That’s all it took for LSU’s promising baseball season to go splat.
Seventeen minutes passed from the time Kurt McCune delivered his second pitch of the eighth inning Sunday night to the time Caleb Barker dinged a two-run, game-tying single off Nate Fury.
The Tigers went from leading 4-0 — six outs away from beating Houston and advancing to a super regional — to tied. They lost 5-4 in 11 innings and were drubbed 12-2 Monday in a season-ending loss to the Cougars in the NCAA Baton Rouge regional.
Because of those 17 minutes, coach Paul Mainieri’s decisions will be questioned and criticized.
When you lose, your decisions are wrong.
When you win, your decisions are right.
That’s just how it works.
Mainieri decided to pull starter Kyle Bouman, trucking along nicely, after the sixth inning Sunday, inserting McCune to start the seventh.
The decision drew the ire of fans, including one who stumbled not-so-soberly onto my front porch recently.
Understand, though, that Bouman had pitched longer than six innings just twice this season, both nonconference games.
Mainieri preaches that baseball fans are too used to watching a pitcher fail before getting yanked. He wants a pitcher, especially a starter, to leave having not failed.
That’s the reasoning behind the decision — whether you agree or not.
Mainieri decided to keep McCune on the mound in that rocky eighth inning through four batters: single, McCune error, single, two-run single.
Maybe that was too long. But here’s a pitcher in McCune who hurled a hitless final two innings to lead the Tigers to a 2-0 win over Florida in the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.
There was an unfortunate break in that inning, too.
Houston got the first four runners aboard. The second reached on McCune obstructing the base path down the first-base line on a dribbling shot from Houston’s Michael Pyeatt.
The pitcher attempted to spin out of the way, but he clipped Pyeatt, and the umpire immediately made the obstruction call.
That’s what we call a bad break.
“Don’t think I’ve ever seen an interference call on the pitcher,” Mainieri said after that game.
We now turn to Monday night, a game that displayed the 2014 LSU baseball team’s true weakness: pitching depth.
Its best arms spent, LSU started a true freshman in the game, replaced him with a true freshman, and then replaced him with a junior-college transfer who had thrown a grand total of 14 pitches in 18 Southeastern Conference games.
Why did Mainieri go with Brady Domangue in such a crucial situation: bases loaded and one out?
It was part of the plan, he suggested in the postgame press conference — a plan devised because of LSU’s lack of pitching depth.
The Tigers had used their four best arms already: Aaron Nola, Kyle Bouman, Jared Poché and Joe Broussard. They entered the weekend with just 12 healthy pitchers, about four to six fewer than most team have (that’s because of injuries, midseason departures, etc.).
LSU was down to a part of its bullpen that got little action in key games, so Mainieri wanted to save his best arms for late in what he hoped would be a close game.
Pitching coach Alan Dunn and Mainieri met Monday morning and created the pitching plan.
“Our goal was to stay close,” Mainieri said. “After losing the way we did last night and not having Broussard necessarily available — he may have been available a little but not for much, and who knows how affected he would have been after throwing (58) pitches (Sunday) — my main concern was how we were going to end the game.
“AD and I talked about it this morning. We said, ‘Look, we just got to make sure we hang in there until we get to the end of the game.’ That was really our focus, and it just didn’t work out as planned.”
Nothing ever does.