When you’re the college head coach of a top 10 ranked team that allowed the most runs ever in your 879 games at that school, your do-to-list has one item while driving home for an early Friday night dinner after such a disaster.
Call your Saturday starting pitcher for a pep talk.
Not that LSU’s Landon Marceaux needed one from his coach Paul Mainieri after watching then two-win Oral Roberts hammer the 8th ranked Tigers 22-7 in the series opener Friday afternoon in Alex Box Stadium.
“I didn’t play and I felt horrible, it’s embarrassing to get beat that bad,” said Marceaux, a junior righthander from Destrehan. “It really fuels a fire for me pitching the next day.”
Marceaux threw six scoreless innings – he has yet to allow a run this season in 17 innings on the mound – as LSU blanked Oral Roberts 12-0 Saturday afternoon.
After leading just 1-0 through 4½ innings off ORU starter Issac Coffey, a one-out single by LSU sophomore catcher Alex Milazzo opened the floodgates for a seven-run Tigers’ fifth featuring five hits (all singles) and 2 RBIs each from juniors Cade Beleso and Drew Bianco.
“What a difference a day makes,” Mainieri said. “What a crazy sport. . .I can only imagine how many people had given up on the team and had nasty things to say yesterday (on social media). I didn’t read them, but I can only imagine how people were panicking saying we’re the worst thing ever.”
The 9-2 Tigers flipped the criticism into compliments, thanks to Marceaux’s unflappable performance, a three-RBI day from junior left fielder Gavin Dugas and a major league quality defensive gem from freshman right fielder Dylan Crews.
Mainieri laid the psychological groundwork for Marceaux’s second win of the season and third flawless outing with that phone call following Friday’s debacle.
“I told him (Marceaux) I always felt the middle game of a weekend series is the most important,” Mainieri said. “Because had we won the first game, the middle game allows you to win the series. If you lose the first game like we did, who do you want pitching the second game to get you back even-steven for the weekend but the guy that is most reliable.
I said, `I feel that way about you. That’s why I love you pitching this middle game of the weekend series.’ He told me, `I’m ready for it.’”
Marceaux not only knew had to win but realized there was a certain way it had to be done.
“It was very important for me to have a strong start,” Marceaux said. “We used a lot of the (bull)pen yesterday, it was a very long game (190 pitches thrown in 46 ORU at-bats by six LSU pitchers). The position players stood out on the field a long time, so it was very important for me to get quick innings and go deep into the game.”
Which is exactly what he did with a little help from his friends, like Crews in the first inning scooping a one-out single to right field by ORU first baseman Jake McMurray. He fired a laser beam throw on the fly to LSU third baseman Jordan Thompson who tagged out ORU center fielder Joshua Cox who was trying to advance to third base.
Instead, Cox, who opened the game sliding into first base for an infield single, joined a Nicholls base runner in LSU’s 5-4 win Wednesday in the “I Got Thrown Out by A Future 1st Round Draft Choice Club.”
“Had he not done that,” Mainieri said of Crews’ throw for the second ORU out, “it would have been runners on first and third with one out in the first inning. Chances are the other team is going to score and it changes the whole complexion of the game.”
The Tigers will start AJ Labas on the mound in Sunday’s series finale at 2 p.m., and Mainieri said he challenged his team after Saturday’s win to take the series after being clobbered in the opener.
“It’s like being in a boxing match and getting knocked down in the first round,” Mainieri said, “barely getting off the floor at the nine-count and coming back to win the fight.
“How proud can you be if the kids do something like that? Tomorrow, a lot is at stake for our kids. I challenged them and believe they will respond.”