Luck of the Tigers

Twists and turns are only two ways to describe LSU's baseball season.

New head coach Paul Mainieri likely had other plans for his squad this season. Not many coaches would predict or wish upon their team the ups and downs LSU has gone through thus far, but that's baseball according to the new skipper.


Luck has played a large role in a series of outcomes this season, but luck has not always been on the Tigers side. Earlier in the season a walk-off home run was taken off the scoreboard against Kentucky following an unusual meeting by the officiating crew.


Home plate umpire Dennis McComb signaled a home run as Sean Ochinko rounded the bases with a boisterous crowd celebrating what looked to be a 7-6 LSU come-from-behind triumph.  However, the celebration was premature as third base umpire Jeff Head ruled the ball foul as the Tigers walking off the field. With all three umpires conferring, Head's call stood, even though he officially could not make the call.


Games like Sundays against Mississippi shows how just a little bit of luck can propel a team to victory according to Mainieri, even after 25 years of coaching.


"It was a strange game today," Mainieri said following Sundays 16-5 loss. "I told the players after the game it is not often you get beat 16-5 and really feel like you could have, or should have won the ball game. We make the game 3-2 and I think we have a chance. We bring in [Jared] Bradford, and I have never seen a kid have so much bad luck. I think Jared just had a lot of bad luck today."


Jared Bradford entered Sunday's contest in the fourth inning down 3-0 following a three-run home run by Evan Button. The blast off T.J. Forrest over the right field wall was his first of his career, an unusual feet considering heavy wind gusting in from outfield.


Mississippi batters had their way with Bradford in the fifth, adding four runs to their total on a series of small hits scattered across the infield. Mainieri said it seemed as though the Rebels knew exactly where LSU would not be.


"The worst thing [Bradford] did the whole inning was walk the lead off batter," Mainieri said. "I don't remember a hard hit ball the entire inning. We fought back, but it seemed more of the same. The ball just didn't bounce our way. It's a weird feeling when you get beat by such a big score, but with a few breaks you could have won the ballgame."


Considering how everything Friday and Saturday went LSU's way, Sunday was unfortunately for the Tigers a twist in luck.


"We had two good guys on the mound for us today," Nick Pontiff said. "To see how hits went their way. Luck counts in baseball. I'm not taking anything away from Ole Miss, but I think we could have got the sweep this weekend."


Perhaps the only thing going LSU's way on Sunday was the possibility of an unused No. 42 jersey sitting somewhere in the corner of the club house.


Chris McGhee, a sophomore right fielder, wore No. 42 Sunday in honor of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. McGhee normally wears No. 32, but was prompted by fellow players to wear the jersey Sunday.


"I thought it was awesome," teammate Sean Ochinko said. "We talked about it last night while watching Baseball Tonight. We said it would be pretty cool if you would wear that, so today he went in and asked."


Ochinko said they had to search for a No. 42 jersey in the club house, and to McGhee's delight, the jersey fit him perfectly.


"It was a monumental thing in the history of sports and society when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by playing professional baseball," Mainieri said. "Today is the day around the country that everybody is honoring him. Chris McGhee is honored to be an African-American baseball player. He asked me to wear the No. 42 and I said certainly. If you want to honor a great American, then I am all for it. Fortunately we had a No. 42 on the shelf."

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