May 26, 2012
HOOVER, Ala. — As the LSU team bus pulled away from Regions Park on Friday for the trip back to Baton Rouge, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri had plenty of time to contemplate recent developments with two of his key pitchers with NCAA tournament play looming.
The Tigers’ brief 1-2 stay in the Southeastern Conference tournament was long enough for Ryan Eades and Nick Goody to provide more evidence of where they might be headed.
Eades, the No. 2-turned-No. 3 starter, had his second consecutive encouraging, yet far-from-sparkling start, and Goody, the unquestioned closer since February, had his fourth consecutive shaky outing. Eades (six scoreless innings) gave LSU a great chance to play another day before Goody (blown two-run lead in the ninth and game-winning run allowed in the 10th) squandered it.
After the game, shortstop Austin Nola and catcher Ty Ross praised Eades for his longest outing (six scoreless innings) in six starts and his first scoreless outing since his season debut Feb. 18. When given a chance to offer his thoughts on Eades’ outing, Mainieri confessed that he was “not as upbeat” as the players, noting that Eades had four walks (tying his season high), hit a batter and was the beneficiary of a few outstanding defensive plays.
But as he did in a 5.1-inning stint at South Carolina six days earlier, Eades often got himself into trouble before working out of it. Mainieri allowed that he’d “much prefer” Eades do that than dominate until something goes wrong, “then fall apart.”
In his last two outings, in pressure games away from Alex Box Stadium, Eades has allowed just one run in 11.1 innings after struggling for three starts before that. The fact that he has allowed 18 base-runners in those 11.1 innings is a concern, but Eades’ ability to battle out of jams represents progress.
Goody, on the other hand, has allowed at least one run in each of his last four outings after being scored on just twice in his previous 27 since the start of the season.
He was 9-for-9 in save opportunities before letting a one-run lead slip away in the ninth inning and yielding the winning run an inning later against Vanderbilt on May 13. He gave up two runs, one earned, in two-thirds of an inning against Nicholls State two days later.
Then last week in South Carolina, in the game in which Eades fought to give the Tigers a chance, leaving with the score tied at 1 in the sixth, Goody entered in the 10th with a two-run lead. He gave up a run but got the final three outs with the potential tying run on base to save the victory that gave LSU the SEC regular-season title.
Then came Friday’s disappointment.
The NCAA tournament begins next Friday and the Tigers have as good a chance as anyone to reach Omaha, thanks in large part to a deep and talented pitching staff.
But just as one of the key pitchers looks as though he might be getting back on track, another looks as though he might be getting off track.