Rabalais: For LSU, all good things must end

Notes in my baseball scorebook on a dark and stormy night at Alex Box Stadium:

Long after the rain and lightning had driven away the fans from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s weather-shortened 4-1 victory over No. 1-ranked LSU, a man in purple gear was spotted running the warning track in the pounding rain.

A Tiger doing penance for LSU’s first loss of the season? Apparently not, just aptly named LSU equipment manager Spencer Lightfoot out for a slog jog while the sky crackled overhead.

What made Spencer run? I’m not ashamed to report I was too afraid to go down there and get zapped to ask.

The point is things aren’t always what they are made out to be. And that goes for the result of Tuesday night’s game as much as anything.

Folks on both sides of the Atchafalaya will look to read great significance into Tuesday’s score.

The truth is it is one baseball game, and a very early one at that. But pride is a substantial commodity whenever LSU and UL-Lafayette take the field against each other.

Tigers fans will try to point to the fact that their streaks of 34 straight midweek victories, 32 straight in-state victories and 26 straight nonconference home wins were drowned in a game called in the sixth inning.

Ragin’ Cajun fans will point to the fact that their team ended LSU’s prideful streaks. Period. Rain or shine.

“We played well for the length of time that we had to play,” UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux said. “It’s a shame that two good teams didn’t get a chance to play it out, but we will take it. We made plays when we needed to, especially with the length of the game in jeopardy.”

UL-Lafayette was clearly the superior team on this rain-shortened night. LSU may have mounted a late comeback if given the chance, but there was little indication that the Tigers’ bats were about to warm to the task.

While there was more reason to push the pride button for UL-Lafayette than the panic button for LSU, a quick glance says the Tigers appear to be too anemic in the middle of their lineup at this point to really be worthy of a No. 1 national ranking.

But it’s a long season. And plenty of time for Paul Mainieri to find a potent combination once again.

“All this loss means is we’re not going to be able to go 56-0,” Mainieri said.

“We’re going to lose games. That’s the nature of baseball. Our message is to be ready for this weekend and improve on the things we need to work on.”

Like the entire game, the contest proved to be a small sample size for LSU starting pitcher Cody Glenn, but the junior left-hander didn’t look like he helped himself with his starting outing.

Glenn left after four innings having allowed three runs on five hits, with a number of hard shots laced for outs all around The Box as well.

But like the LSU basketball team’s NCAA tournament hopes, Glenn won’t completely go away. He’s still squarely in the hunt for a slot in the weekend starting rotation with Kyle Bouman and Jared Poché.

All three will get another start before Mainieri sets his rotation for the Southeastern Conference opening series against Vanderbilt the third weekend in March.

One thing the Cajuns definitely seemed to have a grasp on better than the Tigers was the need to hit line drives and grounders instead of fly balls.

One hopes the new flatter-seamed baseball in 2015 will inject more offense into the college game.

But for now, outfields continue to be places where most fly balls go to die. Hitting the ball in the air unsuccessfully was a big reason LSU was two-and-done in the 2013 College World Series, and it needs to be something the Tigers rectify quickly.

“It is what it is,” said Mainieri, who is one of the leaders of the loyal opposition when it comes to the current state of offense in his beloved game. “It’s hard to have crushers in college baseball anymore. You have to do the best you can to manufacture runs.

“We have to get out of the mode of constantly hitting fly balls.”

Notice you never hear Bill Franques go all Dan Borne at The Box and say, “Chance of rain … Never!” That’s because after 25-plus years of doing publicity and PA for the LSU baseball team, he knows better. I’m still damp from that storm during the 1990 LSU-Southern California NCAA regional.