Scooter Hobbs updated

He now has 1,499 others to compare it to.

So it’s doubtful that career win No. 1,500 for LSU’s Paul Mainieri was in any way unique.

Wait. Check that.

Make it 1,500 others after No. 1,501 was added Saturday afternoon, probably a direct result of the strange goings on from the night before.

But Friday night, in the midst of one of the toughest seasons in his long career, had to be right up there for Mainieri before his Tigers overcame an early four-run deficit and took their sweet time before beating Texas A&M 12-6 in 13 innings.

Stick around baseball, they say, and you’ll eventually see it all.

Mainieri has probably seen it before.

But for this year’s team it was man-bites-dog stuff to clinch LSU’s spot in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

When there’s a national championship on your résumé you’re not supposed to be sweating out something so trivial as reaching the SEC Tournament.

It’s not exactly an exclusive club — 12 of the league’s 14 schools get to go. They give the other two a scarlet letter.

But that’s where LSU was this year.

For most of this season LSU’s bullpen has taken much of the blame

But in arguably the most crucial game of the year, guess what?

“The relief pitching won the game for us,” Mainieri said, almost in disbelief. “It was amazing.”

It was certainly different.

Remember, it’s a relief corps that once couldn’t hold an eight-run lead for two measly innings at Ole Miss, the biggest eye sore among many meltdowns.

This time it was starter A.J. Labas who got only one out in the second inning while being rocked for six runs on six hits and LSU trailed 6-2.

The Aggies were having a ball.

Then an amazing thing happened.

That maligned Tigers bullpen promptly pitched 11 shutout innings.

It took five pitchers, the first four of them freshmen, but the zeros stretched on and on into the night.

Using a revolving door was really flirting with disaster.

There had been scattered outbreaks of effectiveness, but for the most part Mainieri never knew what he would get from that Forrest Gumpian box of chocolates in the bullpen from man to man.

But there wasn’t a hiccup in the box this time.

So after LSU eventually tied the score in the sixth on a rare crooked-number inning for four runs, it was excruciatingly tense.

With 13 innings to play with, an LSU team that has been walked-off four times on the SEC road this year, gave A&M four chances to make it five with one swing before the Tigers put up the six in the 13th — all, oddly enough, with two outs for a team that hasn’t made a habit of clutch hits.

The managerial wheels were spinning in both dugouts. The teams combined for eight intentional walks, which was an LSU record for a game, even one disguised a chess match.

“Probably as great a relief performance as a team that I can remember in my time at LSU,” Mainieri said.

It probably won them two games.

Texas A&M needed a sweep to reach the SEC Tournament and, after a 2-1 win Thursday, came out with its hair on fire.

Saturday, with nothing to play for, not so much.

The Aggies were clearly ready to get the season over with, and LSU obliged with six runs in the first three innings, including three home runs in the third and coasted to an 8-2 victory.

So by taking two of three, LSU won four of its last five SEC series and finished the conference regular season 13-17.

Not exactly awe-inspiring, but after starting the season 1-8 in the league, the Tigers are 12-9 since.

Anyway, they’d been assured that by winning the A&M series, they’d be safely in the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens at the SEC Tournament.

Probably so.

It’s mostly media talk, and nobody has produced a notarized copy of that guarantee.

It might behoove them to win a game or two in the conference tournament to remove all doubt.

But they have to be feeling a lot better about themselves headed to Hoover.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at scooter.hobbs@americanpress.com

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