The old joke goes something like this: What do you get when you play a country song backwards? You get your house back, your job back, and your wife comes home.
Well, LSU found out what happens when you play Sunday's game backwards. While Sunday's game started off so promising and then quickly went off the rails, today's elimination game was the complete opposite. The game could not have had a worse start, and then suddenly LSU bounced back and turned this into a huge win.
First off, let's give tons of credit to Paul Mainieri. The M.O. on Mainieri is that he is a passive game manager, and through inaction, he lets the game get away from the team sometime. Well, he went completely against type by announcing radical changes to the batting lineup. He moved Bregman to the leadoff spot, Scivicque to the 3-hole, Sciambra to the middle of the order, and Laird all the way back to the 8-slot.
This was either a move to give a struggling offense a much-needed kick in the pants, or this was the ultimate panic move. The important thing is that Mainieri opened himself up to a whole host of criticism. This was not managing to avoid second guessing, this was sticking your neck as far out as one could.
The moves paid off. Bregman got on base the first four times at the plate, including leading off the inning on three different occasions. Sciambra went 2 for 3 before being lifted for a pinch hitter. And Scivicque and Laird each had multi-hit outings and the only two extra base hits of the game. Mainieri took a risk, and that risk paid off in spades.
However, the offense had to share the spotlight with Alex Lange, who salvaged an awful 1st inning into a brilliant complete game start. Lange gave up four hits (including a triple), a walk, and three runs in the opening frame. LSU dug itself an immediate 3-0 hole and would have to play from behind, not one of the offense's top attributes.
Not only did the offense come through rather quickly, only waiting until the third inning to explode for four runs off of six hits, but Lange made sure that outburst would hold up. After that disastrous first, he pitched 8 more innings, allowing two hits, one walk, and no runs while striking out ten.
LSU needed its stars to play like stars, and that's precisely what they did. Bregman was a near impossible out while also making a seemingly unending number of putouts in the field. Scivicque opened up the scoring with his RBI single, and would late score the late insurance run after his booming double. But Alex Lange was the guy who shone brightest of all.
Lange took a struggling team and put them on his back. He got stronger as his pitch count got higher, which is not supposed to happen. Fullerton never even threatened after the opening frame, meekly going down, one for their last twelve. The lone hit in the final three frames was a two-out single wedged between three consecutive strikeouts.
Now, the real work begins. LSU won't have its ace pitcher to rely on the rest of the way through the loser's bracket. The Tigers must find a way to beat the TCU-Vandy loser once and then the winner twice. All without the best player on the field today.
But that is tomorrow's problem. Today, it was all about avoiding going oh-for-TD Ameritrade. LSU hasn't tasted Omaha's barbecue just yet, but it did finally taste victory for the first time in this park. It tasted great. Time for seconds.