LSU baseball was 'counted out,' but Tigers, Paul Mainieri advance to super regional

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri mentioned some bucket list items two weeks ago when he announced he would be retiring at the end of the season.

"I want to go to the Kentucky Derby. I want to watch the Masters. I want to go to the Indianapolis 500," he said.

He did not mention Knoxville in June. That's where he and his wife Karen and the Tigers will be for the NCAA Tournament super regional after LSU defeated No. 1 seed Oregon, 9-8, in the NCAA Eugene Regional championship game Monday night.

And Mainieri gave Karen the game ball after his players gave it to him.

"I love him to death," regional most valuable player Gavin Dugas said about Mainieri after hitting two home runs and scoring the tying run in the eighth by eluding a tag at the plate. "I'll do anything for him."

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Gavin Dugas (6) runs and hugs his teammate in celebration of his run. University of Oregon Ducks lose to Louisiana State University Tigers 4-1 at PK Park in NCAA baseball regional Sunday night, June 6, 2021.

LSU (38-23) and Tennessee (48-16), the third overall seed, will open the best-of-three super regional Saturday (6 p.m. CT, ESPN2) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, where the Vols swept the Tigers in three games in March. The second game will be at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. CT Sunday on ESPN2 or ESPNU. A third game, if necessary, will be at 3 p.m. or 6 p.m. CT Monday on ESPN2 or ESPNU.

"It was just an awesome victory for our team and one for the ages for us to be able to come back after losing the first game and winning the regional championship," Mainieri said.

LSU has won 25 regionals in its history, but it just won its first after losing the opener. And it won a road regional for the first time since 1989 at Texas A&M.

"It's an incredible achievement for our team," Mainieri said.

LSU reached the NCAA Tournament as a No. 3 seed - its lowest position ever after finishing the SEC regular season in eighth at 13-17 and losing the SEC Tournament opener, 4-1 to Georgia. The Tigers then looked bad in a 3-0 loss to Gonzaga in the regional opener Friday as they managed just four hits.

"Yeah, a lot of people have counted us out," Mainieri said. "That's what happens. And sometimes you look like you're not even trying when you fail."

The Tigers won four straight elimination games in three days to advance.

"This is something I'll never forget. It's a crazy experience," Dugas said. "We're going to keep going for as long as we possibly can until we do what we need to do."

And with two more wins, Mainieri's next trip will not be bucket listed, but he'll go to Omaha, Nebraska, for his seventh College World Series anyway.