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Baseball Finally Runs Out of Gas in Corvallis

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Tigers sent home by Oregon State.

It wasn’t exactly unexpected, but that didn’t make watching LSU’s dismantling at the hands of Oregon St. any less painful. The 14-1 and 12-0 losses were the largest margins of defeat of the year (though there were many other losses this year that come close) and if you stand back a step and just look at the matchup on paper, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Oregon St, the No. 3-overall National Seed, who defeated LSU 13-1 in Omaha last year before LSU came back and eliminated them, returned 8 of 9 starters from last year’s squad and also had two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the year Luke Heimlich in their rotation this time around. Meanwhile, LSU traveled to Corvallis having lost large chunk of the starting lineup and pitching staff from last year’s meetings to the draft and graduation, and with the following MASH unit stuck on the bench.

  • P Eric Walker (Tommy John)
  • P Nick Storz (shoulder)
  • SS Josh Smith (back)
  • P AJ Labas (arm soreness)
  • P Ma’Khail Hilliard (arm soreness)

That’s four critical arms, two projected starters and two freshmen who had grown into starying roles through the season, and your starting shortstop from the beginning of the year, many moons ago. Against a team with two, maybe three first-round draft picks and another pitcher who, if not for his awful personal issues, would have been a first-round pick last year.

It’s not as if LSU went into this weekend to lay down and die either. On Sunday especially, when Northwestern State of all teams put LSU’s back against the wall, the Tigers did what they had done all year, find a way to scratch and claw and keep their head above water just enough for the Demons to make a mistake, and then pounce on them and steal the victory.

It’s also not correct to say LSU played perfectly and were just beat by the better team. After having a decent week in Hoover, some of LSU’s worst tendencies on offense came back with a furious vengeance. For the weekend, the Tigers stranded 29, batted 6-of-34 with Runners In Scoring Position, 0-4 with the bases loaded, and grounded into 4 double plays. I still don’t think LSU could have pulled the upset off this weekend, but the losses could have been a little less demoralizing.

While the worst parts of the fan base wail about how awful this year was, crying into their hands full of unused season tickets that they bought just so they could skip the line to buy postseason tickets for a regional that never came (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOU LAZY BUMS), there is always room for reasonable discussion about change. Offensive production has been trending down the last two seasons since Andy Cannizaro left for State, but it’s not down as much as you think (while not the end-all of statistics, team batting average has only fallen from .295 to .283) and it’s tough to say if Micah Gibbs will come back as the hitting coach from the “front office” after being sidelined on the eve of the season.

We’d all like to just put this season to bed and look ahead, but there’s also the little matter of the MLB draft to deal with this week. Luke Johnson in The Advocate has a great primer to read, but to summarize: The Zachs, Watson and Hess, are likely to have their name called in the first 2 rounds, while Jake Slaughter, Nick Bush, and all the juniors and seniors are eligible. Losing someone like Antoine Duplantis would be a significant blow to next year’s roster. LSU also has four commits who are projected in the Top 120s.

We’ll hear from Mainieri at least one more time after the draft before things shut down for the summer. There’s also the matter of fending off Mississippi State again in their ongoing head coaching search. I’ll end with last night’s post game, where Austin Bain reflected on his final night as a Tiger.