For the bleary-eyed out there who stayed up until the end, let’s try to put what LSU did in Eugene, Oregon, over a long weekend into some kind of perspective.
Try this: the last time the Tigers won a regional on the road was 1989 at Texas A&M. That was two years before they won the first of their six national championships.
It was also the first time the Tigers won a regional after losing the opening game, which doesn’t happen that often to anybody.
For that matter, this LSU team hadn’t won a game this entire season when trailing after seven innings.
They had to break through that barrier, too, to escape the Pacific Northwest with a 9-8 victory over the hometown Oregon Ducks.
They even got a few good baseball bounces, which have also been in short supply during a mostly frustrating season.
So, yes, the most unlikely of LSU teams checked a lot of boxes that eluded far better teams and now barges into the super regional unannounced and entirely unexpected.
“One for the ages,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri, whose impending retirement plans keep getting put off.
A team that a few weeks ago wasn’t certain it would even make the 12-team SEC Tournament is now in the super regionals.
Don’t ask me. I only work here. It defies description, let alone explanation.
Didn’t see that coming.
The Tigers hit three home runs, four of the six pitchers they kept trotting out there were freshmen, the ace starter ended up being the closer and, with the ball flying out of the ballpark, the key play of the game and its fifth lead change was — why not? — an Oregon balk while trying to sabotage an LSU bunt.
But if you fell asleep long before the after-midnight conclusion, all you really needed to see was the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth.
Trailing 7-6, the Tigers led off the eighth with a walk, which this year hasn’t been the bane for their opponents that baseball purists insist.
Then Cade Doughty, who’d already homered twice, hit a bouncer toward first base that took a flubber-type bounce over the fielder’s head and down the line for a double — second and third, no out.
Oregon coach Mark Wasikowski said he’d never seen a ball bounce like that on his artificial turf.
Mainieri said, possibly for the first time this season, “Sometimes in baseball you get fortuitous bounces. That was a good, lucky bounce.”
So LSU tied the score on a ground ball by Cade Beloso, with Dugas sliding just under the tag on the throw from first.
And then it got really interesting.
Confession: I like to think I know a little baseball, but I still evidently don’t know a balk from fried chicken.
Every time one is called, I’m like, “What!? What’d he do?”
When I think I see a balk, play continues as peacefully as you please.
But even I knew something wasn’t kosher when Oregon closer Kolby Somers tossed over to first for about the 15th time (holding on a runner in Beloso who moves at the speed of road construction). Wasn’t sure what, exactly, but it didn’t look right.
Sure enough, even the Oregon fans seemed to be hollering “Balk!”
In reality, Oregon wasn’t worried about Beloso. The Ducks were simply trying to get LSU to show its hand so they could run some special trickery designed to get the runner at third out.
No idea what it might have been. Some sort of “wheel” play probably. Wasikowski wasn’t saying, in case he ever wants to try it again, which I doubt he will since it backfired and the balk scored the go-ahead run.
It also took the bunt off the table and Jordan Thompson delivered an RBI single for an insurance run, which, if you’ve followed LSU, you know the Tigers can’t get enough of.
If you think that was the end of the story, you haven’t been following LSU baseball.
Sure enough, even with ace Landon Marceaux on as a closer, the Tigers didn’t just make the ninth interesting, they made it pack-of-Rolaids, bitethrough-your-lip tense.
Mainieri’s wife Karen covered her eyes for the duration as a bad-hop single here, a ground ball in the hole, a squibbed infield single mounted up and it was a one-run game with the tying run on third, the winning on first.
LSU’s normal closer Devin Fontenot was sufficiently warmed up and seemingly clawing at the bullpen fence like the Titantic passengers in steerage, trying to desperately to escape the bonds and get into the game.
Mainieri, who had debated whether to let his ace pitch at all on two days’ rest, had a long mound visit but said he never considered pulling Marceaux, who’d begged for the opportunity.
Marceaux even had the parental approval that Mainieri solicited.
“That was going to be his last batter,” Mainieri said. “I’m glad he got him out because I would have hated to take him out.
“I just couldn’t take the ball from him.”
So Marceaux worked the count full — of course — before getting the final out on a fly ball to right.
“I might have given a bazillion people some heart attacks,” Marceaux said. “But I got it done.”
Not bad for team that opened the regional with a lethargic 3-0 loss that looked as if it was ready to be done with a disappointing season and let Mainieri get started on that retirement bucket list.
Instead, the Tigers have new life headed to Knoxville.
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at