LSU baseball notebook: Kurt McCune takes command as Tigers close it out

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU first baseman Tyler Moore completes a double play as Florida's Richie Martin is out in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- LSU first baseman Tyler Moore completes a double play as Florida's Richie Martin is out in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday.

HOOVER, Ala. — Paul Mainieri thought about pulling Kurt McCune in the ninth inning of a two-run game.

The LSU coach stepped out of the dugout, glanced toward the pitcher and got that look.

“(It) basically said, ‘Stay right where you are,’ ” Mainieri said. “I don’t know if he would have given me the ball if I went out there.”

McCune, a senior righty, got his fifth save in LSU’s 2-0 win over Florida in the SEC tournament title game Sunday at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

He threw a hitless final two innings, allowing just one batter to reach base and inducing a whopper of a double play in the ninth. And he was almost yanked.

Joe Broussard normally closes games for the Tigers. McCune entered to start the eighth as Broussard warmed up in the bullpen for what appeared to be a chance to get save No. 9 in the ninth.

But Mainieri left McCune in. Before the inning, Mainieri had planned to pull him for Broussard when Florida’s No. 3 hitter, Harrison Bader, came to bat.

Bader walked to the plate with two outs and no one on base after a double play.

“When we got the double-play ball, I don’t know, I just thought the momentum was going good there,” Mainieri said.

And McCune gave him that look, too.

McCune retired Bader, who was hitting .340 entering the game, by inducing a grounder to first base, and LSU celebrated its fifth SEC tournament title in seven years.

“What an amazing experience,” McCune said after the celebration. “I’ve never felt that since I’ve been at LSU. So many guys stepped up. It’s great what this team can do.”

Big D

Alex Bregman raced toward the middle of the field, scooped up a grounder, spun in the air a full 360 degrees and hurled to first base.

Out.

LSU’s defense made some snazzy plays, including that spin from the All-America shortstop in the seventh inning.

The defense bailed out starting pitcher Alden Cartwright on multiple occasions. Cartwright allowed just one hit through four innings, but he struggled with his command.

The freshman from Runnels walked the leadoff batter in the second, third and fourth. In two of those innings, Conner Hale combined with Bregman and first baseman Tyler Moore for double plays. LSU had three double plays in all Sunday.

“It makes our pitchers confident,” McCune said. “I’ll never get sick of Alex calling for groundballs and making plays. I think it’s not spoken about enough how great our defense is.”

Regional at the Box

LSU will host its 22nd NCAA regional this coming week.

The Tigers were one of 16 teams to receive a host bid and one of five from the SEC. Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt will host four-team regionals as well.

The full field, including the top eight national seeds, will be revealed in a selection show at 11 a.m. Monday (ESPNU).

The Tigers have won 20 NCAA regionals. They’re making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance and 27th overall.

LSU has a 132-51 record in the event. Its .721 winning percentage is the best in the nation. The Tigers likely will play Friday against the regional’s No. 4 seed.

Ticket details

Regional tickets are on sale to LSU baseball season-ticket holders until 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Regional ticket booklets, good for all games, are $100 (suites and Champion’s Club), $75 (gold field box, gold grandstand and grandstand) and $50 (bleachers and standing-room-only).

All parking passes are $60. Season-ticket holders who selected the will-call option will be able to begin picking up their tickets at the LSU ticket office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Any available all-session booklets will go on sale to the general public at 8 a.m. Thursday. Any available individual-session tickets will go on sale to the general public at 8 a.m Friday.

Game 7 tickets will not go on sale unless necessary after the conclusion of Game 6.

Lagniappe

Instant replay was not used this week at the SEC tournament. The conference implemented replay on a trial basis this week, but only for fan interference, whether a ball is fair or foul and home runs. … LSU hit .353 in its four games in the SEC tournament with 15 extra-base hits.