LSU baseball will reach NCAA postseason if it stays hot in SEC Tournament | Guilbeau

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

After LSU's 2-1 loss at Texas A&M Thursday that kept it in 10th place in the SEC, one more Tigers "fan" abandoned ship.

"Pucker up and kiss this season goodbye," he said on Twitter. When LSU fell behind 6-2 on Friday after four innings, he seemed prophetic.  

Well, hold your tongue.

Over the next 18 innings through Saturday, LSU outscored the Aggies, 14-2,  with three home runs to zero, and its pitching hurled 16 shutout innings.

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LSU (34-21, 13-17 SEC) erased the 6-2 deficit to win 12-6 in 13 innings Friday to secure a spot in the 12-team SEC Tournament and beat A&M, 8-2, on Saturday for the No. 9 seed.

"It was good to see our guys fight all the way to the end," said reliever Devin Fontenot (3-2), who no-hit A&M over the last three innings Friday for the win.

Starter Ma'Khail Hilliard (6-0) allowed six hits and two runs through seven innings for the win Saturday.

The Tigers play No. 8 seed Georgia (30-23, 13-17) on Tuesday (4:30 p.m., SEC Network) in Hoover, Alabama, with the winner advancing to meet No. 1 seed Arkansas (42-10, 22-8) on Wednesday (4:30 p.m., SEC Network).

"You always want to be going into the postseason playing your best baseball, and we've really done that," designated hitter Zach Arnold said.

"We didn't - obviously - give up Friday," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. "We fought back. Every kid pitched his heart out. We kept battling, and ultimately we were able to prevail. You can't give up."

As far as the NCAA postseason, LSU may not be there yet. The Tigers, who are No. 23 in the Ratings Percentage Index, still need a win or two in Hoover. While the Tuesday games are single elimination, the rest of the tournament is double elimination. So if LSU beats Georgia, it will have another game for a second win, should it lose to Arkansas.

"I don't think the 13 wins guarantees us a bid, but if we hadn't won 13, it would have been a long shot," Mainieri said. "It gives us a shot at it now."

Just at the right time, everything appears to be falling into place for LSU, which is 9-4 since May 1 when it beat Arkansas, 5-4. The Tigers have won three straight SEC series, and they have found a dominant starter in Hilliard.

The senior won his third straight decision over his last four starts on Saturday. Not a starter on the weekend or mid-week until May, he is now LSU's most dominant starter at 3-0 with a 2.59 ERA this month.

He has taken over the rotation spot of junior Jaden Hill, a first-round draft prospect who entered the season as the ace but was lost for the year with an elbow injury in April.

Landon Marceaux (6-4, 2.04 ERA) had been the Tigers' top starter for most of the season, but he has struggled lately. He was sick last week and it showed when he started Thursday against the Aggies. After allowing three hits and one run through four innings and 60 pitches, Mainieri took him out, because of fatigue.

But he is better now, well rested and may start Tuesday. That's good fortune, which LSU has not had much of this year with seven one-run losses in the SEC.

Freshman Javen Coleman allowed only three hits and a run with five strikeouts in relief of Marceaux. You'll see him in Hoover. Michael Fowler, Ty Floyd and Garrett Edwards all pitched well in relief on Friday along with Fontenot.

LSU's offense also has newfound confidence. Yes, it  was against Texas A&M (29-27, 9-21), which finished 13th of 14. But this is the SEC, and the Aggies did take two of three against No. 5 seed Ole Miss, and has wins over SEC champion Arkansas and No. 2 seed Tennessee.

Book it. LSU will win two games in Hoover and reach the NCAA postseason for the ninth straight season.