Hunter Newman turned completely around.
The LSU pitcher glanced toward the scoreboard beyond Alex Box Stadium’s left-field wall.
The clock showed 11:50 p.m.
“Ten minutes till 12, to the next day,” he said. “We’ll look forward to next season.”
Newman, the Tigers’ clutch closer, took the first loss of his career in the Tigers’ season-ending, 4-3 loss Sunday night in Game 2 of the Baton Rouge super regional against Coastal Carolina.
The Georgia native threw the final three innings of Sunday’s loss, striking out two, walking three and allowing just one hit — the game-winning, blooping single from Michael Paez in the bottom of the ninth. Paez clipped Newman’s curveball over third baseman Chris Reid’s head, sending Anthony Marks home and into the arms of dozens of celebrating teammates and staff members.
“Hunter Newman,” coach Paul Mainieri said, “let me tell you something: We wouldn’t even be close to being in the position we were in if it wasn’t for what that kid has done for our team this year. Anybody that wants to blame him for this loss, going to have to speak to me about that, because I would defense that kid to the end of time.”
Newman said he felt good as the curveball left his hand. It’s the leadoff walk to Marks that bothered him as he spoke in front of a downtrodden dugout.
“I knew I had to come out and throw a zero on the board, and that leadoff walk hurt me the most. I’ve got to be better than that,” Newman said. “They’re a great team. That leadoff walk put me in a hole right there. I threw a curveball to that last guy. He put a decent swing on it to get it over the infield.”
Newman entered to start the seventh with LSU down 3-1. He would have retired the side had it not been for a Cole Freeman error at second base. Newman tossed a scoreless eighth despite another inning-opening error — this one from shortstop Kramer Robertson. He retired the final two batters with men on second and third, sending more than 8,000 roaring at the Box.
“He threw a lot of pitches in those first two innings to get at him,” Mainieri said. “We had a couple missed plays defensively that forced him to go deeper in pitch counts. I don’t know what his final pitch count was.”
It was 43.
In the ninth, Newman walked Marks on a full count, and then he stole second base, setting up Paez’s blooper just out of Reid’s grasp.
Coastal Carolina players erupted from the first-base dugout; they were the home team. They raced around a hunched-over Newman on the mound, catching up with Paez between second and third base — a dogpile in celebration of their first trip to the College World Series.
“I felt good about it,” Newman said of the pitch. “He didn’t get much of it, but it just found the hole. Bounced hard on that dirt up there. It just went over Reid’s head. I can’t do nothing about it.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.