By the time the LSU roster mobbed Nick Goody following his regional-clinching save Sunday night against Oregon State, the Tigers' full arsenal of pitching options had been showcased.
The moment that will stick out most is Alex Edward's one-out, RBI double to tie the game and force extra innings. And it was no surprise to see Austin Nola, the regional's eventual Most Outstanding Player, jog out the winning run on a wild pitch in the 10th inning.
But as was the case the previous two nights of this weekend, and for most of this charmed season for LSU, it was the Tigers' dominant pitching in all phases that eventually cowed the stubborn Beavers in the 6-5 win.
"They all have their niche and what they know they can do well, and we just let them do that," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri of his pitchers. "They've all done a tremendous job. You can't win consistently with just one or two pitchers -- you have to have a deep staff."
That depth was on full display in a game that seemed destined to go down as a loss. After getting an impressive 16 combined innings from his Friday and Saturday starters, Mainieri watched Ryan Eades struggle through a rocky 5.2 innings that saw him allow nine hits and four earned runs. The sophomore showed poise to work himself out of several different jams, but it was hardly the one-run efforts that Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman had chalked up earlier in the tournament.
"It was tough. It was a grind out there, it really was. Ryan was giving it everything he had," Mainieri said.
After taking an early 3-0 lead, LSU saw it evaporate to a 5-3 deficit after a bases loaded single from Oregon State shortstop Tyler Smith.
"I thought two runs would be enough," Smith said. "Unfortunately we had a few mishaps, and that's just baseball."
Trailing by two runs, the Tigers turned to their airtight bullpen, and the trio of relievers in Nick Rumbelow, Chris Cotton and Nick Goody, who pitched 4.1 combined innings of one-hit baseball while striking out nine batters. Rumbelow drew special praise from Mainieri for earning an inning-ending strikeout with men on first and second after Eades' exit.
"Nick Rumbelow was very key to the game, for him to come in and stem the tide there for us," Mainieri said. "I almost wish I had brought him in a batter earlier now."
Goody's 10th-inning save, in which he struck out the side to preserve the win, was the cherry on top for a pitching staff that showcased just about every kind of talent there is.
"What Nick Goody did, I tell you, that's true closing," Mainieri said. "To close a championship with a one-run lead and throw the ball the way he did -- that's why you have to stick with people that have that kind of talent."
Scarily enough for whoever advances to play LSU next weekend is that Mainieri managed to hang on to a few weapons in the regional round. The Tigers only used six pitchers in a loaded pitching staff that goes about 11 hurlers deep and features a staff ERA of 3.19.
"We didn't even use (Joey) Bourgeois. We didn't even use (Kurt) McCune … there's other guys that we felt confident in," Mainieri said. "I was holding Bourgeois and (Joe) Broussard back because if we lost this game we were going to need to see those guys go out and do a great job tomorrow."
The talent on hand certainly draws plenty of comparisons to some of the loaded staffs Mainieri has managed here in Baton Rouge. It was just three years ago that current professional prospects like Anthony Ranaudo and Louis Coleman helped the Tigers to a national championship. But that team featured a much more potent offense.
If the Tigers are going to sniff another title in 2012, the pitching is going to play a much bigger role. But if the first weekend of the postseason is any indicator, that might not be a problem.
"I'm just really proud of our pitching staff. It's lead the way, and it's given our offense a chance to do its thing," Mainieri said. "It's not an awe-inspiring offense, but it's good enough with this caliber of pitching."