LSU Georgia Drost

LSU outfielder Brody Drost takes a pitch during LSU's 4-1 loss to Georgia during the Southeastern Conference tournament on Tuesday, May 25, 2021, in Hoover, Ala. 

Ten years ago, LSU found itself waiting to know if it would somehow sneak into the NCAA tournament. The Tigers had finished with a conference record underneath .500 and missed the Southeastern Conference tournament, but they had the No. 28 RPI in the country.

The metric, one of the primary ones used by the selection committee, gave the 2011 team hope it would earn an at-large bid.

It did not.

LSU sits in a similar position now, one unfamiliar for a program so used to reaching the postseason. After losing in the first round of the SEC tournament for the first time, the team waits at home as league tournaments continue throughout the country and two other SEC bubble teams, Georgia and Alabama, improve their cases.

“It's not a good position to be in, I can tell you that,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “I've been in this position before, and it's not a lot of fun to be at the mercy of the selection committee.”

Mainieri experienced this agonizing wait one other time during his LSU tenure. In 2011, his fifth year as head coach, the Tigers finished 36-20 with a 13-17 conference record. They didn’t make the SEC tournament, which had not yet expanded to 12 teams, but LSU had a chance to earn a bid because of its RPI.

Instead, the year ended without a trip to the postseason.

In the decade since, LSU has rarely worried about missing the NCAA tournament. It hosted six straight regionals from 2012-2017, reached the College World Series three times and once finished runner-up for the national championship. The closest the Tigers came to entirely missing the NCAA tournament was 2018, and they still played as a No. 2 seed in the regional round.

Similar to 2011, this year LSU has to wait, hoping its regular season accomplishments will be enough to earn a spot in the 64-team field.

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“Just hope,” junior pitcher Landon Marceaux said. “We hate to rely on that, but at this point, it's reality.”

Their résumé nearly complete, the Tigers played the third-toughest schedule in the country, according to WarrenNolan.com, and won their last three weekend series.

But LSU's overall record sits at 34-22, weighed down by a 13-18 mark in the SEC. Not helping matters, LSU’s RPI has slipped from No. 21 to No. 27 since the beginning of the SEC tournament as other teams improve their résumés.

The Crimson Tide, for example, had already won two games as of Thursday morning, upsetting South Carolina and Tennessee to reach 14 league wins. Their RPI had risen five spots to No. 31, narrowing the gap with LSU. Georgia faced elimination Thursday, but it likely secured a regional spot with its 4-1 win over LSU.

With no control over what happens next, LSU will watch games throughout the country until the selection show next Monday and prepare in case its season continues.

If the Tigers get picked, the nine days between games will be the longest in-season gap since 1985, the year before LSU went to its first College World Series under Skip Bertman. That season, LSU played its final SEC tournament game May 11 and its first regional game May 23.

LSU has missed the NCAA tournament four times since then. This would be the fifth — and the first since 2011.

“We're going to have optimism and hope for the best and hope we get a chance and have a clean slate,” Mainieri said. “If we do, we're going to be very positive and confident that we can do it, and we're just going to have to wait and see. It's not an enviable position to be in, but we're just going to have to wait and see.”

Email Wilson Alexander at walexander@theadvocate.com