LSU sent out what looked like a junior varsity squad on Saturday and nearly completed the sweep of Ole Miss at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tiger reserves led at one point by five after a seven-run third inning but were unable to hold on, falling 11-9 in the final regular season game of 2013. With rarely-used seniors Casey Yocom and Alex Edward starring in the lineup on Senior Day, LSU put on a show offensively, but a five-run seventh for the Rebels proved to be the difference.
"That was one of the funnest games I've ever been a part of," said Mason Katz, who only played one inning. "I'm sure nobody except for the guys in the dugout believed we could win this game, but we knew we could. It's unfortunate we lost. The guys played so hard, but I'm proud of our team."
As the seniors were honored pregame, LSU coach Paul Mainieri drew up an unorthodox lineup that included mostly backups and had seniors Raph Rhymes and Katz at the top of the order.
Rhymes and Katz each played one inning before getting pulled to a standing ovation from the crowd before the start of the second inning. Andrew Stevenson replaced Rhymes in the outfield, and Nate Fury, a relief pitcher and childhood friend of Katz, came in for the senior from Harahan.
"I wouldn't want anybody else to replace me," Katz said. "He came out there, ran out to me and gave me a hug. He had a blast out there."
LSU fell behind early as Ole Miss scored a pair of runs off Ryan Eades in the second inning. Eades allowed the leadoff man Andrew Mistone to reach on a single up the middle before Preston Overbey brought him home with a homer to left.
But the Tigers roared back, dropping seven runs in the third off Ole Miss starter Bobby Wahl, a potential first-round pick in the MLB Draft.
Yocom and Andrew Stevenson started the hit parade with consecutive singles to put runners on the corners. After Fury struck out for the first out, three consecutive hitters recorded RBI singles to put LSU back on top.
A sacrifice fly by Chris Chinea brought in one more. Michael Barash walked to put two on for Jared Foster, who drove in another run with a double to left. Yocom then tacked on two more runs with a single to right-center.
"That inning was pretty significant to display how deep our team is," Yocom said. "To put up seven runs, it shows how talented the guys off the bench can be."
Ole Miss responded in the next half-inning though as SS Austin Anderson launched a three-run homer to right field that cut the LSU lead to 7-5. In his final start before the SEC Tournament, Eades surrendered five runs on seven hits in four innings of work.
LSU would add a little more cushion in the sixth as Foster notched his second RBI and Yocom his third.
"Personally, it gives me a lot of confidence," said Yocom, who finished 4-for-5 at the plate. "Hopefully I can just continue to help the team in any way. It doesn't matter to me as long as we win."
But two senior relievers let down LSU as Ole Miss answered for five runs in the seventh.
After Brent Bonvillain worked 2 1/3 hitless innings, he put two base runners on with one out in the seventh before Kevin Berry came on to replace him. Berry allowed a three-run homer to Overbey, his second of the day, and another homer to Will Allen, a two-run shot after Will Jamison's double.
Ole Miss would add one more in the eighth off consecutive singles by Stuart Turner and Mistone. Turner scored on a double play by Sikes Orvis.
LSU still had a glimmer of hope in the ninth as Chinea came up with two outs, serving as the potential game-winning run. But with runners on first and second, Chinea grounded out to short, putting an end to the winningest regular season in LSU history.
"Those guys came out and they weren't afraid," Katz said. "They were so ready to play, that it shows how good of a team we are. We're so deep."
Discuss LSU's game on the TSD Message Board
After Saturday's results, the seeds for the SEC Tournament are now official. LSU will be a No. 2 seed and face the winner of No. 7 Alabama vs. No. 10 Auburn on Tuesday. For the full list of first-round games, head to the TSD Message Board.
SEC Tournament Seeds and first-round pairings
LSU reserves fall to Ole Miss, 11-9
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