Lack of pitching depth catches up to LSU in 8-4 loss to TCU
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — LSU’s accomplishments this season rolled off Paul Mainieri’s tongue: 54 wins, SEC regular-season champion, No. 1 in the major polls for the last three months.
“It’s sometimes unfair that teams get judged at LSU on whether or not they won the last game of the year,” Mainieri said minutes after his Tigers were knocked out of the College World Series with an 8-4 loss to TCU on Thursday night.
“These kids played their hearts out all year,” Mainieri added. “What a great group.”
LSU (54-12) hasn’t had a true No. 3 pitcher all season, so two days after the Tigers got a complete game from Alex Lange in a win over Cal State Fullerton, they pitched by committee against the Horned Frogs. A CWS record-tying eight pitchers took the mound for the Tigers, and none found a rhythm. They allowed 10 hits and walked five.
Much of the season, the Tigers were able to outscore their opponents with one of the nation’s best offenses. That wasn’t the case against the arms they saw in Omaha.
“The margin for error is just so small when you don’t have a mid-90s fastballer or the knockout breaking ball or whatever,” Mainieri said. “We made a couple of mistakes. We walked too many batters tonight. That was really our undoing. A team like TCU, you don’t want to give them those kind of opportunities, because they know how to take advantage of them.”
The Horned Frogs (51-14) got a big performance from reliever Trey Teakell (3-1), who came on after LSU had tied it 3-all. He retired all 13 batters he faced. When he left in the eighth inning, TCU led by five runs.
Zac Person, a reliever who had logged 29 2/3 innings over 30 previous appearances, lasted 1 1/3 innings and was charged with TCU’s first three runs. Austin Bain (2-3), the third LSU pitcher, took the loss.
TCU broke the tie in the fifth, with Evan Skoug doubling in the go-ahead run and Dane Steinhagen singling in two more. The Frogs added a couple of insurance runs in the seventh on a groundout and Steinhagen’s RBI single.
The Frogs, who beat the No. 2 national seed for the second time in five days, will play Vanderbilt on Friday night. TCU would have to beat the defending national champion Commodores twice to advance to next week’s best-of-three finals.
The loss marked the end of the college career of shortstop Alex Bregman, the No. 2 overall draft pick by the Houston Astros. He was 1 for 4 and made the defensive play of the CWS in the fourth. Derek Odell bounced a ball up the middle and Bregman went into the hole to glove it, and his momentum carried him three steps before he spun and threw off his right foot to easily get the runner at first.
“I just don’t even want to think about life without Alex Bregman,” Mainieri said. “I’ve been thinking how lucky I’ve been to be his coach for three years and enjoyed every second of having that young man in our program. We thought we’d win at least one national championship together. But we’ve won a lot of games. We just couldn’t win the last game of the year.”
Bregman said he leaves with no regrets.
“We left it all out there every time we took the field,” he said. “The road to Omaha starts with the guys that are in that locker room that are coming back next year. It starts now.”
Mainieri seemed as if he would need a few days to digest what happened Thursday.
“You have hopes and aspirations, and then the finality of it is so quick and so cruel,” Mainieri said. “Your team wins 54 games and you win championships along the way, but the one you really want to win is so difficult. We just didn’t pitch quite well enough today. We scratched and clawed as hard as we could, but it wasn’t enough tonight, and because of that our season comes to an end.”