HOOVER, Ala. — From an almost seven-hour loss at 3:03 a.m. to scoring two runs after a wild pitch in the ninth inning and blowing out a possible national seed in the NCAA tournament, LSU had an absurd week at the Southeastern Conference tournament.
The Tigers beat South Carolina 8-6 then lost to Mississippi State 6-5 in the longest game in the history of the SEC tournament. Four hours later, they woke up to get ready for Auburn and won 4-3. In a rematch against Mississippi State, they won 12-2 on Friday night, ending the game in the seventh inning.
LSU advanced to the semifinals for the seventh straight season. There, it lost to Vanderbilt 13-4.
“You got another message, didn’t you? … What did it say?”
"If you had told me coming in here we won three games and had a chance to host after watching the selection show this Sunday, then I'd be completely fine with that," shortstop Josh Smith said. "We came here and did what we needed to do."
Comfortable position for hosting a regional
LSU came into the SEC tournament jockeying with a handful of teams throughout the country for hosting an NCAA regional. The Tigers went 3-2 during the week, grabbing a win over likely national seed Mississippi State to boost their RPI to No. 16 going into Saturday’s blowout loss to Vanderbilt. Projections before the game by D1Baseball and Baseball America pegged LSU as a regional host. The NCAA will announce host sites at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday.
LSU lost to Vanderbilt on Saturday afternoon, eliminating the Tigers from the SEC tournament.
Pitching rounded into form
Pitching highlighted the week for LSU. The Tigers received 4 ⅓ shutout innings from Devin Fontenot to beat South Carolina. Matthew Beck, Zack Hess and Ma’Khail Hilliard threw four shutout innings in relief during the almost seven-hour loss to Mississippi State. (Hilliard gave up two runs in the 17th inning.) Then Landon Marceaux dominated Auburn and a collection of relievers on Friday night contained Mississippi State. The pitching staff’s performance and the return of Cole Henry encouraged coach Paul Mainieri before the rest of the postseason.
Saul Garza continued recent tear
Catcher Saul Garza raised his batting average to .290 by the end of the tournament. He has batted .444 (24-for-54) since April 26 with nine multi-hit games, including four straight at the SEC tournament. As LSU approaches the NCAA tournament, no one in its lineup is swinging a hotter bat than Garza. He also started all five of LSU’s games at catcher during the tournament, an impressive display of endurance after he tore his meniscus during fall practice.