BATON ROUGE — As much as the season-ending loss hurt LSU coach Paul Mainieri, what he saw in front of the mound immediately following Florida State's 5-4 walk-off victory in the 12th inning Sunday night was almost worse.
LSU pitcher Devin Fontenot had dropped in a heap, hands covering his face, following Drew Mendoza's two-out RBI single.
"The kid pitched his heart out," Mainieri said. "He was devastated .... he feels like he lost the game for us. I didn't want him to feel that way. I didn't want to see the kid out there by himself in pain."
Other Tigers also dropped in their tracks, but it was Fontenot who first got Mainieri's attention.
He took the loss despite striking out 11 in 6.1 innings, coming on in relief in the sixth inning and not giving up a hit until the decisive 12th when FSU put together the two it needed to end the Tigers' season.
So the LSU coach ran past the celebrating Seminoles to get to and console his sophomore pitcher.
"That performance by Devin Fontenot tonight ... if we had won the ball game, we'd be talking about it 15 years from now," Mainieri said.
"I did not want to see the kid out there by himself in pain."
Neither did Florida State coach Mike Martin, who looked up Fontenot in the hallway outside the LSU dressing room while heading to his postgame interview.
"What a warrior he is," Martin said. "I'll take two Fontenot's every year."
Instead, the Seminoles took two close games to end the Tigers season.
Mainieri never really considered taking Fontenot out of the game.
"I didn't want to take him out and he didn't want to come out," Mainieri said. "I don't know how much longer we could have gone with him. But he still had good stuff, throwing 92-93 mph. What'd he have, 11 strike outs or something?"
The 11th strike out, just before surrendering the game-winner, came against Reese Albert, who'd hit two home runs in the previous day's FSU win.
"He was still throwing hard, throwing great," Mainieri said. "He was a man possessed."
The winning run was in scoring position only after Mike Salvatore advanced on what was ruled a wild pitch, although it was a moderately high, outside pitch that catchers usually handle.
But that wasn't the mistake most on the Tigers' minds.
LSU might never have been in extra innings but for two base running miscues that sabotaged potential big innings.
Freshman Giovanni DiGiacomo was picked off third with one out in sixth to limit LSU to one run. Veteran Zack Watson was caught trying to get to second on his RBI single that tied the game in the eighth when staying put would have left runners at the corners with one out.
"It was just a hustle play," Mainieri said in Watson's defense. "He was hustling, got a big clutch hit that tied the game. He saw the ball get away (briefly), was running hard all the way. They had to review the play it was so close. I wouldn't call that a base running mistake."
The replay was so close it was doubtful it would have been overturned either way, but Watson was called out on the field.
DiGiacomo had no real excuse after straying too far off the bag on a pitch to the plate, but Mainieri defended him anyway after FSU catcher Matheu Nelson's snap throw picked him off.
"He's going to learn from that," Mainieri said. "I'm going to take the blame for that one."
"I should have yelled out there to play it like there's nobody out, not one out."
The Tigers are taught when on third to go on contact with one out, as was the case, hence trying to get bigger leads. But with the Seminoles' infield playing well back, Mainieri said, "He didn't have to be as aggressive as he was showing with his walking lead. He wouldn't have been as accessible to being picked off. It was a great play by them."
"Nobody's perfect," Mainieri said. "A lot of things happen in the course of a game. Major leaguers aren't perfect. College kids certainly aren't.
"Our team has never been perfect. Everybody was trying their best."