LSU baseball clinches spot in SEC Tournament with thrilling, 12-6 win in 13 innings at Texas A&M
LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri got choked up when asked about winning the 1,500th game of his career Friday night at Texas A&M — a 12-6 victory in 13 innings that lasted three hours and 45 minutes.
This was partly because his team responded after trailing 6-2 through two innings. LSU tied it 6-6 in the fifth, and its relief pitchers held the Aggies scoreless for 11 innings before the Tigers erupted for six runs with two outs in the 13th for the win.
Mainieri, 63, became just the fifth coach in college baseball history to win 1,500 games with a national championship, which he won in 2009 with the Tigers.
"I've had a lot of milestone wins, because I'm old. This one is pretty special. I, uh," Mainieri said, and couldn't speak for a several seconds. "I had my son Nick here, and I thought a lot about my father."
Mainieri's dad, Demie Mainieri, won 1,012 games at Miami Dade Community College and a national junior college championship. A member of the College Baseball Hall of Fame, Mainieri died in 2019.
"It's been a labor of love for 39 years," Mainieri said. "I'm glad we got this one. It was special."
The win put the Tigers (33-21, 12-17 SEC), who have been laboring for most of the season, in the 12-team SEC Tournament that begins Tuesday in Hoover, Alabama. Texas A&M (29-26, 9-20), which beat LSU, 2-1, Thursday, fell out of contention for the tournament.
LSU, which started the SEC 1-8, won the sixth of its last nine league games and is 8-4 overall since May 1. The Tigers, who have the best RPI among teams below .500 at No. 22, needed a win in the regular season finale Saturday for a 13-17 SEC finish to enhance its NCAA postseason chances. Senior Ma'Khail Hilliard (5-0, 4.34 ERA), who has been LSU's hottest starter of late, got the start.
After LSU starter AJ Labas left Friday's game in the second inning following six hits and six runs, five relief pitchers limited the Aggies to five hits and zero runs. Closer Devin Fontenot (3-2) threw the last three innings for the win, no-hitting A&M with two strikeouts and a walk.
"It was amazing. The relief pitching won the game for us," Mainieri said.
"Like I've been saying all these times, we're going to fight to the end," Fontenot said. "We put our foot on their throat and just kept on going."
Three of the relievers — Michael Fowler, Ty Floyd and Garrett Edwards — are freshman.
"I saw what the younger guys did, and I had to go right behind them," Fontenot said.
Sophomore pinch-hitter Zach Arnold delivered the critical, two-out, two-run RBI single in the 13th to give LSU an 8-6 lead and break a stretch of seven scoreless innings on both sides.
"It was a great feeling," Arnold said. "Once I saw it get past shortstop, it was awesome. That's what we live for as ballplayers. You're always dreaming of being in that big situation and coming through."
Cade Doughty doubled in two more for a 10-6 lead, and LSU scored two more as it sent 12 to the plate in all.
Gavin Dugas played after bruising his ribs in an outfield collision Thursday and hit a two-run home run in the first inning to put LSU up 2-0. He was intentionally walked twice in extra innings.
There were eight intentional walks on both sides - the most in an LSU game in history, according to Todd Politz, digital media director in the athletic department.
It was LSU's largest margin of victory in an extra-inning game since 1997 when the Tigers beat Long Beach State, 14-7, in 11 innings in an NCAA Regional at Alex Box.
"It was a great relief to win this game," Mainieri said. "I needed to smile once."