The release of the Baseball America poll on Monday morning summed up the recent missteps by head coach Paul Mainieri’s club.
After being ranked No. 5 just two weeks ago, LSU, losers of seven straight, have now dropped to No. 24.
If thoughts of coasting to – and hosting – postseason play in Alex Box Stadium were once on the player’s minds, Mainieri will make sure that isn’t the case headed into the new week.
After being swept by Ole Miss just days prior, last Tuesday’s home loss to New Orleans was chalked up to the Oxford hangover. While the pitching had been bad through four straight games, the prevailing thought was that someone would find their groove in Gainesville.
In practices last week the team carried a quiet demeanor, appearing to have brewed a batch of renewed confidence after a wake up call against the Rebels and Privateers.
Anthony Ranaudo, who hasn’t thrown the ball of a projected first-rounder since returning from his month-long hiatus, talked about being the team’s “stopper,” much like Louis Coleman was for the Tigers during the 2009 stretch.
If LSU lost a game, Coleman was there the following day to equal the score.
Without Coleman, and with each name in the rotation hitting a slump, Ranaudo’s performances have become the spotlight attraction - and not for the reasons he had hoped.
The club’s ace currently sports a 36.56 ERA over his last two starts, neither of which lasted past two innings. Throwing a combined 3.2 innings, the team’s best arm allowed 13 earned runs on 15 hits.
Fellow right-hander Matty Ott, the next man in line when it comes to reliability from the mound, experienced a similar fate during the Ole Miss and Florida road trips.
Though he stepped in and pitched a couple of strong innings of relief, game two against the Rebels went long. By the 11th inning Ott had worn down, allowing Ole Miss to put runners on and drive in the winning run, which tagged Ott with his first loss on the season.
The nation’s save leader during LSU’s College World Series run last spring, Mainieri figured that his staff was deep enough to keep the sophomore coming out of the pen for another season.
Turns out he wasn’t so fortunate.
After being hit hard by marquee pitching prospects heading to the MLB and a current staff that can’t find consistency in the midweek or conference series’, there grew a discomfort from fans with Ott’s minimal role.
With Ranaudo down, he became the name that desperate Tiger fans seeking answers turned to. If LSU couldn’t get the win on Friday, at least Ott – pitching behind Ranaudo in the rotation - could slow the bleeding come Saturday. If Ranaudo couldn’t be the “stopper,” perhaps it would be Ott.
The verbal push to start the sophomore closer was ubiquitous among fans, but Sunday’s result in Gainesville might have some rethinking their pleas.
Dealt his second straight loss, Ott was pulled after 3.2 innings. He allowed nine earned runs on eight hits, burying LSU in a hole early that they couldn’t crawl out of.
The loss brings the Tigers to Monday, where, back in Baton Rouge, they took to the practice fields in hopes of erasing the last 14 days from their memories.
Once a 32-6 and 11-3 team, LSU has faded to 32-13 and 11-10 in the blink of an eye.
As questions continue to pile onto the defending National Champions, the latest, and most discussed, is whether LSU has enough time to right the ship.