Paul Mainieri’s 39-year head coaching career ended Sunday in a home run hailstorm in one of the SEC’s most hitter-friendly stadiums.
No. 3 seed and host Tennessee hit six home runs including five in the first five innings in a 15-6 victory over LSU that sent the Vols to the College World Series for first time since 2005 and the Tigers’ Mainieri into retirement.
From the moment UT third baseman Jake Rucker parked LSU starter Landon Marceaux’s seventh pitch of the game over the left-centerfield wall of Lindsey Nelson Stadium for a two-run homer, Tennessee (50-16) used the majority of LSU’s seven pitchers for batting practice.
Tennessee’s 15 runs were the most ever scored by an opponent against Mainieri in LSU’s NCAA tournament games he’s coached. Mainieri watched the Tigers’ final outs inn the ninth wiping away tears underneath his sunglasses.
LSU (38-25) only trailed 3-2 through three innings. But a fatigued Marceaux exited before the start of the fourth and the Vols unloaded on freshmen relievers Garrett Edwards (pulled after four batters with a strained forearm) and Will Hellmers and senior Trent Vietmeier to build an 11-2 lead.
The Tigers scored their first two runs on right fielder Dylan Crews’ solo homers in the first and three innings. Then, first baseman Tre’ Morgan and designated hitter Brody Drost hit two-run homers in the sixth and seventh innings respectively.
Mainieri, who on May 30 announced his retirement effective at the end of the season, finished with a 1,505-777-8 (.657) career record that includes six seasons at St. Thomas (1983-88), six seasons at Air Force (1989-94), 12 seasons at Notre Dame (1995-2006) and 15 seasons at LSU (2007-21).
He ended as the second-winningest coach in LSU history with a 641-285-3 (.692) and with the third-highest career winning percentage in SEC history.
Three names in LSU’s initial coaching search are off the board.
TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle was hired by Texas A&M on Wednesday, Florida coach Kevin O’ Sullivan withdrew his name as a candidate Thursday and former Oregon State coach Pat Casey apparently wants to stay in retirement as senior associate athletic director.
The three most frequently mentioned remaining candidates are Ole Miss coach and former LSU player and assistant Mike Bianco, East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin and former LSU assistant Cliff Godwin and Louisville coach Dan McDonnell.