LSU’s athletic year came to an end Tuesday when the Tigers finished as national runners-up in baseball. Two LSU teams won Southeastern Conference championships – baseball and gymnastics. Listed below are the five best coaching performances of the 2016-17 school year.
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1. D-D BREAUX, GYMNASTICS
One year earlier, the LSU gymnastics team had its highest finish in school history – national runner-up to Oklahoma. But, the Tigers did not win the SEC title. Breaux returned a veteran team this past season which nearly swept all the championships. First, LSU won the SEC regular-season title – an award presented for the first time. The Tigers went undefeated in all of the meets against SEC teams. Then, LSU won the SEC Championships for the first time in 1981. The Tigers won the regional championship to advance to the Super Six. For the second straight year, LSU ended up as the national runner-up to Oklahoma, which was the only team to finish ahead of the Tigers during the regular season. Under Breaux, LSU has reached the Super Six six times in the past eight years. Breaux was selected the SEC Coach of the Year.
2. PAUL MAINIERI, BASEBALL
The expectations were high for the Tigers baseball team heading into the 2017 campaign. LSU lost two key players to season-ending injuries – starting designated hitter Bryce Jordan and bullpen set-up man Doug Norman. Closer Hunter Newman also missed nearly three weeks in the first half of the season with a back injury. Ten games into the SEC schedule, the Tigers were sitting at .500. However, Mainieri got his team to win 16 of its last 20 league games. LSU defeated Mississippi State on the final day of the regular season to tie Florida for the SEC title – the fourth for Mainieri. The Tigers continued their hot streak in the postseason by winning nine consecutive games – four in the SEC tournament, three in the regional and two in the super-regional. LSU came out of the losers’ bracket to reach the CWS Championship Series. The Tigers beat top-ranked Oregon State on back-to- back days to advance to the championship series. LSU lost two straight games and finished second in the country to Florida. Mainieri won his sixth SEC tournament title and seventh regional championship. Mainieri took a Tigers team to Omaha for the fifth time in his 11 years.
3. BETH TORINA, SOFTBALL
There was probably not a more unlikely participant in the Women’s College World Series than LSU. The Tigers had a very disappointing regular season in which it had a breakeven 12-12 record in SEC games. But, Torina began to get things turned around in the SEC tournament. LSU reached the tournament title game where it lost to Ole Miss. In the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, the Tigers proved be the comeback kids as they rebounded from a defeat. First, LSU defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in successive games to win the regional at Tiger Park. One week later, LSU found itself in a similar position in its super-regional series at Florida State. The Tigers handed the Seminoles back-to-back losses – their first at home all year. Those two victories put LSU in the Women’s College World Series for a third straight year. The Tigers went 1-2 in the WCWS. Torina has led LSU to the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City in four of her six seasons as coach.
4. DENNIS SHAVER, WOMEN AND MEN’S TRACK
There were no SEC or NCAA championships in the LSU track program this year. But, Shaver did produce top-ten teams in each sport. The Lady Tigers were runners-up in the SEC Indoor Championships, but slipped to an 18th-place finish in the NCAA Championships. The men’s team performed better in the NCAA Indoor Championships – finishing sixth after ending eighth in the SEC Championships. In the SEC Outdoor Championships, the women ended second – the 26th top-three finish for one of Shaver’s teams in the SEC Championships since he took over at LSU in 2005. The men’s team were seventh in the SEC Outdoor Championships. Both the men and women’s teams tied for seventh place in the Outdoor NCAA Championships.
5. CHUCK WINSTEAD: MEN’S GOLF
Two years ago, LSU won the men’s golf national championship. There were no titles this season, but Winstead is keep the Tigers among one of the top ten programs in the country. LSU finished third in the SEC Championships and then was defeated by Alabama in the league quarterfinals. The Tigers finished ninth in the NCAA championships.