HOOVER, Ala. -- For the LSU Tigers, the descent was gradual against Mississippi State on Friday afternoon. The three-run lead the Tigers clung to for eight innings slipped away inch by inch.
In the ninth inning, the grip that looked so firm loosened. LSU's ordinarily reliable closer Nick Goody came on in what was to be the final frame of the game and was helpless to hold the lead. A double, a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly pulled the Bulldogs from Starkville, Miss., even at 3-3.
In the bottom of the 10th, the pressure became too much. With one out and Goody still on the mound, Mississippi State coach John Cohen walked up to the home plate umpire and spent several minutes looking over the lineup. LSU coach Paul Mainieri fumed as Goody was forced to wait. And then, after standing around for several minutes, the next batter hit a double, followed by a single off the glove of second baseman JaCoby Jones that sealed LSU’s fate, bringing home the game-winning run for Mississippi State, 4-3.
“It’s a very tough loss for us,” Mainieri said. “It was a game we seemingly had in hand. ... Unfortunately, it just didn’t go our way.”
Mainieri said he wasn’t pleased with the layoff his pitcher faced in the 10th inning.
“John had made some changes and somehow the umpire was confused about what changes were actually made,” Mainieri said. "He didn’t want somebody batting out of order, and quite frankly I was a little irritated.
“Our pitcher is out there trying to pitch and all of a sudden he’s got to stand there on the mound for several minutes -- like icing a free throw.”
The fifth-year coach of the Tigers admitted, though, that it was somewhat the fault of his offense for failing to score from the second inning on.
LSU starting pitcher Ryan Eades walked the tightrope for six innings, walking four batters and giving up four hits without surrendering a single run. While designated hitter Ty Ross praised Eades work on the mound, Mainieri was bullish about his erratic performance.
“He looked good and he was definitely pounding the zone better,” Ross said. “He just seemed more confident.”
Mainieri rebuffed him, saying, “I wasn’t as upbeat about Ryan’s performance as they were. His command was not very good.”
As down as Mainieri and the rest of the team was, being bounced from the SEC tournament is not the end of the Tigers’ road. Mainieri said the loss is a tough pill to swallow, but it was important to remember the trip to Hoover was just the beginning.
“We’ll analyze it, put it in the rear-view mirror, and get ready for next week,” Mainieri said. “Obviously, next week is what really matters as we go forward.”
LSU will learn where it will play in the NCAA tournament on Monday.