OMAHA, Neb. — An SEC title and 54 wins, but LSU’s season ends in massive disappointment.
The Tigers’ run at the College World Series came to an end Thursday in an 8-4 defeat by TCU, the same team that sent them into the losers’ bracket four days prior. It’s LSU’s second straight CWS appearance that finishes prematurely, the Tigers exiting again before the championship series.
LSU went down mostly with a whimper, finishing with only seven hits, three of which didn’t come until the ninth inning. That “Jack Wholestaff” approach failed to make up for LSU’s lack of a third starter, and the Tigers go back to Baton Rouge without a trophy.
“We've won a lot of games,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We just couldn't win the last game of the year.”
The careers end for eight of the nine players in the starting lineup, four seniors and four juniors with professional futures.
“Every time we took the field, we left it all out there,” said Kade Scivicque, one of those seniors. “The best of luck to the guys coming behind us. They know what it takes now.”
The game started promisingly though. Jake Fraley drew a one-out walk in the first, stole second and scored on a single by Kade Scivicque. The Tigers were previously 22-0 in games they scored in the first inning.
But this turned into the lone exception.
Zac Person, the first of eight LSU pitchers to throw Thursday, got into trouble in the second inning. He gave up consecutive singles to start the frame and walked a batter to load the bases. He walked another to tie it and faced one more batter before coming out of the game.
Hunter Newman entered and gave up a hit that brought in both of the runners Person let on base.
“If we had that one pitcher we felt we could run out there for six or seven good innings, we would have started that pitcher,” Mainieri said. “But the guys on our staff, aren’t at that point right now.”
LSU did tie it in the next inning. Alex Bregman reached on an infield single before Jake Fraley brought him home with a triple. Fraley scored on a wild pitch to tie it 3-3.
The Tiger offense went quiet from there though. TCU brought in reliever Trey Teakell with one out in the fourth. He retired all 13 batters he faced, leaving LSU hitless for 5 1/3 innings.
“I thought we'd settled the game down,” Mainieri said. “Then they brought in the relief pitcher and we just couldn't do much with them the rest of the way.”
But LSU’s bullpen bit them once again.
With the game still tied, Austin Bain walked the leadoff man in the fifth. He struck out the next but walked another to put two on. TCU then got a double to bring in one, before the next batter plated two more off Jake Godfrey with a single to right.
TCU tacked on two more in the seventh off Jesse Stallings with the game already out of reach.
LSU did mount a small rally in the ninth, getting a run on three hits with the game-tying run on deck. But Jared Foster struck out swinging on three pitches to end the Tigers’ season in defeat.
“It's sometimes unfair that teams get judged at LSU whether or not they won the last game of the year or not,” Mainieri said. “These kids played their hearts out all year.
The focus will be on the pitchers that didn’t throw well Thursday, but there were some that did. Newman struck out three in 1 2/3 innings, and Doug Norman worked a perfect sixth.
Critics quickly emerged to question why those guys didn’t stay in the game longer.
“I just felt that our best chance was going to be with the way we did it,” Mainieri said. “And unfortunately we just couldn't hold them to a low enough run total.”
That won’t be where Mainieri lays the blame though. LSU’s exit from this year’s CWS can be explained simply.
“We just ran into a team here in Omaha that played better than us,” Mainieri said.
LSU falls short, season ends in the CWS
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