Paul Mainieri has regrets.
They’re probably not the ones you’re thinking of, but they are regrets.
A day after LSU suffered its first Southeastern Conference series loss at home in nearly two years, the Tigers coach opined on that three-game set against Kentucky — one filled with bizarre and unusual plays.
The two extra-inning losses to the Wildcats, 5-4 on Friday and 12-10 in a Sunday rubber match, lingered into Monday. After all, it’s the first time LSU lost a series at home to Kentucky since 2007 and the first home SEC series loss of any kind since April 2013.
Mainieri’s two regrets over the weekend series: pinch-hitting for Chris Sciambra in the eighth inning of Friday’s loss and pinch-running for Chris Chinea in Sunday’s defeat.
And now comes the hard part: Forgetting such a wild and regretful weekend series and getting ready for a busy week.
LSU (23-5) meets the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (15-10) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Zephyr Field in the annual Wally Pontiff Classic. The Tigers then travel to meet Alabama in a Thursday-Saturday series in Hoover, Alabama.
The Tigers do all of this having lost their No. 1 ranking in all of the polls.
“Got to come back fighting,” second baseman Jared Foster said after Sunday’s game. “Can’t let one series loss affect us for the rest of the season.”
“I don’t think the sky is falling,” Mainieri said Monday. “I don’t think it’s time to panic at all.”
The Tigers, in the top 5 in each of the six major polls, have a chance to avenge a home loss last season to UL-Lafayette: a rain-shortened, 4-1 defeat at Alex Box Stadium.
And the Cajuns? They’ve got a chance to beat the Tigers for a second straight time and deny LSU a 50th win in the 74th meeting between the two.
“We could go 1-56, and if we beat LSU, there’ll be a guy here in town happy,” UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux said. “But that’s for the fans. Our biggest thing that we go into it for is development.”
LSU goes into it shaking off the weekend blues.
Mainieri performed what he calls a “self analysis” on a group of difficult coaching decisions that presented themselves over the weekend.
Without being prompted specifically, he brought up the decision not to bunt freshman Greg Deichmann in Friday’s loss. With the game tied in the 11th, Deichmann hit into a double play with runners at first and second and no one out. LSU lost in the 12th. Mainieri said after the game that Deichmann, batting in Chris Sciambra’s spot, had never bunted in a game.
“Everybody’s criticizing me because I didn’t have Greg Deichmann bunt, right? You know what I criticized myself for? For taking Chris Sciambra out of the game,” Mainieri said Monday.
“That’s where I do my self analysis. I’m mad at myself for pinch-running for Chris Chinea (Sunday). Bet that thought never crossed any of your minds, right?” the coach continued. “I pinch-ran for Chris Chinea. And in the bottom of the 11th with two outs, Chris Chinea’s spot comes up, and I have to have Grayson Byrd hit instead.”
Outside of those decisions, Mainieri said shortstop Alex Bregman should have let a potential game-winning hit skip in front of him Friday. Conner Hale’s hard grounder in the 11th inning smacked Bregman near the ankle. He was ruled out, and the inning ended.
“That’s bad luck, but you make your own bad luck there. He should have stopped and let the ball go,” Mainieri said. “He didn’t, and he reacted the way he thought he should, and it didn’t work out.”
In that same game, Sciambra overran Jared Foster on the base path between first and second and was called out. All three base runners on Sciambra’s shot to right-center were at fault, Mainieri said.
The coach isn’t fretting over bullpen woes, but his confidence might be rattled in some of the guys. The relievers allowed 13 hits and eight runs Sunday.
“(Collin) Strall has had three sub-par performances now in a row. Alden (Cartwright) has not been as good as he was earlier in the year,” Mainieri said. “I think our bullpen is going to be fine. There’s no reason for any overhauls or panic.
“Certain guys, your confidence grows in, and certain guys you start to lose a little confidence in because they’re not getting the job done on a regular basis,” he said.
Luke Johnson contributed to this report.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.