Baseball Season Ends in NCAA Super Regional

Tennessee belted six home runs Sunday as the Volunteers defeated LSU, 15-6, to win the Knoxville Super Regional and advance to the College World Series.

+0
Baseball Season Ends in NCAA Super Regional

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee belted six home runs Sunday as the Volunteers defeated LSU, 15-6, to win the Knoxville Super Regional and advance to the College World Series.

Tennessee improved to 50-16 with its fifth straight NCAA Tournament win. LSU completed its season with a 38-25 record.

Sunday’s game marked the end of the career of LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who announced on May 28 that he would retire at the end of the Tigers’ 2021 season. 

Mainieri completed his 39-season coaching career with a 1,505-777-8 record, including a 641-285-3 mark in 15 seasons at LSU.

LSU won a remarkable 31 team championships during Mainieri’s tenure, including the 2009 national championship, nine NCAA Regional championships, five NCAA Super Regional championships, four SEC regular-season titles, six SEC Tournament titles and six SEC Western Division crowns.

Mainieri completed his career No. 7 among NCAA Baseball Division I coaches in wins, and he is one of only five coaches in NCAA Division I Baseball history to earn 1,500 victories and a national championship.

Tennessee right-hander Blade Tidwell (10-3) earned the win Sunday, as he worked seven innings and allowed six runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

LSU starter Landon Marceaux (7-7) was charged with the loss as he gave up three runs – two earned – on three hits in three innings with one walk and four strikeouts.

“We felt good going into the game,” Mainieri said. “Landon has so much courage and guts, and he was unbelievable in pitching twice in the regional last weekend, but I could tell early on he didn’t have his usual stuff. His slider didn’t have the kind of bite that it normally does and his velocity was down. It just shows you what kind of competitor he is, he gritted his teeth and battled through three innings.”

Tennessee, the visiting team for Sunday’s game, grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when third baseman Jake Rucker unloaded a two-run homer, his eighth dinger of the season.

LSU responded in the bottom of the first with a run as rightfielder Dylan Crews led off the frame with a homer, his 17th of the season.

Rucker hit a solo homer with one out in the third to extend UT’s lead to 3-1, but Crews again responded with a two-out solo homer in the bottom of the inning to narrow the gap to 3-2. 

Tennessee catcher Connor Pavolony blasted a two-run homer in the fourth against reliever Garrett Edwards, giving the Vols a 5-2 advantage.

The Vols erupted for six runs in the fifth in a rally that was highlighted by rightfielder Jordan Beck’s three-run homer.

LSU reduced the deficit to 11-4 in the sixth on a two-run homer by first baseman Tre’ Morgan, and the Tigers trailed 11-6 when designated hitter Brody Drost launched a two-run homer in the seventh.

However, Tennessee leftfielder Evan Russell hit a two-run homer in the eighth, and the Vols added two runs in the ninth to account for the final margin.

“Our kids battled like crazy all year,” Mainieri said. “We were counted out a lot of times during the course of this year, and our guys never gave up. They’re a resilient bunch, and I love them. I’ll always remember them, they’re my last team.

“I don’t want people to be sad for me, I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Thirty-nine years of being able to live out a childhood dream of being a college baseball coach. I got to do what I wanted to do with my life, who could ask for more?”

Knoxville Super Regional Postgame Quotes
June 13, 2021

LSU Head Coach Paul Mainieri

Opening Statement
“First of all, I’d like to congratulate the University of Tennessee and coach Tony Vitello for qualifying for the College World Series and winning the Super Regional. They have an outstanding ball club and clearly deserve the opportunity that they are going to have. And I wish them well. It just wasn’t our day today, obviously. We felt good going into the game. Landon (Marceaux)… that kid’s got so much courage and so much guts. What he did last weekend was unbelievable. But I could tell pretty quickly that he just didn’t have his normal stuff. He looked like he was out of gas right from the very beginning. And we didn’t make the first play of the game for him, which put him into the stretch right away. I thought he threw a good pitch to (Jake) Rucker, and Rucker went down and got the slider and hit it out of the ballpark. So, obviously, he didn’t add the kind of bite to it that he normally does, and his velocity was really down. It just shows you what kind of competitor he is. He just gritted his teeth and battled his way through three innings. But I just could not—in good conscience—let him continue, because he was really laboring out there to just get through the first three innings. And with everything that that kid has meant to our program and all the things he’s given—and I know he’s got a future ahead of him—I just couldn’t keep running him out there. So now, we just start piecing it together, and then unfortunately, Garrett Edwards came in, and the first batter he faced, he threw a slider and just felt something pull in his arm. He’s had some issues with a muscle pull for a while. We thought it was healed, but it flared up on one pitch that he threw, and then the next batter—I think he gave up the base hit to that batter—and the next batter hit a home run off of him, and then he walked the next batter. When we went out to the mound, he was being honest with (assistant coach Alan) Dunn, and so we had to take him out of the game. And things just kind of unraveled there, and we just decided to go with AJ (Labas). AJ held them down for a couple of innings, but it’s hard to hold them down in this ballpark for very long. The ball just jumps out of here. I’m not sure how many home runs they hit, but I think it was six or seven, if I’m not mistaken. So, you know, credit to them. They hit the ball better than we did today and really pretty much did everything better than we did, and they deserved to win. So, our season is over, and it’s disappointing for our kids, but I’m really proud of our players. You know, a lot of people didn’t expect us to get here, and we battled our way through the Regional last weekend with our backs against the wall, and we had a tough ballgame last night. We had one bad inning, and then today, we just didn’t do what we needed to do. So, we’re going to put the bats away and call it a year. In my case, call it a career.”

