LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri was going for his 1,500th career victory.
The Tigers were trying to become the third team in school history to go undefeated in their mid-week games.
And the baseball Bengals, desperately trying to battle back into the NCAA tournament picture, needed a win to maintain their No. 18 RPI.
Instead, LSU showed up dead-on-arrival Tuesday night in Alex Box Stadium in its final regular season home game as Northwestern State dominated from beginning to almost the end in a 7-3 victory.
Five Northwestern pitchers limited the Tigers (32-20) to five hits and held LSU scoreless in eight of nine innings. NSU (27-24) led 6-0 when Dylan Crews’ two-run triple sparked the Tigers’ three-run eighth inning.
“It didn’t appear to me that we were mentally ready to play today, and I take full responsibility for that,” Mainieri said. “We didn’t perform at the high level that we needed to in order to win this game. This was very uncharacteristic of us, because we’ve played so well all year in the middle of the week.
“I thought our kids knew how to prepare themselves and be ready to go. I think with the weather (heavy rains and flash flooding) the last couple days, I didn’t think they were truly going to believe we were going to play today. You could tell our guys were not focused.”
LSU used seven pitchers that allowed 12 hits. Demons’ center fielder Brandon Larson had almost as many hits as the Tigers – he was 4 of 5 – and right fielder Tyler Smith and designated hitter Jeffrey Elkins had two RBIs each.
It was Elkins’ leadoff homer in the second inning that got Northwestern off and running to its win in a game that wasn’t as close as the four-run victory margin indicated. The Demons left 12 men on base.
“I thought today we played without expectations,” NSU coach Bobby Barbier, who has presided over the Demons’ first back-to-back wins against LSU since April 2-3, 1996. “Whether that was because we’re playing LSU, an SEC team, or we’re playing a mid-week game, I don’t know. I thought we played that way, which allowed us to play more freely. Usually when you come into these parks, it goes one way or the other.
“You can tighten up or play more freely. We did a good job of playing more freely and not getting down when some things didn’t go our way early.”
LSU travels to Texas A&M for its final three-game SEC series of the regular season. The Tigers are 11-16 in league play and need two wins over the Aggies to give themselves a viable shot at an NCAA tourney bid.
The opening game is Thursday at 6 p.m.
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