's BA leader Parks to get to Shepard, who sent a ground ball to 2B that went just off Jones glove, scoring the winning run and ending the game.
Saturday's finale started with a bit of a hangover for both teams as MSU had locked down a Hoover spot and LSU was eliminated. Freshman Ryan Eades was out for his 2nd SEC start and was alright, giving up 3 runs on 7 hits in 6 IP with only 2Ks, though 2 of the runs came on a homer in the 4th. LSU had jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the 3rd thanks to singles with men on by Katz and Mike Lowery, but State inched their way back to within 1 after 6. The fireworks really started in the bottom of the 7th with Ben Alsup pitching. After getting the first two outs, Alsup allowed a walk and a single that put runners on the corners for MSU's Parks. He hit a slow chopper that got picked up by Hanover on the run with a just in time throw to 1B for the inning ending out. Enraged at the call, Parks jumped up and spiked his batting helmet at the 1B ump and was immediately tossed. In the lead-off at bat in the 8th, Jones hit a grounder of his own to 3rd, but was able to beat the throw despite some more animated protests from the MSU 1B and MSU's coach. At this point the crowd was booing every pitch (and ringing those damn cowbells), but Rhymes shook it off to send a liner over the left wall for a 2 run homer. Alsup sat down the next 6 in order to hold on for the 6-3 win, securing the first road series victory of the year and removing a huge blemish from our NCAA resume. In the end though, the Tiger failed where so many have in the past, as MSU's streak of 36 years without being swept at home by LSU continues.
It will be odd spending the week watching and waiting to see where or even if LSU continues this up and down season. Most of the experts think we will get in, but we are in a tough spot as one of the last at large picks by many projections. With conference tournaments this week giving a few Cinderella's a shot at stealing a few automatic berths, LSU will have to root against upsets in other conferences.
Closer to home, LSU has interest to root against both UGA and Auburn in Hoover this week. Both teams have strong resumes that would get them in, but both have records at or just above .500 overall. NCAA rules disallow them from being selected if they end up below .500, potentially opening up additional at-large bids for LSU to take.
As for where LSU would end up, throw a dart at a map to get an accurate projection. With most of the conference tournaments yet to start, it's too early to guess what the regional locations will even be, let alone where LSU gets sent. If you asked me to guess though, I'd say we probably head west to another small park, forced to bring our own TV crew if we want to see it. If we are lucky it might be Rice in Houston or one of the many possible Texas regionals, if we aren't lucky it could be Oregon St. in Corvallis. (There is a good chance of a regional at Fullerton, but it is highly unlikely the NCAA would put us at a regional against a team we have already played)
NOTES OF INTEREST
- Mikie Mahtook had another great weekend, despite recording his first error of the season. He went 6 for 11, scoring 7 runs, 5 RBIs, 1 HR and reaching base for the 70th consecutive game.
- Dozar again got a start at catcher on Saturday, but was pulled in the 6th for Ty Ross after going 0 for 3.
- After a baserunning mistake, going 2 for 8 at the plate, and some questionable fielding in left on Friday, Watkins was subbed for Mike Lowery on Saturday. Lowery had taken advantage of previous sub opportunities at the plate and didn't disappoint, going 3 for 4 with a RBI.
(on hold this week for a much larger stat breakdown post later this week. I will have some free time on my hands, after all)
OTHER ACTION OF NOTE
- The SEC story you know, but if misery loves company, it's worth pointing out that Ole Miss collapsed in what was essentially a play-in game at Arkansas on Saturday, removing them from Hoover and putting them on even shakier ground than we are for the NCAAs.
- There is still no official word about Tennessee's coach being the first casualty of the off season, but it's probably just a formality at this point.
- In more Misery loves Company news, Tulane was swept at home by ECU, likely destroying the Greenies post-season hopes (they still have the CUSA tourney)
- In front of a crowd of 110, and after dropping the first 2 games to Smoke Laval's North Florida squad, UNO jumped out Saturday with consecutive home runs in the 1st and held on for a 3-2 victory in the last game for the school as a full D-1 member. UNO ends the season with a record of 4-50.
May I interest you in some questionable country music acts and Trace Adkins? (Seriously, look at that line up.)
NCAA Selection Show: Monday, May 30th. 11:30 am ESPN.
SEC Tournament (Wednesday-Saturday on Cox Sports, Sunday Champ game on ESPN, full tournament on ESPN3.com)
Again, we only have Thursday's game
Delayed UNO Highlights with interviews
Mahtook's Curtain Calls against UT last week