On his opinion on where he’s leaving the program compared to when he took it over
“I’m pretty proud…  I kind of addressed that in our press conference when I announced my retirement, so I won’t get into it too deeply, but I feel very proud of what we’re leaving to the next coach. We’ve got some really good young players. Obviously, we were able to win a Regional. You know, there’s some good young talent on this team, and there’s also some areas that need to be improved, there’s no question about that. That’s why I wanted to announce my retirement when I did, so that Scott (Woodward) and Stephanie (Rempe) and Dan (Gaston) could start their search quickly enough that they could get somebody on board and get to fill in some holes that maybe we didn’t with our incoming recruiting class—maybe going to the transfer portal if necessary—and just making the team as strong as they possibly can for next year. But I think there’s a really strong foundation, and I think we’re leaving the program in very good shape. That’s my opinion, and I’m not going to get into what it was like when I got here. I know that it took us three years to win the national championship, and I’m pretty proud of that. You know, we went to Omaha in our second year. The ’08 team was a phenomenal group of kids, and our ’09 team finished the job and won the national championship. The foundation of that was set with my first team in ’07, so I feel very good very good about where the program is, and it’s been 15 wonderful years. I’ve loved every second of it and will cherish it forever.”

On how he will remember this team, its character and what it was able to accomplish
“Oh, even today, we’re down 11-2… never gave up. You know, we just kept battling, and AJ (Labas) came in and did a great job for us for a couple innings there. And we had some real quality at-bats. The (Blade) Tidwell kid has a good arm; he’s going to be an outstanding pitcher in this league for a couple more years. And somehow, we got six runs off of him. I don’t think he’s probably given up six runs very frequently this year. He’s outstanding. So, our kids battled like crazy. We got counted out a lot of times during the course of this year, and our guys never gave up. They’re a resilient bunch, and I love them to death. I’ll always remember them as my last team.”

On what he’s learned about coaching at LSU and what he wants to pass on to the next coach
“That’s a tough question to answer right now, Ron, still feeling the bitterness of the season come to an end right now. Hadn’t really thought too much about that. You know, I just think that the new coach has to know that there’s a lot expected of you here, without question. It’s an awesome fan base. There’s a lot of people that care about LSU baseball. (You) have a lot of resources, have a great administration. But you have to be confident in yourself, and you can’t listen to the criticism too much, and let it change you. You have to be confident in yourself and stick by what you believe. You’ve got to do it your way, and I’ve tried to do that without being arrogant with people. I care about people, and I’ve tried to, you know, show people how important they are to me and to our team and to our program. And people are passionate about LSU baseball. Don’t confuse their passion, with… I don’t know what the word is… the criticism sometimes can hurt, but it’s just because people are passionate about the program, and you can’t take it personal. You know what I mean? I think I would give the new coach that advice. Just be confident and go do your thing. And, I’m going to still be in Baton Rouge, hopefully, for the rest of my life, and hopefully that’ll be a long time. Karen and I built a house down in St. Gabriel, and I’m certainly not going to overstep my boundaries. But I’ll be around to help and give advice in whatever way they ask of me, just like Skip (Bertman) has done for me. So, I want nothing but great things for this program going forward.”

On what was going through his mind during the ninth inning
“I’m sorry. Yeah, I was thinking about my dad… thinking about my father, talking to him. Thinking about my son up in South Bend. Thinking about my wife and my children down here, they were with me through all this. And listen, I don’t want people to be sad for me. I’ve been the luckiest guy in the world. Thirty-nine years of heaven, really. Got to live out a childhood dream. Got to do what I wanted to do with my life. Who could ask for more? Nobody should. These are not tears of being upset. These are tears of happiness and gratefulness. We got to do what I wanted to do. My dad got to live a long life and got to share it with me, for most of the time. I miss him and miss talking to him. And I love my family and I’m glad that they’ve shared it with me. But I also think that we’re looking forward to our next phase of our life, you know. I’m excited about what the future holds for us and looking forward to watch my son be a dentist and spending time with my grandchildren and living some life, you know, doing things that we never got to do, especially during the spring. So, during the ninth inning… really, mostly, I was just thinking about my dad.”

On what Tony Vitello has achieved in four seasons at Tennessee
“I tell you, their pitching is really good, and I think that’s what a lot of people don’t give them enough credit for. To pitch in this ballpark is not easy. How many home runs were hit today in this game, like 10 or so? Ten home runs. At one point I think there was 17 hits, and 10 of them were home runs. So, their pitching is really good. And in that ballpark in Omaha, anybody that pitches the ball well… you’re not going to hit 10 home runs in a game. There might not be 10 home runs hit an entire tournament up there. So, if you throw a ball over the plate and you’ve got good stuff, you’ve got a chance to win up there. Tony (Vitello) has done a terrific job here. And they’ve had history in the program here when Chris Burke played and Todd Helton, you know, even years before that. So it’s always been kind of a sleeping giant. He’s brought it back to life, and good for them. Like I said, I congratulate them on what they’ve done.”

On the upcoming transition and what his role will be in it
“No, I have some things that I’ll need to do to help the new coach in the transition, and we have summer camp. We’ve got to make sure we’re good and organized with that—with (hitting coach) Eddie Smith moving on to his new job. We’ll have to get that taken care of. And, I don’t know how you phrased that initially, but it’s not what I think I need to do, but what the new coach asks me to do. I’m not going to in any way overstep my boundaries. I’ll be there when he asks for any advice or has any questions. I’ll make myself available to him. But I will never overstep my boundaries, that’s for sure. But I don’t know, to be honest with you, Wilson. I’m not of clear thought right now about what the next step is. I’ll have to think about it, and first I’ve got to say goodbye to these kids. Then we’ll see what the list is—what we’ve got to do to wrap things up for this year and get everything prepared for the transition to the new coach.”