It started off as a really good game. Landon Marceaux wasn’t necessarily matching Kumar Rocker, but he was pitching well and keeping LSU to within a run of Vanderbilt.
And then the fifth inning happened and the game got ugly.
Vanderbilt scored four runs in the inning on four hits and didn’t look back, blowing out LSU 13-1 in game one of a must-win for the Tigers.
With the loss, the Tigers are now 1-6 in SEC play, their worst conference start since 1969.
“It ended up being not a pretty sight,” Mainieri said. “It wasn’t one of our most proud moments, that’s for sure.”
Marceaux’s night wasn’t quite as bad as his line indicates, throwing 5.1 innings with nine runs allowed (eight earned) with two walks and three strikeouts. Through the first four innings he only had one run allowed on two hits, which gave Vanderbilt the lead in the third inning.
But he was hit hard in the fifth and sixth innings, allowing back to back leadoff hits in the sixth that came around to score to signal the start of the blowout. The Commodores again scored four runs on four hits, this time with an error in the mix. The next inning they scored two more runs on three hits.
“They were like sharks in the water,” Mainieri said. “When they smelled blood tonight, they went for it and unfortunately we were the chum.”
Future number one overall pick Kumar Rocker wasn’t as dominant as he usually is, but he still kept the Tiger hitters arrested well, throwing six innings with just one earned run allowed on four hits and no walks with eight strikeouts.
“He was just coming right at us,” LSU outfield Dylan Crews said. “He was being aggressive and we weren’t being aggressive on our end. We were falling behind sometimes. He did a good job out there, so hats off to him.”
LSU got a run back in the bottom of the sixth when Tre Morgan reached on a leadoff single and came around to score on another single from Dylan Crews. That would be all for the Tigers though, and Vanderbilt would make up for it with some insurance runs later in the game.
“I’m very disappointed in what we represented out there tonight,” Mainieri said.
Perhaps a big reason for LSU’s slow and frustrating start is the inordinate amount of freshman and sophomores in the LSU lineup. Out of the LSU starting nine, only two have participated in the SEC Tournament. The Tigers are wildly talented but wholly inexperienced, and that inexperience has cost them dearly against three teams all ranked in the top 10.
“The first time around this league, there’s an adjustment,” Mainieri said. “There’s an adjustment physically, there’s an adjustment skills-wise, there’s an adjustment mentally. Seven out of the nine players in our lineup, this is their first time through the SEC. There’s a huge adjustment in a lot of ways for them.”
Mainieri says it reminds him of his 2007 squad which had four everyday freshman in the lineup. The likes of Blake Dean, Sean Ochinko, Ryan Schmipf and Jared Mitchell struggled at times, but in the end they were better for it.
“It was hard to endure some days,” Mainieri said. “But they gained an awful lot of experience.”
LSU still faces an uphill battle against Vandy and Jack Leiter on Friday, but Mainieri and the Tigers expressed a desire to get back out on the field and redeem themselves.
“This uniform that we wear, we’re representing a great history and a great tradition of this program,” Mainieri said. “A lot of great players have come before us. We can go one of two ways, we can feel sorry for ourselves and point fingers or we can go out there tomorrow night with energy and enthusiasm and the play the game the right way and represent the uniform the way it’s supposed to be represented.”
“I feel like tomorrow we’re going to come out as a whole different team and a whole different ballclub and show who we really are,” Crews said.