May 22, 201811:00 AM
Full Sport Press
'The games we play in New Orleans and beyond'
Do or Die Baseball
Even LSU is on the bubble
Southern Louisiana has picked up a lot of losses this college baseball year. Tulane sputtered to its second straight losing season under Coach Travis Jewett (in only his second year), UNO posted its worst season under Coach Blake Dean and even LSU needs a victory in the SEC tournament to ease its fears of missing the NCAA regionals. Unfortunately, these teams face a rough road but, fortunately, their seasons are still alive and, yes, hope does spring eternal.
Tulane Green Wave
That giant thud you heard in Uptown was the Tulane Green Wave face planting to end their regular season. Tulane (24-31) has posted back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in, oh, over four decades and Uptown is grumbling.
Right when you would hope the team could finish strong at UCF and gain some momentum heading into this week’s conference tournament the Green Wave dropped a doubleheader to the Golden Knights. The series finale was rained out.
Fortunately, the Green Wave fought like hell, extending the first game to the 12th inning before falling 7-6. The second game on the twin bill featured a strong performance by Trent Johnson, who went 7.1 innings with seven strikeouts and only gave up two runs in a 3-2 loss. It was Johnson’s second start in a row and he definitely seems to have what it takes and could develop into a go-to starter.
Which is the exact problem with the team. At the end of the year, you want to be talking about your veterans and go-to-right-now guys. Winning teams talk about guys that “could develop” during fall ball and the early stages of the season, not when everyone is heading to the conference tournament.
Tulane’s side of the AAC bracket is as tough as expected for a team entering as the eight seed. But did Tulane get the luck of the draw? Entering the final days of the season, the Green Wave were in line to be the seventh seed of the tournament, which would have put them up against South Florida in the first round, a team that brutalized Green Wave pitching earlier this year in a series win. Instead, Tulane will face the #1 Houston Cougars, a team they beat twice to win the regular season series, one of the games being a miraculous 17-16 victory. Could Tulane, after a rough season, actually enter the first game against the number one seed with mojo on their side?
Check it out for yourself. Tulane, led by first team all-conference center fielder Grant Witherspoon, takes on the Cougars at 11:00 a.m. today. You should blow off work and watch it on the American Digital Network Plus. It’s do or die time, folks. Roll Wave.
UNO fought their way into the Southland Conference tournament being played this week in Sugarland, Texas by going 6-3 in their final nine conference games to snatch the last seed in the tourney. They will face a nasty Sam Houston State team (38-18) that is looking to not only win the Southland Conference tourney again but scrap its way back into a Super Regional, a feat they pulled off last year before getting knocked out of the tournament by Florida State. If the Privateers can shake up the tourney by upsetting Sam Houston State they could match up in the second game with Houston Baptist, a team they took a series from on the road just three weeks ago.
The Privateers take on the Bearkats on Wednesday, May 23, at 4 p.m. You can root for the home team by watching the game on ESPN+.
LSU is definitely on the ropes heading into Hoover, Alabama for the SEC tournament. The Tigers are relatively limping in (for LSU) with a 33-23 record. Yes, a ton of clubs would like to have such a problem but folks in Baton Rouge are worried.
As they should be. Multiple sites have LSU being one of the “Last 5 In” to be picked for an at-large bid to the NCAA regionals. It’s been all up and down with the club but it basically boils down to the team not picking up big series wins on the road much like the last weekend of the regular season where they dropped the series to the Auburn Tigers.
So, like Tulane and UNO they will enter their conference tournament as the eight seed, where they will match up against Mississippi State (31-24) in the first game. Unfortunately for LSU (and every other team not ranked in the top four of the SEC tourney) a loss in the first game ends your weekend and if that happens the Tigers are in serious jeopardy of not making the NCAA regionals. I think they could still sneak in as all of the talk the past month has been about the SEC getting 11 bids but it will be hands wringin’ time in Baton Rouge if they take that route.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: 21st Amendment Brewery’s “Brew Free or Die” American IPA
Playlist Recommendation: The Clash – “Death or Glory”
Around the Way
Now for something completely unexpected, hockey anyone? I don’t care if you’re not into the sport, now is the time to give it a try as the Las Vegas Golden Knights have shocked the sports world by winning the Western Conference championship and are now headed to the NHL’s Stanley Cup finals.
The Golden Knights were created waaaay back in 2017, as in, this is their first year and this just doesn’t happen in hockey, or for that matter, in any sport. So crank up your air conditioner and pour yourself a hot cup of Tim Hortons. History could be right around the corner.