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|Mainieri makes the right moves|
When LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri decided to pitch Daniel Bradshaw over the likes of Chris Matulis and Joey Bourgeois, I told my son that was a big mistake.
I just didn't think Bradshaw had the quality innings for such a big game.
My son told me, "Ya know Dad, Coach Mainieri makes some strange moves at times, but they always seem to work out," Jake told me.
"Kind of like Les Miles," I responded. That's when he darted those eyes at me and gave me a look like "Whatchu talkin' about Willis?"
"OK, the way Miles used to coach," I corrected.
Anyway, it seems Mainieri has rolled 7-11 again.
Bradshaw, who prepped at Ouachita Christian, pitched very well, going 6.1 innings, allowing two runs on six hits. Chris Cotton pitched to one batter who hit a line drive single to drive home a run that was charged to Bradshaw.
Paul Bertuccini pitched 1.2 innings and allowed one run on one hit. Anthony Ranaudo pitched three innings, did not allow any hits, walked two and recorded five strikeouts.
Ranaudo's performance was very encouraging. After struggling most of the season, Ranaudo returned to his old form in the SEC Tournament.
LSU's pitching staff went from looking as if the other team was hitting off a Tee to frustrating opposing batters like the old days.
I was worried Mainieri may have missed a golden opportunity in the top of the sixth leading 3-1 when Austin Nola tripled to right center field with one out.
I was hoping Mainieri might have Alex Edward lay down a squeeze bunt, but Edward ended up striking out and Leon Landry flied out to end the inning, leaving Nola at third base.
Alabama came back to tie the game at 3-3 to send it into extra innings.
Tyler Hanover knocked in the game-winning run in the top of the 11th inning with a single to left, and Ranaudo fired three final shutout innings to lift LSU to the 4-3 win.
It's been a strange year for Mainieri. Just two weeks ago, the Tigers lost to Tulane, 9-1 giving them losses in 12 of their last 14 games, including six setbacks in a row.
Mainieri was feeling the heat from Tiger fans and just about everyone had given up on the season.
But the Tigers got off the mat just in time to take two of three from Mississippi State and now seem like real contenders.
Mainieri is now 13-1 in the SEC Tournament with three straight championships. He has also won eight straight conference tournament titles as a head coach, having captured five Big East tournament crowns at Notre Dame in his final five seasons there.
There's more than luck involved there. More like a very good coach.
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