No one should be surprised to see LSU headed to the College World Series in Omaha, after all, LSU expects to be there every year. As is the case in every sport, simply being one of the elite programs is not enough to get a championship. It does however allow you to bring in the top talent from around the country. LSU does this every year, so how is this year different from last years team that failed to make it to Omaha. I can point to 2 things, one a much deeper and improved pitching staff, specifically the additions of Freshman Erik Walker and Zack Hess, and two this team has truly come together, when one or two guys are having a bad game others step up, no better example than the current 16 game win streak.
LSU rode their winning streak into Starkville, MS for their last regular season series against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, who were in first place at the time. Already one of LSU Baseball’s biggest rivals, add to that the controversial late fall departure of hitting coach Andy Cannizaro to become States head coach, you knew it was going to be exciting. All LSU did was sweep the bulldogs to earn an outright western division championship and earn a share of the overall SEC championship. Fastforward 3 weeks and LSU had breezed through the SEC tournament and regional round, only to get to host Mississippi State in the super regional round for the rite to go to Omaha.
Super Regional Game 1, LSU vs. Mississippi State. A comeback for the ages!
Just like some other starts this season Alex Lange looked a bit shaky in the first inning, after a hit and 2 walks the bases were loaded and Lange hit the next batter to walk in a run, but managed to get out of that jam giving up only the one run. All he did after the first was retire 20 out of the next 22 batters, including striking out the top hitter in the SEC, Brent Rooker twice, until the eight inning when he gave up a 2 run double and was pulled from the game trailing 0-3. Then came the bottom of the 8th inning…
Kramer Robertson, after changing to his Michael Jordan cleats midway through the game, started the inning with a leadoff walk. Antoine Duplantis followed with a one out single. Then, with runners at the corners LSU’s best hitter, Greg Deichman came through with a slicing opposite field double to score 2 runs and bring the score to 2-3. Next up freshman phenom centerfielder, Zach Watson, and all he did was tie the game with an RBI single, then he gave LSU the lead for good on a sacrifice fly from LSU’s hottest hotter, catcher Michael Papierski. Freshman fireballer, Zack Hess came back for the 9th inning, a spot usually saved for Hunter Newman. Hess managed to make everyone a little nervous by giving up a leadoff single, but he came back and got the next 2 batters out on weak ground balls, followed by a strikeout to end the game and secure the 4-3 victory for the Tigers. What a game, wow!
Super Regional Game #2. LSU vs. Mississippi State.
Game 2 started the way every LSU fan hoped it would, after 2 innings the Tigers would have a 3-0 lead with senior left hander Jared Poche on the mound. It’s important to mention that through 2 innings, Poche had allowed 1 hit with 4 strikeouts and 0 walks, he was looking like a master of his craft. Then, the bottom of the 3rd inning started, Poche walked the first batter and gave up a 2 run home run to the second batter, the wheels had fallen off, and by the time the inning was over the Tigers were down 3-4. Poche only managed to record one out that inning before being pulled for right hander Caleb Gilbert. Gilbert came in with the bases loaded and only one out, it wasn’t perfect, but he only allowed 2 more runs to cross the plate before getting out of the inning. He went on to pitch 5 more innings of shutout ball while striking out 6 and only walking 1, oh yeah and 0 hits. The offense spotted him 6 runs in the 5th and 5 more in the 9th. Winning 14-4 the way they did was rare this season, it was nice not having to stress until the last out for once. Lookout Omaha, here come the TIGERS!!!
By: Aaron Goldberg