Tigers saddened by end of 2014 season, missed opportunities
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — It was supposed to be LSU celebrating on their home field. Instead, the Tigers had to watch Houston jump for joy and advance to the Super Regionals.
The 12-2 defeat Sunday eliminated LSU from the NCAA tournament in the regional round.
"You know, it unraveled quickly, and it was poorly a pitched game as we've had all year," head coach Paul Mainieri said.
The Tigers were tied entering the third inning, but Houston scored seven times to take firm control of the game. That followed a rally the night before in which the Cougars overcame a 4-0, eighth inning deficit before winning in extra innings.
"We thought everybody was fired up, and unfortunately, we just got ourselves into a bad situation pretty early in the bottom of the first inning," Mainieri said. "You know, we limited the damage, but then the third inning was just a nightmarish inning for us."
Playing as the road team in their own stadium, LSU scored twice in the top of the first inning. But starting pitcher Alden Cartwright was pulled from the game after failing to record an out.
"He just seemed totally out of rhythm," Mainieri mentioned. "Every fastball was high, and wasn't making an adjustment, and I just didn't feel confident that he was going to find it."
Cartwright was removed in favor of Parker Bugg, who allowed four more runs before he was taken out in the third inning. The two freshman put LSU in a deficit from which it would never recover, which Mainieri partly blamed on nerves.
"I can't deny that. But we're 60-something games into the season, and those kids have pitched some important innings for us all year," he stated. "And they've done a tremendous job for us; they've probably done more than we could've ever hoped they would've done as freshmen."
As the number eight seed in the tournament, the Tigers were favored to make a second consecutive trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series.
"I know that's our standard here at LSU; it always will be, and that's what we shoot for," Mainieri said. "And so whenever we come up short of that goal, it's always disappointing for us."
There were four seniors on the roster this year, none of whom won a game in the the College World Series. They will leave the program wishing they had another chance, but grateful for all the success they did have.
"It's a blessing," senior reliever Nate Fury said. "I came here not even knowing if I was going to be on the team. And I have two great years here. Made a lot of new friends, a lot of great memories, and it's just a shame that it ended like this."
Fury allowed the hit that tied Saturday's game, but pitched 4.1 innings of scoreless relief Sunday.
"I was pitching off of heart," he stated. "Hopefully, some of the younger guys can remember me from that and put that into their own work, and love this place as much as I do and fight to the death for it."
Mainieri said the worst part about having his season end is saying goodbye to the players who will exit the program. Aside from the four seniors, he mentioned starting pitcher Aaron Nola and closer Joe Broussard as juniors who likely will turn pro. "And when those kids leave, a part of you leaves with them because you're invested in their lives," he said.
LSU won 46 games and the SEC Tournament, but those accomplishments did not lead to the ending they hoped for.
"It's the game of baseball, though. It's about failure," said shortstop Alex Bregman. "You've gotta get back up when you fall down. And that's what all of us are going to do, whether they're done playing baseball, or whether they go on professionally, or whether we come back next year. We're just going to get back up and keep fighting."