The Swift Exit Conference.
Surprisingly Early Closing to the season.
Suddenly Everybody’s Confused about the SEC after the regional round of the NCAA baseball tournament concluded Monday.
The SEC, which just a week ago had 10 teams selected for the field of 64 (the most any one conference had ever had), now has just two teams remaining.
LSU, thanks mostly to a disastrous third inning, was eliminated after falling to Houston 12-2 on Monday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Since 1990, nine SEC schools have won a national title; seven have finished as runners-up.
The last time no SEC teams made it to Omaha was 1992.
This year, it will be up to Ole Miss or Vanderbilt to keep that streak alive. The Rebels and Commodores were the only two league teams to survive the regionals, both going 3-0 to advance. In the super regionals, Ole Miss is on the road at UL-Lafayette, while Vandy will host Stanford.
LSU, Mississippi State, Alabama., Florida, Texas A&M, Kentucky, South Carolina and Arkansas all were eliminated.
Everyone except Florida, the league’s biggest postseason disappointment, reached a regional final. The Gators, a No. 2 national seed, went 0-2 in the Gainesville region.
LSU, a No. 8 national seed, became the next biggest surprise, especially after winning the first two games in the Baton Rouge regional and being in control for seven innings Sunday night against the Cougars.
They lost that in 11 innings and then had their fate sealed in the third inning Monday.
“The third inning kind of unraveled,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Brady (Domangue) came in, and he was throwing the ball over the plate and they put some good swings on them. We got ourselves into a bad situation early, but the third inning was just a nightmarish inning for us. We just couldn’t shake them.”
Houston sent 12 batters to the plate and produced five hits. The biggest blows were a two-run double by Conner Hollis and a two-run single by Michael Pyeatt off Domangue, who relieved Parker Bugg in the inning. Houston scored seven runs in the inning.
“It just kinda happened,” said first baseman Tyler Moore. “There’s nobody to blame for tonight. Things just didn’t go our way. They found the holes and they caught the breaks tonight.”
LSU used six pitchers in the game. Aaron Nola, the ace of the staff who was brilliant in a win over the Cougars on Saturday, could only watch as the third inning unfolded.
“It was tough,” said Nola, expected to be a high draft pick in this week’s MLB draft. “I am sitting in there and can’t really do anything about it but cheer and try to get the guys on track. It’s hard to lose a game like that when they score that many runs in an inning. It brings you down a little bit. But they played great.”
By the time the inning was over, the Cougars led 9-2.
Coming into the game, the Tigers were 4-8 this season in games they trailed after the third. So the chances of coming back didn’t look good.
It didn’t help that they didn’t do anything offensively to help themselves. LSU had four hits through the first two innings but didn’t get another hit until the eighth.
“Their guy pitched well,” Moore said. “He had a unique pitch we hadn’t seen all year, and I think that was the biggest thing. He threw strikes and threw that one pitch really well and shut us down.”
Said Mainieri: “This is a humbling game. I have been around too many years to know that things can change at a moment’s notice. … It was just a very tough night for us all.”
And for the rest of the SEC.