Rabalais: Rain may have been a good thing

Advocate Staff File Photo by Mark Saltz  -- LSU's Alex Box Stadium in February, 2009. Show caption
Advocate Staff File Photo by Mark Saltz -- LSU's Alex Box Stadium in February, 2009.

The rain that literally came out of left field and extinguished Friday night’s LSU-Southeastern Louisiana baseball game in the bottom of the first inning was a disappointment to the fans who dodged the raindrops to get to Alex Box Stadium.

To LSU coach Paul Mainieri, there was a silver lining to the thunderstorms that pelted his ballpark.

The best plan going into a season is to assume whatever is planned will go exceptionally awry at some point, like a throw from short sailing two rows into the grandstand. Doesn’t matter if your sport is played indoors or out — just as the LSU women’s basketball team after its snow-delayed victory Friday at Missouri.

“I love it in the preseason when we’re working out and it’s not a beautiful day,” Mainieri said, standing in his rain-soaked dugout after the SLU game was gone with the wind until 1 p.m. Sunday. “I told the players after the second game against Maryland (last Saturday) that it’s not going to be any warmer in Columbia, Mo., in March.

“Sometimes we get spoiled in the South with our great weather. It builds a little mental toughness.”

In other words, a modest amount of adversity in February when the games are basically tune ups for the bigger months to come can be quite a useful thing.

So far in this young season, the Tigers have seen their share of challenges.

Freezing temperatures. Driving rain. Two top pitchers — Kurt McCune and Nick Rumbelow — shelved with injuries. That’s resulted in LSU having to face a hectic early season schedule — seven games in nine days — with a short-handed pitching staff.

None of these issues have have been too difficult to overcome or ultimately fatal to the Tigers hopes of achieving what is always their ultimate goal: reaching the College World Series. LSU is still 5-0 going into Saturday’s scheduled 6 p.m. game against BYU.

But what if LSU gets to Omaha in June and a game is interrupted by a fearsome line of thunderstorms threatening to spit out tornadoes? Or what if a counted on pitcher has to be replaced by the next man in line at the last minute? Or if the team bus to the ballpark blows a gasket and the Tigers miss batting practice?

At a time like that, LSU’s players may think back to their freaky February experiences and realize that whatever they have to deal with isn’t that bad.

Meanwhile, some of the early season clouds are beginning to part. Mainieri said Rumbelow threw a bullpen and a couple of simulated innings this week and his injured oblique muscle didn’t protest. He’s probably in line to throw an inning or so when the Tigers leave the friendly confines for the first time Tuesday with a trip across the Atchafalaya to Louisiana-Lafayette.

Meanwhile, teammates Ryan Eades and Aaron Nola are showing pretty strong stuff for early in the season, and that youthful batting order that includes the likes of Chris Sciambra, Alex Bregman and Mark Laird is showing flashes of providing the pop LSU will need in a typically competitive SEC.