LSU coach Paul Mainieri waited until his players had taken the field for the ninth inning Tuesday night before sending substitutes into the game for seniors Austin Nola and Tyler Hanover.
That gave the pair of four-year starters a moment to themselves in the final home game of the regular season.
A crowd of 6,050 stood and cheered.
“Those kids will be sorely missed,” Mainieri said. “But we still hopefully will have games to be played in this stadium.”
The Tigers made another move in that direction Tuesday with a 9-6 victory over Nicholls State, closing the book on a 14-0 season in midweek games. Even the greatest of LSU teams stumbled in the past against the list of random opponents that dot the schedule between big weekend series, but these Tigers never let the road ahead get in the way of Tuesday and Wednesday night wins.
This may have been as tempting a time as any given fourth-ranked LSU visits South Carolina, the winner of the College World Series the past two seasons, for a three-game series beginning Thursday in Columbia. The Tigers sit right in the thick of the race for a Southeastern Conference championship despite losing two of three against Vanderbilt last weekend.
In addition to conference honors, LSU (40-13) is likely to host an NCAA regional and remains in contention for a top-eight national seed in the NCAA tournament.
But the Tigers went about their business Tuesday the way they always have.
“We don’t take any game lightly,” Nola said. “Every game matters.”
LSU handled Nicholls (25-26) with matter-of-fact ease for most of the night.
Junior outfielder Mason Katz did his part, blasting a three-run homer in the sixth for an 8-2 lead. He finished 2-for-5 with four RBIs and two runs scored. Kurt McCune picked up his third win in seven decisions, allowing two runs on six hits through the first five innings.
Nola and Hanover led the group of five seniors, combining for half of LSU’s dozen hits in seven official at-bats.
Nola went 4-for-4 with a double, a walk and two runs scored in the leadoff spot, improving to 6-for-6 since Mainieri moved the former Catholic High star into the leadoff hole Sunday. Hanover was 2-for-3 with an RBI single in LSU’s five-run third inning.
Grant Dozar, another senior, went 1-for-1 with a run scored.
But after Nola and Hanover said their goodbyes to start the ninth inning, LSU relievers Nick Rumbelow and Nick Goody allowed Nicholls to rally for four runs — three earned — in its final at-bat. The Colonels had runners at second and third when Goody struck out Michael LaGrange and Austin Flores in succession, allowing the Tigers to seal the deal on their 40th win of the season.
Two of the final four runs Nicholls scored came after JaCoby Jones booted a potential double-play grounder with one out.
“We wanted to come out and play hard for our seniors, this being their final game at home,” Katz said. “We wanted to make their last game at home a memory. It was a little crazy at the end, but we pulled it out.”
It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t always pretty.
But the Tigers finished off a perfect run in midweek action. Just in time for their biggest weekend yet.