The “Road to Omaha” is a rough one.
The road is not unlike driving around Uptown at sunset. You drive along, minding your own business; everything is going just spectacularly and — BAM! — you hit a stone cold crippler of a pothole. Now your perfect night includes a cracked oil pan. Forget that to-go box of delicious barbecue; you’ve got bigger problems to deal with. Which is exactly how the LSU Tigers need to think about their latest run to the College World Series — no matter how great today is, next weekend can be a completely different story. You have to plan for the worst and always be ready.
No doubt about it, the LSU Tigers are on fire. The boys from Baton Rouge continued their torrid pace through the NCAA post-season, sweeping through the Baton Rouge regional with relative ease. The bats roared to life as the Tigers followed a 15-7 victory over Texas Southern with an 11-6 spanking of Southeastern Louisiana and their ace Mac Sceroler. On Sunday, LSU slammed the door shut on the Rice Owls, and the regional field, with a 5-0 shutout victory behind an outstanding 8-inning, 8 strikeout gem by Eric Walker.
LSU is now riding a 14-game winning streak, which has seen the Tigers sweep NCAA regional qualifiers #17 Mississippi State and Auburn to end the regular season. The Tigers followed that up by sweeping through the SEC baseball tournament — which included wins over #11 Kentucky and #12 Arkansas — and now the NCAA regional. Along the way, LSU has outscored its post-season competition 66-18. It’s all champagne and roses time in Baton Rouge.
Yet, the “Road to Omaha” is a tough one.
Nothing is guaranteed in the NCAA baseball tournament — the cruelest of all post-season tournaments. Sometimes your bats don’t show up, sometimes your ace pitcher is having an off day, sometimes you just run into a buzzsaw and never have a chance. One loss in the Super Regional next weekend replaces talk of win streaks with concerns about one more loss ending the season and dreams about what could have been in Omaha.
There are some reasons for concern. LSU looked unsettled in their game versus Texas Southern, a team whose RPI is 267 (out of 299 teams). Jared Poche’ was getting hit and the Tigers committed three errors in the first three innings on way to a baffling 5-error game. Against Southeastern Louisiana, the Tigers’ ace pitcher Alex Lange was peppered by the Lions for five runs in the first two innings. But, again, the bats saved the day, powered by Zach Watson’s scintillating four home run weekend.
Anything can happen on the “Road to Omaha.” For every LSU, there always seems to be a Coastal Carolina. Look no further than a wild Sunday, in which Bethune-Cookman beat the Florida Gators 6-2, the Southland Conference’s Sam Houston State knocked off Texas Tech 9-8 and Davidson College (RPI: 125) would beat #2 North Carolina for the second time to win the Chapel Hill regional and leave Tar Heel nation wondering what the hell just happened.
Tournaments are wild because wild things happen. So, throw out all of the stats —the errors versus Texas Southern, Poche’ getting beat up by Southeastern and the 14-game winning streak as well. The tournament is all about moving on, no matter how you do it. Like the old football cliché, every completed pass is a perfect spiral on the stat sheet. Every win is great win.
Now, LSU hosts the Mississippi State Bulldogs in a best-of-three Super Regional with a trip to Omaha on the line. The Bulldogs — led by former LSU hitting coach and current Coach of the Year candidate Andy Cannizaro — can’t feel too happy about facing the one-two punch of Lange and Poche coming in with a serious chip on their shoulder, looking to amend for sub-par performances. Maybe the Bulldogs are up for it, maybe they’ll get swept by a Baton Rouge buzzsaw. You just never know.
Because the “Road to Omaha” is brutal.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Parish Brewing’s “Opus Vert” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Beastie Boys – “Sure Shot”
Around The Way
There are many seasons in the never-ending cycle of football in America. You have spring football, the regular season, a monstrous post-season and then it’s into another recruiting season. There’s also another season — that magical time of the year when NCAA football players, the sort who are arrested on felonies, watch those seemingly career-ending charges turn into misdemeanors.
The latest incarnation of this wacky wizardy went down in Lafayette as 13 players from the University of Louisiana had their criminal conspiracy to commit felony theft charges dropped to a criminal mischief misdemeanor by local District Attorney Keith Stutes — graduate of Southwestern Louisiana University, which is now known as *spoiler alert* the University of Louisiana. Rejoice, Lafayette! The whole band is back together again!