LSU caught in stop-n-go SEC traffic

<p class="p1">Baseball is fluky sometimes. Most of the time. No respect for momentum, none at all.</p><p class="p1">Take LSU.</p><p class="p1">South Carolina certainly did. Took the Tigers to the woodshed. Three-game sweep, punctuated by a Sunday collapse in which LSU blew a 6-0 lead and turned it into an 8-6 loss and a long flight home.</p><p class="p1">Baseball momentum is a myth. It will turn on you in a heartbeat.</p><p class="p1">You’ll recall the Tigers started last week with much fanfare, on a turnaround roll, the season suddenly spreading out for them, right on midseason cue, after a sweep of Tennessee that played out almost exactly the way the Gamecocks brushed aside LSU.</p><p class="p1">Remember?</p><p class="p1">Here come the Tigers …</p><p class="p1">That ninth-inning, walk-off rally in the final game against the Vols was going to the be signature moment for another late run.</p><p class="p1">Grab some popcorn. Sit back and enjoy the show.</p><p class="p1">“We all know how this ends,” an SEC Network analyst said at the time. “It’s LSU.”</p><p class="p1">But baseball doesn’t play that game.</p><p class="p1">South Carolina, on the other hand, went into last weekend having just lost to Presbyterian and promptly did the same thing to LSU that the Tigers did to Tennessee.</p><p class="p1">Two dominant wins to start, followed by an unexplainable rally (the Gamecocks’ version) or total collapse (the LSU view).</p><p class="p1">Nobody saw that coming.</p><p class="p1">Or maybe the Tigers tempted fate by attributing the previous week’s good baseball fortune to the mystical power of Rally Bees. Don’t blame coach Paul Mainieri. He disavowed any knowledge of the pests or their power. It was fans with too much spare time and internet connections that came up with that nonsense, along with T-shirt peddlers.</p><p class="p1">It wasn’t a conspiracy against LSU. </p><p class="p1">It was baseball being baseball.</p><p class="p1">Tennessee? The Vols, busted flat in Baton Rouge one week, took two of three from Texas A&amp;M the next.</p><p class="p1">While LSU was disavowing any connection to Rally Bees, the last-place team in the SEC West, Mississippi State, swept the first-place team, Arkansas.</p><p class="p1">It was craziness all over. Or just SEC baseball.</p><p class="p1">But, funny how you don’t hear much about Rally Bees anymore.</p><p class="p1">They were obviously duds.</p><p class="p1">Now, of course, the sky is falling, accompanied by a meteor shower.</p><p class="p1">It does look as bleak right now for LSU as it did rosy just a week ago.</p><p class="p1">LSU fans are even starting to fret about the possibility that the Tigers may not make it to Omaha this year.</p><p class="p1">College World Series? Omaha? </p><p class="p1">Cue up the Jim Mora playoff tirade.</p><p class="p1"><em>Omaha? You talking about Omaha? You kidding me?</em></p><p class="p1">This may come as a shock to some, but that seemingly annual NCAA regional that LSU hosts — which Baton Rouge puts on its yearly social calendar — isn’t written in stone or approved in advance by the NCAA.</p><p class="p1"><em>Host a regional? You kidding me?</em></p><p class="p1">Reality check: right now, LSU better hope it gets in the NCAA Tournament field … somewhere, anywhere.</p><p class="p1">The Tigers, 24-17, 9-9 in the SEC entering tonight’s game against Lamar, went in on the first four-game losing streak in four years and with an RPI (that Rating Percentage Index doohickey) of 57, which isn’t really tournament-worthy.</p><p class="p1">They are out of the national rankings for the first time since 2011.</p><p class="p1">This is the time of year the Tigers are supposed to be polishing that résumé to land a top-eight national seed so you can also host the super regional pit stop on the way to Omaha.</p><p class="p1">That looks like a pipe dream right now.</p><p class="p1">LSU has hosted an NCAA regional each of the last six seasons, dating to 2011 when it missed the tournament completely.</p><p class="p1">The last time LSU made the tournament and didn’t host a regional was 2010, when it was shipped to Los Angeles for the affair.</p><p class="p1">“Believe me, I’m not happy with where we are; I’m not going to put a positive spin on it,” Mainieri said Monday while picking up the weekend’s pieces. “But you can’t pout and sulk about it because you can’t do anything about it, and there’s still a lot of baseball to be played.”</p><p class="p1">There is that. And, baseball being baseball, it could turn the other way just as quickly as it careened off the rails in South Carolina.</p><p class="p1">For all their struggles, the Tigers are somehow still only one game out of first place in the bunched-up SEC West behind Arkansas and Ole Miss.</p><p class="p1">“You can’t feel sorry for yourselves,” Mainieri said. “The (SEC) standings, as you look at them, they give you hope because you know you’re not out of it. You know you’re right in there.”</p><p class="p1">Guess who LSU plays the next two weekends?</p><p class="p1">That would be a trip to Ole Miss (No. 4 on your RPI meter) beginning Thursday before hosting Arkansas (No. 8) the following week. The last two series are at home against Alabama and at Auburn.</p><p class="p1">There’s a catch, of course. They need to win those series.</p><p class="p1">“Hopefully, we can make a good run here at the end of the season,” Mainieri said.</p>

<p class="p3"><strong>Scooter Hobbs</strong> covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

      8f3343e6-aa1f-11e8-ad53-b388a33124812018-08-27T17:35:00ZJamboree game – st louis v. shsRickHickmanPhotographerhttps://www.americanpress.com/content/tncms/avatars/6/d3/ea1/6d3ea1c8-3a6c-11e7-a1c2-0f91a5883b36.b31acdd1ef972ec0a2acb8ea5b28d153.png(Rick Hickman/Lake Charles American Press)””

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