Rotation is set

LSU (21-6, 6-3 SEC) outlasted Ole Miss this past weekend behind a slew of arms to take the series, 2-1. The win moved the Tigers into second place in the Southeastern Conference's Western Division.

Meet the new Tiger rotation.

After they shut down one of the nation's premier teams over the weekend, the pieces are in place for the LSU staff.

In his typical Friday slot, sophomore Anthony Ranaudo (2-2) got the start and the loss as he allowed six runs on six hits and struck out nine in 6.2 innings of work.

The Rebel bats smacked three homeruns off the right hander, which helped push the visitors to a comfortable 7-4 lead from which they never relinquished.

"It was a frustrating night," Mainieri said after the loss. "We have got to find a way to score runs to support Anthony, so he doesn't feel like every pitch he throws has to be perfect."

Blake Dean, Mr. Everything at the dish for LSU in 2008, answered the call the following day in the Tigers' 6-5 victory.

The junior, whose season has been marred by poor play at the plate, went 4-for-5 with a double and 4 RBI. The totals tied his season highs in both categories.

"Hopefully I can keep things rolling and go from there," Dean said. "I assume I just have to build off this. In a slump, the first pitch is always the toughest to hit. Once you get the second and third, things start rolling. You just have to tough it out. This is a humbling game."

Louis Coleman (6-1), who had started his first Saturday game of the season the week prior at South Carolina, made work of his home state's batters as he allowed two runs, one earned, on four hits while striking out ten. The Schlater-Miss. native leads the SEC in wins.

Coleman jumped the 2009 season off with a Friday night start at the Box against Villanova, where the senior got the win as he lasted five innings and surrendered no runs on two hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.

Mainieri moved him into the closer role, as planned, the next weekend. Daniel Bradshaw moved into the Saturday slot, where he suffered a not-so-easy transition into the weekend role.

Bradshaw left the game early against UCF on Feb. 28 after he allowed one run on five hits while walking two and striking out three in 3.2 innings of work. Against Illinois the following weekend, he allowed three runs, all earned, on five hits in two innings of work.

The spotty performances led Mainieri to pull Coleman back into the rotation, giving him the start against Kentucky in the team's opening conference series.

The senior closed out the March 13, 5-3 game against the Wildcats, where he earned the win as he recorded four strikeouts and allowed one hit in 2.2 innings of relief.

Coleman then pitched a complete game that Sunday, where he allowed only four hits and one earned run, his first of the season. He also struck out the side in the seventh to end the game, the second of a double-header on the afternoon.

Fast forward two conference weekends and Coleman has two more wins under his belt, a performance which has allowed Mainieri to keep Austin Ross in the Sunday spot moving forward.

"I was ready to give Louis the MVP award and I realized we are only 20 games into the season," said Mainieri after the Saturday win over the Rebels. "He is such an unselfish kid, doing whatever the team needs. It is a classic example of good things happening to good people."

Ross (4-2) threw a career-high eight innings and allowed only two hits to close this past weekend out, a performance which pulled the plug on the Tigers' musical chairs approach to finding a weekend rotation.

"Austin was outstanding," Mainieri said. "He worked both sides of the plate, and he kept his slider down in the zone. I feel like he really grew up a lot [Sunday]."

Another young Tiger that has matured quicker than most is Matty Ott, who has stepped into the team's closer role for Coleman at just the right moment.

"Matty is my guy," Mainieri said. "He's the guy and we believe in him whether it's the SEC championship or the final game of the College World Series and we have a one-run lead, that's the guy that's going to be on the mound for us."

Jared Mitchell hit the game-winning single in the eighth as second-ranked LSU defeated No.11 Ole Miss 2-1 to capture its' seventh straight SEC series.

With road contests at Georgia and Alabama next on the conference docket, Mainieri said that moving forward with the current weekend rotation now rests on the shoulders of another group of pitchers.

"The whole situation will depend on how the middle relief does," he said. "[Nolan] Cain, Bradshaw and [Paul] Bertuccinni will be in there for us, and they have looked good at times this season.

"I thought Nolan pitched great in relief on Friday night, so the talent is there. If we get the job done in middle relief then I can leave Coleman in my rotation, which I would love to do."

The Tigers will travel to New Orleans Tuesday night to take on in-state rival Tulane. The first pitch is slated for 6 p.m. CST. LSU will start freshman left-hander Chris Matulis (4-0, 2.51 ERA) on the mound.



Tiger Blitz Top Stories