LSU wants more after CWS setback

At the end of the day, the LSU baseball team just ran out of pitching in its quest to win the College World Series.

The Tigers saw their season end on Thursday night, dropping a 8-4 game to TCU – the second time in less than a week that the Horned Frogs had topped LSU in its three-game stay in Omaha.

The Tigers used eight pitchers in the game – many of whom weren’t effective, leading to the defeat. It was a strategy that LSU needed to implement to offset its lack of starting pitching depth, the one glaring flaw the team possessed in its 54-12 season. It was the blemish that ultimately proved fatal for the Tigers, who surrendered 10 hits in the defeat.

But when you get them to open up and give you the honest truth about their reasons for moving on, the things these coaches accuse you do this type of thing where you use all kinds of different pitchers, it just takes one or two of them to be off their game a little bit and all of a sudden you’re looking at a couple of big innings. That’s what happened to us…. It’s tough to accept… It’s a bitter pill to swallow because we came up here to win – to win the championship.”

Those championship plans that Mainieri mentioned never materialized for LSU, which found itself behind the 8-ball from the get-go,

losing the opening game of the College World Series to TCU last weekend in blowout fashion and never recovering to seriously threaten the title.

The Tigers did win a game at the CWS, riding a complete game victory from true freshman phenomenon Alex Lange last Tuesday to cruise past Cal-State Fullerton 5-3.

But with Lange’s arm on ice and opening-game starter Jared Poche still not fully recouped after throwing four days prior, the proverbial tank hit the ‘E’ pretty quickly for LSU against the Horned Frogs, who advanced past the Tigers and rolled to the Final Four against Vanderbilt.

“We just had a tough outing,” LSU outfielder Andrew Stevenson said. “The guys out there on the mound competed as hard as they could, but we just had a couple balls bounce against us, and it didn’t work the way that we hoped it might.

“It’s a bad feeling, because we had visions on being the last team playing – the last team standing. We wanted to win the last game of our season, so for that to not happen is a disappointing feeling.”

So with the loss now in the rearview mirror and the 2015 season complete, many are already focused on next season, which is loaded with uncertainty for the Tigers.

On the mound, LSU figures to be very good position in 2016 – a 180-degree change from this past season where the aforementioned lack of depth plagued the team against elite competition.

Lange will be back for his sophomore season after going undefeated as a freshman. So, too, will Poche, which will give the Tigers arguably the best returning one-two punch in the entire SEC.

“What can you say about Alex Lange that hasn’t already been said?” Mainieri said with a laugh. “From the day he got here, he’s worked his tail off and gotten himself ready to compete. He’s been a very good pitcher for us, and he’s a good kid and teammate, as well.”

The challenge for LSU will be to find reliable arms past Lange and Poche, but Mainieri said he believes that any number of players out of a pool that includes returnees Hunter Devall, Jesse Stallings, Alden Cartwright, Doug Norman, Parker Bugg, Jake Godfrey, Hunter Newman and Russell Reynolds can emerge and round out the various roles in the staff.

The Tigers will be counting on that to happen, because the mighty offense that fans saw in 2015 will almost all be either graduating or going pro.

The MLB Draft hit the LSU offense hard, and virtually its entire offensive diamond is in position to chase the professional game.

Six LSU players were selected in the first nine rounds of the draft, led by All-American shortstop Alex Bregman, who was taken No. 2 overall by the Houston Astros.

He is a lock to sign, according to multiple sources close to the shortstop and his camp, and Bregman has said on his social media accounts that he’s played his final home game at Alex Box Stadium – a sign that his LSU career is over.

Also likely gone is outfielder Andrew Stevenson, who was a Second Round Pick (No. 58 overall) by the Washington Nationals.

Outgoing senior starters Kade Scivicque, Jared Foster and Conner Hale will also depart, and so, too may outfielder Mark Laird and first baseman Chris Chinea, who have a few weeks to decide whether to sign or return to school.

Laird was a Ninth Round Pick (No. 264 overall) of the Philadelphia Phillies. Chinea was picked up in the 17th Round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Both players are considered about even odds regarding whether or not they will return to school.

The storybook ending for those guys would have been to all go out together – as champions.

At least, that was the plan initially.

But it didn’t work that way for an LSU baseball program that’s now been thirsty for another title for six-straight seasons, and still counting heading into next spring when they get another shot at it.

“We wanted to go out on top together,” Hale said. “It just didn’t happen. But we’ll always cherish our time here. The memories we’ve made and the things we’ve accomplished will last us forever.”

‘It’s tough to accept … It’s a bitter pill to swallow…’

Paul Mainieri

LSU baseball coach

LSU wants more after CWS setback