OMAHA, Neb. -- Monday night turned into a bad night at the office for LSU. A really bad night. Oregon State steamrolled the Tigers 13-1 in a second-round game of the College World Series, LSU’s worst loss here since a 20-6 setback vs. Cal State Fullerton in 1994.
The good news: The Tigers (49-18) get a chance to bounce back when they take on Florida State (46-22) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in an elimination game.
Here is what LSU coach Paul Mainieri, Caleb Gilbert and Zach Watson had to say after the humbling setback.
“It wasn't what we expected or hoped for, obviously. A heck of a way for a 17-game winning streak to end. But just right from the start things didn't go well for us.
“Eric missed a spot on a two-strike pitch to their 3 hole hitter and got an RBI single there in the first inning, looked like he was settling in, was going to do great, and his forearms tightened up again, which is what happened a week ago after an inter-squad game.
“We had done – he had gone through a bunch of rehab and threw a couple of side sessions and felt great, felt 100 percent. His warm-ups today in the bullpen were great. His first two innings were great.
“And then on the third pitch of his warm-ups for the third inning, he just felt it tighten up again.
“And so obviously we had to take him out. We don't think it's anything serious. I think it's just a fatigued muscle. He's pitched more innings this year than he ever has, and I think he's running a little bit dry.
“So we'll see if he'll be available if we're fortunate enough to make it to the final round. But we're just not sure.
“After that I thought Caleb did a really nice job for us to keep us in the game there. But we were having a tough time solving their pitcher. He threw a lot of off-speed pitches and pitched backwards an awful lot.
“We kind of knew what to expect, but we just didn't probably have as good of approach as we needed to. So if we get a chance to face him again, we'll have to reanalyze our approach, and hopefully we'll be better. And walking 12 batters and hitting a batter, making an infield error, you can't do that against anybody, much less a team like Oregon State. Every time we made a mistake, they took advantage of it.
“So you give a lot of credit to Oregon State. They've got an excellent ballclub. Well coached. Every mistake we made, they took advantage of it. And they just are a very sound fundamental team. I think we are, too, we just didn't look like it tonight.
“But our whole goal now is to put this behind us as quickly as we can. We'll take a day of practice tomorrow and get ourselves ready for Florida State on Wednesday. It's a big game. We'll go after -- let Poché go after the record for winning -- become the winningest pitcher in school history. We'll try to win our 50th game.
“We've got a lot to play for. And we'll just take it one at a time, and hopefully we can get another shot at Oregon State later in the week.
Question: Caleb, Coach mentioned seemed like whenever you guys made a mistake, they took advantage of it. How difficult is it to kind of keep them at bay, and what makes that offense so hard to contain?
“They're definitely a scrappy offense. I thought I was making some good pitches. They would just foul it off, and have to go right back at it, do it again. Getting me deep in counts as far as running up my pitch count a little bit. And just couldn't get that put away when it was crunch time.
Q: Caleb, with their pitching staff and the way Fehmel was going, did you guys feel like you had to be almost perfect on the mound?
“No, not at all. The defense I had behind me, I had faith in every one of those guys. And A.D. calling the pitches and Pap behind the plate, I was there to execute pitches and get guys out and try to get back in the dugout as fast as possible.
Q: Caleb, you've been in this situation lately in the long relief role, but you probably weren't expecting to come in in the third inning today. How fast did you have to kind of get ready to go in there?
“I mean, it wasn't anything unusual for me, because I like to get going. And I can get hot pretty fast. So it honestly felt good just to get comfortable warming up on the mound that I was going to be pitching on.
Q: Zach, when you are prepared for a guy to be pitching backwards the way Bryce did, what makes it so difficult to hit him anyway, knowing what to expect?
“Well, I mean, he wasn't just throwing the same to every batter. It was offspeed fastball and you never knew what was going to come next. Some batters, they start off with a curveball and some fastballs, and he makes his pitches very good. And we just struggled to hit him.
Q: When Eric went out there, seemed like everything was kind of tight and he was doing a good job there. But is that kind of like a hard thing to overcome when you're kind of counting on that guy to give you a big outing and you have to go to your bullpen right away?
