Mr. Reliable

When Anthony Ranaudo is on the mound, LSU head coach Paul Mainieri gets the feeling that things will run smoothly. Battling through errors and early inning runs on Friday, Ranaudo buckled down and pitched the Tigers into a Saturday shot at booking a slot in Omaha.

When he stands atop the hill, Anthony Ranaudo – at 6-foot-7 - is as opposing of a hurler as the college game has to offer.

When you toss in his emotionally charged take to each outing, it is no wonder that the sophomore often sets the tone for the LSU crowd.

When Ranaudo’s rocking, you can bet the Box will be as well.

Ask Rice’s Anthony Rendon.

Rendon, who leads the team with a .384 average, exploded for three runs on three of the Owls’ nine hits.

While it might have appeared the freshman had not a worry on his mind, Rendon was quick to admit Ranaudo’s roll turned the Box into the enemy in a hurry.

“LSU’s crowd is really hype, and they get into the game,” he said. “When the crowd begins to go with the players, you start feeding off them and their excitement. Tonight the crowd was pumped up for the Tigers.

“We saw them start to get pumped, and we could not settle them down.”

Case in point – after the Tigers exploded for six runs in the bottom of the fifth, Ranaudo kicked his game into overdrive.

Over the next three frames, the sophomore would allow just one hit – a one-out single by Rendon in the sixth.

“I don’t know what it is, but the deeper the game goes, the more comfortable I get,” Ranaudo said. “I don’t know if it’s just that I’m up there in my pitch count and I feel comfortable in my delivery and release point or what it is.

“I try to get a lot more focused, and hopefully it has been helping me out. I feel like I have been doing a lot better late in games.”

Unlike double-digit strike out performances in the past, Ranaudo built his tenth win on determination and will more so than overpowering pitches.

“He did not have his best stuff tonight, but he pitched like the warrior that he is,” Mainieri said. “In the middle innings, we needed him to give us the game, and he did.”

After their six-run fifth, the Tiger skipper knew that the wheels would need to fall off the wagon before his crew would allow the Owls back into the fight.

“When we got the lead, we knew [Ranaudo] would get the job done,” Mainieri said.

Pitching with a lead – something that Ranaudo has not always had the benefit of during his 2009 campaign – was a bonus that the New Jersey native said he would welcome at any moment.

“It was pretty comfortable.”

Micah Gibbs, who was behind the plate for the Tigers, said that the right-hander is getting better by the outing.

“He started off a little slow tonight, but he found his spots and got into a groove,” he said. “When you see how much better he gets as the game goes on, you don’t know what to say. He goes out there with the mentality that he can’t lose.”

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