HOOVER, Ala. — Mercy, mercy.
Just a few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine this LSU baseball team getting to the Southeastern Conference tournament final.
Now, it’s hard to imagine the Tigers playing any better.
During one of the many South Carolina pitching changes during Saturday’s high noon semifinal, they played the song “Geronimo” over the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium P.A. system.
How about, “Say uncle?”
The Gamecocks were game indeed, but their pitching was toast by they time they got to face LSU, South Carolina’s fifth game here. The unsurprising result was the Tigers registering a seven-inning TKO by an 11-0 count.
HOOVER, Ala. — After his leadoff home run settled somewhere behind the bullpen in left field…
Roll the superlatives, please:
It was LSU’s 10th straight victory, fifth straight game with 10 runs or more against SEC opposition (tying LSU’s best such streak since 2000) and second straight seven-inning run rule shutout. It all added up to LSU’s 18th appearance in the SEC tournament final, the most of any team.
In their three wins here, the Tigers have outscored the opposition 31-3. And only one of those runs allowed — one — was with the game in doubt. That was Kameron Miser’s solo home run in the Missouri second inning Wednesday off LSU starter Caleb Gilbert.
The Tigers stormed back to take a 4-1 lead the next inning and, well, you know the rest. After what turned out to be a 10-3 romp over Mizzou, it’s been shutouts and dingers for LSU since. There was the Tigers 10-0 rout Thursday over Kentucky and then Saturday’s decision that had folks jumping on social media as soon as Greg Deichmann’s two-run home run eluded center fielder T.J. Hopkins’ leap at the wall in the top of the first, asking if you can invoke the mercy rule in the semifinals.
You can. And they did.
Even the fact that LSU’s typically vacuum-sealed defense committed four errors, tying a season-high, didn’t slow the Tigers down. LSU, by the way, is still on a school-record pace with a .982 fielding percentage.
“They can beat you a number of different ways,” said South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook, who was exceptionally gracious in defeat considering his job security sure could have used another victory here. “They can beat you with speed. Kramer (Robertson), (Cole) Freeman and (Antoine) Duplantis can fly. They can beat you with power. Deichmann and (Nick) Coomes, if you make a mistake you’re not going to get it back. They can beat you with pitching. I know they made four errors today, but they have a phenomenal defense.
“They have all the pieces. They’re a complete team.”
Robertson is also playing the power game here. He homered in the fifth inning against Kentucky and led off Saturday by hammering a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall. The embodiment of LSU’s late-season surge, Robertson has raised his average 31 points to .315 since he said before the Alabama game that he has to play better.
During that streak, LSU is now 15-2.
“Hitting is contagious,” said Robertson, now second on the team with eight homers. “Confidence is contagious. We’ve got to credit (hitting coach) Micah Gibbs. It’s easy to criticize when things don’t go well. But we bought into his approach.”
Overshadowed by all the sparks flying off LSU’s bats was the steady pitching of senior Jared Poché.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri joked at Friday’s practice how he watches from between his fingers when Poché pitches because of all the jams he gets in. He was in a full-blown one in the fourth, loading the bases before uncorking a wild pitch that slammed off the backstop. Catcher Michael Papierski played it off the bounce, then threw home to a covering Poché who ended the inning by tagging out Jonah Bride.
The win was Poché’s 10th of the season, a personal best, and 37th of his career, putting him one off Scott Schultz’s career record.
HOOVER, Ala. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri has a go-to phrase when describing the all-too-famili…
“I saw the biggest heart you can imagine on an athlete,” Mainieri said, recalling Poché’s recruitment. “You wonder how does he do it, but it’s just who he is.
“You don’t always see an athlete max out his ability. I hope he ends up breaking the record.”
As well as LSU is playing, they’re now squaring off against the one team here that’s playing just as well if not better.
Arkansas lost its tournament opener 4-3 to Mississippi State but turned around and run-ruled Auburn 12-0 with a combined no-hitter, beat State in a rematch 9-2 and Saturday burned down Florida 16-0 in a rout that also lasted just seven innings. Another impressive win and a tournament title over an LSU team sure now to be a national seed, and the Razorbacks could make that national seed argument for themselves.
WHO: LSU (42-17) vs. Arkansas (42-16)
HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — Chad Spanberger homered in each of the first two innings and Arkansas ro…
Whatever happens Sunday, and LSU is 5-0 in SEC finals under Mainieri (an unbelievable 30-6 overall), it should be a grand finale between the two teams playing their best. And isn’t that what LSU came here to accomplish most of all?
Former LSU baseball assistant coach and current Mississippi State coach Andy Cannizaro came …