“It certainly wasn't what we had hoped for, that's for sure. I thought he was throwing the ball really well. They were being really aggressive. The game started off tough for us. The kid put down a beautiful bunt and hit and ran and got the guy to second base, and Eric had the 3 hole hitter, missed a couple of good changeups, and then we tried to jam him and the ball just tailed back over the plate a little bit and he gave up the RBI single.
“But other than that, I thought Eric was throwing the ball really well and we figured we'd get to their pitcher eventually.
“But when all of a sudden you have to take one of your starting pitchers out after two innings, obviously it's going to tax your staff.
“And Gilbert I thought was really good. But like you said, they ran his pitch count up, fought off an awful lot of pitchers, which is what good hitters and teams do. They were very pesky. And I just thought it was time to get Caleb out of there, and we gave some other guys an opportunity, and most of them had a difficult time throwing strikes.
“We went to Hunter Newman early to keep us in the game, and KJ hit that first pitch grand slam and it kind of busted it open at that point.
“So it was a difficult night for the Tigers, but we still have breath and we'll bounce back on Wednesday, one game at a time from this point on. Didn't Coastal lose a game early last year and came back? So it's been done before. It's not the easiest route. But fortunately there's some days off that allow your pitching staff to recover a little bit. And we're going to face a tough ball team on Wednesday in Florida State.
“And, you know, we've just got to get the job done Wednesday and then live to play another day on Friday. Take it one at a time.
Q: Kind of talked about it in your opening statement, but just how much pressure does Oregon State put on teams to kind of play mistake-free baseball?
“They're really well coached. They've got some nice ballplayers. And they know their roles. The two kids at the top of their order, they make them go.
“And, you know, I don't see weaknesses in their team. They've got a really good team. That's why they've only lost four games in -- what's it been now? 60 games. That's ridiculous.
“But you give them a lot of credit. They've got an outstanding ballclub. And we knew we'd have to play a really good game. And I think when Eric Walker went out, it just put us behind the 8 ball there and we weren't very competitive tonight. And this doesn't happen to us very frequently. I can't recall it happening another time this year, I can't remember if it did. But it wasn't much fun out there tonight for us.
Q: I believe this is the most walks you've seen an LSU team give up since your time here. This as bad a night command-wise as you've seen, and what was the issue?
“It was tough. The best pitch in baseball is a strike. I've seen a lot of games in my life, over 2,000 of them. But when you walk a lot of batters, you greatly reduce your chances of winning. I've learned that.
“And some of the guys that we brought in haven't pitched a lot, and that's probably why, because they haven't thrown enough strikes to pitch a lot. And hopefully the next time they get opportunities, they'll be a little bit better.
“Nick Bush came in, got a couple of big outs for us and walked the lead-off batter the next inning. We've just got to get better from there.
“I know the kids are trying. It's a tough environment for their first time at a College World Series and getting in the game. So hopefully if they get other opportunities this week, they'll be better.
Q: Knowing your team as you do, do you feel like you're going to have to use a little psychology to get them to put this game behind them, or do you feel like they'll be able to do that and bounce back two days from now?
“That's my job. If things aren't -- we won 17 in a row, but that's not the way it normally is. Winning 17 in a row is difficult to do. So we're used to the valleys and the peaks and the valleys and the peaks. I mean, this is what college athletics and competitive athletics are.
“So my job is to get them into the right frame of mind. And they will be. I already talked to them a little bit after the game when we huddled out there. This is why when you talk about winning the national championship, it seems like a daunting task now. We've got to win three more games just to get out of our bracket and then two more. We need to win five more games to do it. Had we won tonight, we only had three more to do.
“So if you look at it that way, it seems too daunting. That's why all we've got to focus on is Wednesday's game against Florida State. Florida State's got an excellent ballclub. They'll be ready to play, and we've got to be ready to play as well, and it's going to take everything we can do to win a game.
“And if we're fortunate enough to win on Wednesday, we've got another day off and a line ready on Friday. If we're able to win on Friday, then you figure something out for Saturday. That's the best you can do.
“But if you think too far ahead, it's overwhelming. So you just think about Wednesday, Florida State, Mike Martin, great coach, great team. We've got to get ready to play for those guys."