That was the case in the College World Series Tuesday, when Mainieri, LSU's head coach, decided to hold ace Anthony Ranaudo on three days' rest against Texas in Game 2 of the best-of-three national championship series. The Longhorns prevailed 5-1, thanks in large part to a stellar pitching performance from freshman All-American Taylor Jungmann. Jungmann was Da Man, limiting the Tigers to five hits in his first compete game after throwing six pitches, all balls, in a forgettable relief performance a night earlier.
Still, a gracious yet steadfast Mainieri remembered -- and now he hopes he learned from Dear Ol' Dad.
It was 1971, and Mainieri was just 14 years old. Demie Mainieri's Miami-Dade North Community College baseball team was in the same position that LSU was in Tuesday at Rosenblatt Stadium -- one win away from a national title. Paul Mainieri pointed out his father opted to throw his ace pitcher on limited days rest. His pitcher threw a courageous, phenomenal game.
And lost, 2-1.
Nearly four decades later, Mainieri wanted to avoid those negative vibes at all cost.
"I saw how it demoralized his team the next night and I think they got beat 10-2 in the championship game," Mainieri said.
"You hate to have negative thoughts like that in your mind. But you add the combination of the fact that Ranaudo would have had to go on three days' rest, and who knows how effective he would have been. As it turns out, he would have had to pitch a shutout for us to win the way their pitcher shut us down. I thought this was the best chance for us this way."
Well, who could ask for a better script?
It's a winner-take-all Wednesday between Texas and LSU for the national title. It's a sexy, intriguing, entertaining showdown between the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 seed in the Longhorns and the country's top-ranked team in a majority of the polls in the Tigers. Looking for bling? The two programs have combined for 11 national titles. Texas last won it all in 2005; LSU in 2000.
Texas also is looking to become the first top overall seed to win the crown since Miami had honors in 1999. If the Tigers lose, it would mark only the second time this season they have dropped back-to-back games.
"You couldn't get it any better for this for all the people involved. It's pretty cool," Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
LSU's start Tuesday was pretty aggravating for Mainieri.
Tigers starter Aaron Ross (6-8) lasted only two innings in his first CWS start. Mainieri said he knew trouble was looming when Ross walked Michael Torres on four pitches to start the game. Ross never really captured his command, elevating pitches and throwing 23 strikes in 41 pitches. Reliever Ryan Byrd allowed three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning, and that's all Texas needed as Jungmann made a 5-1 lead after three innings stand.
"We got off to a bad start and we dug ourselves a hole that seemed insurmountable because of the kid pitching for Texas, he was so good," Mainieri said.
Now it's the Tigers' turn to flush a disappointing loss from their system. Texas rebounded just fine after squandering a pair of two-run leads and wasting five home runs in its 7-6 extra-inning defeat on Monday.
Mainieri also believes his team will recover, pointing to what's at stake and having the 6-foot-7 Ranaudo on the bump. Ranaudo is coming off one of his finest efforts of the season, throwing six innings and allowing no runs on only four hits while walking none and striking out five in last Friday's win over Arkansas.
Let's face it. Mainieri rolled the dice by holding Ranaudo out, possibly even shifting the momentum back to Texas' favor with the Longhorns victory. Still, Mainieri figured if he called his players together during the first day of fall practice and asked them if they would be in position to win the CWS on the final day with Ranaudo starting, would they take it?
You're darn tooting, outfielder Jared Mitchell and relief pitcher Nolan Cain nodded in agreement.
"if we can't get up for [Wednesday], we shouldn't be playing," Mitchell said.
"Someone's going to be a legend [Wednesday]; hopefully it's us," said Cain, who teamed with Daniel Bradshaw to hold the Longhorns scoreless over the final 6.2 innings in Tuesday's game.
Of course, by then it was too late. But it wasn't 1971.
If Ranaudo pitches the Tigers to their sixth national title, Mainieri will have his father to thank, too.