We’ll get back at it at practice. It’s going to come together. We’re not going to let this one get us down. We can’t let it do that. ” RAPH RHYMES, LSU outfielder
HOOVER, Ala. — Nick Goody and his LSU teammates left the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament in the same frame of mind.
Like the team as a whole, Goody, the Tigers closer, wasn’t at his best at Regions Park, and as a result the No. 1 seed had just one win in three tries in the tournament.
The entire LSU team has a week to put the performance in the SEC tournament behind them before beginning NCAA tournament play Friday.
Goody allowed Mississippi State to score two runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at 3-3 and got the loss when Mitch Slauter doubled off of him and scored the winning run as Matthew Britton singled against Nick Rumbelow in the 10th on Friday.
Though the outcome was in Goody’s hands at the end, the offense’s inability to score even one run during the final eight innings played a big role in the loss as well.
“As an offense, you can’t do that,” first baseman/outfielder Mason Katz said. “We’ve got to give our pitching staff a little bit more runs throughout the game.”
Still, the three runs were enough for Goody to have a two-run lead to work with when he took over for Chris Cotton to start the ninth. But he gave up two runs to fail in a save situation for just the second time in 12 opportunities this season, but the second time in 12 days.
His first one against Vanderbilt two weeks earlier was similar as he squandered a one-run lead in the ninth, then gave up the winning run in the 10th.
“Nick has had a phenomenal year for us,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said. “You can’t be a frontrunner as a coach with a kid like that. He saved two one-run games in Gainesville (Fla.), he saved a one-run game in Lexington (Ky.), he saved a one-run game in Oxford (Miss.), he saved a one-run game in a championship game in Columbia (S.C.). We have to take the good with the bad sometimes with those kids.
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on a young man, to put him on that mound in the last inning to hold a lead. It’s feast or famine. There’s nothing in between. You get the last out before they tie it or take the lead; you’re a hero. If you don’t, you didn’t get the job done for your team.”
In his past four appearances, Goody is 0-2 with two blown saves and one converted save, and his earned run average is 12.60. In five innings, he has allowed 13 hits and eight runs, seven earned. He hasn’t walked a batter but hit a batter Friday for the first time this season and has allowed his only four doubles of the year, his only triple of the season and one of the two homers he has allowed this season.
“Those kids have to pitch knowing that their coach believes in them, and I believe in Nick Goody,” Mainieri said. “We wouldn’t be where we are if he hadn’t done what he’s done. So I can’t imagine under any circumstance that I would change my plan.”
For the season Goody is 1-2 with a 3.41 ERA and has 10 saves in 12 opportunities. He was scored on just twice in his 27 appearances before the first blown save. Both of those were against Mississippi State in the first SEC series of the season.
In three appearances against the Bulldogs this season, Goody has pitched 3.1 innings and allowed six hits and five runs (all earned), walked one and struck out three. Against everyone else, he is 0-1 with a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings with 37 strikeouts.
“I think all of the guys on our team would say that in a save situation we want Nick Goody out there,” said Ty Ross, who moved from designated hitter to catcher when Goody entered Friday’s game.
“He’s a competitor. He’s going to go out there and give you all that he has.
“They were jumping on his fastball. He wasn’t doing anything different. He was battling trying to get outs. Four out of five times or nine out of 10 times, he’ll close out the game. (Friday), he didn’t.”
LSU managed just five runs in 19 innings against State’s pitching in two one-run losses in the tournament. In between, the Tigers matched their SEC highs this season for hits (17) and margin of victory in an 11-2 victory against Ole Miss.
That outburst Thursday morning seemed to put them back on track for a run into the weekend as they grabbed a 3-0 lead against the Bulldogs after two innings. Even after State got a run off Cotton in the eighth inning, LSU seemed headed to a matchup against Kentucky with a berth in the title game at stake.
But the Bulldogs finished stronger just as LSU finished stronger than everyone else a week earlier in emerging from a four-team logjam to claim the overall conference title outright.
“Of course, this one hurts,” outfielder Raph Rhymes said. “Going into next week we’re going to remember this loss. It’s going to burn, but we’ll get over it as soon as we get home.
“We’ll get back at it at practice. It’s going to come together. We’re not going to let this one get us down. We can’t let it do that. We’ll just use it as motivation. This is what we’ve been practicing for the whole year: the postseason. ”