“It’s hard to put it into words. I’m taking it in,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “These kids are really something. They know how to win, they have great poise, and it’s great being their coach.”
For the fourth time in as many games, LSU (43-16-1) powered past the opposition with a multi-run inning.
Ryan Schimpf’s two-RBI double and a sacrifice fly by Derek Helenihi put the Tigers up 4-2 to open the fifth inning, and then Superman (also known to Tiger fans as Blake Dean) paid a visit to Regions Park.
Dean proceeded to crush a two-run home run, his third of the tournament, to right field. The shot gave LSU a 6-2 lead, a margin the Rebels would not challenge.
Dean’s heroics throughout the week earned him the distinction of SEC Tournament MVP. The sophomore finished the tournament with a .467 batting average and nine RBIs to go along with his three home runs.
“We’re just rolling and we believe in each other,” Dean said.
If Dean was the tournament’s MVP, one could argue LSU reliever Louis Coleman was the title game’s MVP.
The junior right-hander took over the game after replacing a struggling Daniel Bradshaw.
Coleman (6-0) pitched five complete innings of shutout relief, allowing just three hits, no walks, and striking out six batters. In the top of the ninth inning he struck out the side to earn the win, not to mention a group hug from the entire LSU dugout.
"It's very hard to describe,” Coleman said. “Coming in, I was just excited that we were here, but I also wanted to win it. I've never won a championship before and to be here – I'm very happy and fortunate. And the way the guys played today was unbelievable."
For the 16th time in 20 games, the Tigers came from behind to win.
Ole Miss opened the game with back-to-back singles, and a fielder’s choice grounder from the Rebels’ Logan Power scored a runner for an early 1-0 lead.
The Tigers answered in the bottom of the first as Michael Hollander led off his day with a single to center field, and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Jared Mitchell. LSU then capitalized on an Ole Miss error, as a bad throw on a grounder from Helenihi allowed Hollander to score from second base.
The Rebels (37-24) called on their own super hero to regain the lead in the second inning.
Michael Guerrero led off the inning with his fifth home run of the tournament, a solo shot deep to left field which gave Ole Miss the 2-1 lead.
Ole Miss’ one-run lead held up until the Tigers erupted for five in the bottom of the fifth and then they added an insurance run in the seventh.
LSU expanded the lead as Jared Mitchell smacked a one-out doubled to left-center field, and stole third base when Ole Miss pitcher Cody Satterwhite walked Helenihi. A wild pitch from Scatterwhite allowed Mitchell to race home for a 7-2 lead.
To cap the tournament off, Matt Clark added a few more fireworks for the LSU faithful, as he cranked a solo home run to right field for the final 8-2 score line. The homer was Clark’s 22nd of the season, his third of the tournament.
In addition to Dean, two other Tigers were honored for their tournament performances. Clark and Schimpf were named to the All-Tournament team, as they combined for 11 RBIs over the four games.
However, despite the Tigers’ impressive performance over the final month of the season, no LSU players were named to the final All-SEC team.
"I think in a weird kind of way they feel good about it because they know that the team is bigger than any one individual,” Mainieri said. “We preach these things all the time, and if there is ever a team that defines unselfishness – there's an old saying that there's no telling what you can accomplish if no one is there to take the credit, and I think this team defines that.”
The win gives LSU its seventh SEC tournament title, tying Alabama for the most titles in tournament history.
The Tigers’ title also means they will play in Alex Box Stadium at least one more time. LSU has clinched a berth in the NCAA tournament, and will host one of 16 Regionals.
LSU’s opponents will be announced Monday at 11:30 a.m.; play will begin Friday at 1 p.m. at ‘The Box.’