LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri wasn’t very much in the mood trying to dissect his team’s latest setbacks that took place Saturday over a numbing five-hour span that left both players and coaches exasperated.
“I hate talking about losing,” Mainieri said Monday. “This is not the LSU way, to talk about losing. We’re here to win and that’s what we’ve done for years and what we’re supposed to do.”
LSU (21-14) came excruciatingly close to claiming its second straight Southeastern Conference series, having defeated fifth-ranked South Carolina 5-1 on last Thursday behind Landon Marceaux’s 12-strikeout gem.
Heavy rains in the area Friday produced a seven-inning doubleheader Saturday in which LSU followed another strong pitching performance, this time from A.J. Labas, who took a 2-0 lead into the top of the seventh inning and got an out before giving way to reliever Devin Fontenot who inherited a pair of runners.
Not only did Fontenot surrender the lead but wound up as the losing pitcher when South Carolina rallied for four runs, including a game-tying double that created a wave of momentum the Gamecocks rode to a 4-2 victory in the first game and 30 minutes later, produced a 9-0 demolition and sweep that sent the Tigers to a 4-11 record in the Southeastern Conference and into a tie for 11th place overall with Missouri.
LSU returns to action Tuesday against Louisiana-Monroe (12-18) at 6:30 at Skip Bertman Field. Freshman Will Hellmers (5-1, 3.46 ERA) is the Tigers scheduled starter.
“When they left on Saturday, they were pretty down,” Mainieri said of his team. “We were a hair away from winning a series against a top-ranked team. We played so well for two ball games; we just couldn’t close it out. We had a great victory on Tuesday night. We were two outs from a great victory in game one on Saturday and would have had a super series win.
“We just couldn’t get the last two outs. That’s the way baseball can be so cruel sometimes. We think about good we would be feeling right now if we’d just have gotten those last two outs and that didn’t happen. We’ve got to regroup, get ready for a ball game tomorrow, hopefully have a good game and take on another really tough opponent (at Ole Miss) this weekend on the road.”
South Carolina’s pitching kept LSU’s offense scoreless over after the Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the second inning of the second game – a 12 stretch of 12 innings. The Tigers collected only seven hits in that span.
Conversely, LSU’s pitching staff yielded 13 runs on 18 hits that included a homer, two doubles and a triple.
“That’s distasteful when you’re not even competitive in the game is awful,” Mainieri said of LSU’s 9-0 loss. “The (2-0) games, cause you to toss and turn at night. You second-guess every decision you make.”
Mainieri said the biggest decision facing him is trying to solve his team’s dilemma out of the bullpen in the face of Fontenot’s failed save attempt.
It’s part of the reason Mainieri’s planning to bring back Hellmers later in the week, possibly Saturday against Ole Miss, while giving relief opportunities in Tuesday’s game to players such as Javen Coleman, Theo Millas and Michael Fowler.
“It’s very demoralizing when your team plays so well for the entire game and you have a chance to win, and we can’t finish the game,” Mainieri said. “We’ve tried different guys. Some guys have done it sometimes and not done it others. That’s what is a little bit frustrating.
“LSUs about winning. It’s hard to take solace in anything. We’re supposed to win. I’m the one who is responsible for that. I can’t be proud of anything at this point.”
NOTES: LSU junior right-hander Landon Marceaux was named Monday by Collegiate Baseball newspaper as one of its National Players of the Week. Marceaux, a product of Destrehan, defeated fifth-ranked South Carolina on Thursday, firing a career-high 12 strikeouts in a 5-1 victory. Marceaux worked seven shutout innings — allowing just three hits and one walk – and he threw 107 pitches, 70 for strikes. Marceaux lowered his cumulative ERA to 1.65, and he has recorded 67 strikeouts in 54.2 innings while limiting opponents to a .185 batting average. He is No. 3 in the SEC in ERA, No. 4 in innings pitched, No. 7 in strikeouts and No. 7 in opponent batting average. Junior designated hitter Cade Beloso led the Tigers in hitting during the South Carolina series, batting .444 (4-for-9) with one homer and one RBI. . .Freshman first baseman Tre’ Morgan hit .400 (4-for-10) against the Gamecocks while scoring two runs and recording one stolen base. Morgan is No. 2 this season in the SEC in triples (3), No. 6 in runs scored (36), No. 7 in doubles (10), No. 7 in on-base percentage (.457) and No. 8 in stolen bases (9). . .Freshman right fielder Dylan Crews is batting .351 this season, which ranks as the seventh-best average in the SEC. Crews is No. 5 in the league in on-base percentage (.469), No. 5 in walks (27), No. 6 in base hits (46), No. 6 in total bases (81) and No. 7 in stolen bases (10). . .Junior left fielder Gavin Dugas is No. 4 in the SEC in RBI (37), and he’s No. 5 in the league in home runs (10), , ,Sophomore third baseman Cade Doughty is No. 4 in the SEC in RBI (37), and he’s No. 8 in the league in slugging percentage (.626).