LSU looked like it had done enough.
Texas A&M looked like it had enough.
After two breathlessly dramatic victories Thursday and Friday night over Texas A&M, then a Saturday soaker before the game could be played after a three-plus-hour rain delay, the Tigers came out swinging. And running. Into outs.
“That’s as bang-bang as it gets,” shortstop Alex Bregman said after being thrown out at home to end the first.
Bang. Bang. LSU players were thrown out at home to end the first two innings, first Bregman from second, then Chris Chinea from first. The Tigers had five hits and no runs to show for it. Chinea disagreed, but his team’s intensity and energy level appeared to dip a little.
LSU lived and died in the fast lane in this historic No. 1 versus No. 2 series with the Aggies. In the first two games, it appeared to be the difference.
On Saturday, it was as well. Unable to run away from A&M, LSU was a softer target in a 6-2 defeat.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, defending his team’s super-aggressive base running. “You can’t try to put pressure on people, then not.”
Texas A&M cracked under LSU’s pressure the first two games, just enough for the Tigers to pull out 4-3 and 9-6 victories.
On Saturday, the Aggies didn’t blink. Texas A&M, like LSU now 37-7 overall this season, like LSU has proved itself to be a top-five team. An NCAA tournament national seed-worthy team. The difference is the Tigers are 14-6 in Southeastern Conference play, while the Aggies are 13-7.
Going into the weekend, taking two of three from the Aggies would have been a completely acceptable outcome for the Tigers.
By Monday, when the national polls come out and LSU is still likely to be No. 1 in the land, it will feel that way.
On Saturday in the long-afternoon shadows, there were too many regrets strewn across the diamond for the Tigers to want to focus on the big picture.
“We wanted a sweep more than anything in the world,” Bregman said. “The first two games could have gone either way. This hurts, but we’re going to learn from this as a team.”
Texas A&M won the game in the third inning when it hung four unearned runs on the Tigers. Chris Chinea took a pitch on the chin in the Georgia series last weekend, then took one on the metaphorical chin Saturday, dropping a shoulder-high throw from Bregman that set an Aggies merry-go-round of hits and runs in motion.
“No excuse; I just lost it,” Chinea said, to his credit not ducking being asked about the play at least twice. “By the time I picked it up, it was on top of me.”
Unlike in the first two games, A&M’s bullpen held up after starter Kyle Simonds gave up two runs in the fourth. Matt Kent and Andrew Vinson combined on four innings of three-hit scoreless relief.
“The first two days, LSU’s bullpen was better than ours,” A&M coach Rob Childress said. “Today, ours was huge for us.”
So after three close games in which the scoring ended up exactly even, 15 runs on each side, what did this series prove?
Perhaps nothing more was settled than the fact that these are two very good teams that could very well meet again in some important postseason settings.
“I think we’re the two best teams in the country,” Bregman said. “(The series) lived up to what it’s supposed to. We’ll match up with them again in the SEC tournament or in Omaha.”
“Unless they fold down the stretch, both of them are going to be national seeds,” said D1Baseball.com writer Kendall Rogers, part of the national media contingent at Alex Box Stadium for this epic series. “Of course you have to keep an eye on Vandy. If they win the SEC, they’ll be a national seed. I think you’ll see both (LSU and A&M) in Omaha.”
Rogers said as the national picture stood Saturday night, he would peg LSU as the No. 3 national seed behind UCLA and Louisville. He thinks the Tigers have the tools to make it back to Omaha, but there are some concerns.
“I’m OK with their starting pitching and their offense and speed,” he said. “But that bullpen scares me a little. If they got a team in here that could really hit, they’d be vulnerable.”
The Tigers know about that. They’ve been a national seed the past three years but made it to the College World Series just once.
Still, it’s better to be a national seed than to not.
Just like it’s better to win the first two games of a big series and live through a little disappointment at the end.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter: @RabalaisAdv.