It’s lights out for the state of Louisiana in the “Road to Omaha” as the LSU Tigers were swept by the underdog Florida State Seminoles, a team that some thought should not have received an at-large bid into the NCAA regionals. Tournaments can be funny that way.
LSU did not go down without a fight. After dropping the first game 6-4 in a very ho-hum effort, the team’s back was against the wall trailing 4-2 in the eighth inning. Thankfully for the Tigers, some of their stars were not ready to have the season end as Antoine Duplantis and Zach Watson, once again, came through with major hits to tie the game up. It felt like a game you’ve seen a hundred times before but instead of LSU getting the big hit at the end it was the Seminoles knocking in the winning run in the 12th inning to race off to Omaha.
If you’ve read this blog regularly you have probably noticed that I’m not that big of a professional baseball fan. In short, I just think the major leagues are a little boring to watch and pale in comparison to the drama that college baseball produces.
The NCAA super regionals provided yet another round of why this sport is beautiful and wildly under recognized. Whether it was the Louisville Cardinals sending a warning shot by completely decimating the ECU Pirates (they outscored them 26-1 in two games), Texas Tech’s comeback to knock off Oklahoma State or Michigan seemingly coming out of the clouds to beat the #1 UCLA Bruins to advance to the College World Series, the spice is always there and this sport is definitely a tasty dish.
The sport’s essence was caught in just a few minutes after FSU knocked off LSU. The cameras rushed to FSU’s 75-year-old coach Mike Martin as he looked out onto his team of young men piling up on the pitcher’s mound like a loving father. The cameras then captured his wife, Carol, running down the stands and eventually blowing kisses to him from the front row. Moments later, Carol was on the field and they were hugging one another. All smiles. All heart.
As the announcers were signing off and the game was about to be switched over to another broadcast a camera zoomed into the LSU dugout and perfectly captured LSU’s super star Zack Hess sitting down and going into a full-out hardcore cry. Yes, these kids are superstars that play in front of tens of thousands of fans and are on TV more than they’re not but, always remember, they’re still kids. It was heart wrenching and stunning television.
ESPN (lack of) Coverage
Which leads us to a question that has haunted me for years now. Why doesn’t ESPN feature college baseball?
The question might seem weird to a casual observer but it’s pretty evident that college baseball is an afterthought to the media giant. Sure, on one hand, they do cover every game in the tournament, which, in their defense, is a ton of baseball. Yet, after you read this, go to espn.com and check out the coverage or, to be more specific, lack of coverage.
Today is a day in the sport that sees six teams that have qualified for the College World Series. Today, more teams will put it all on the line as a loss will end their season. It’s basically the equivalent of March Madness’ Elite Eight. A win gets you into the promise land and a shot at the title. A loss sends you home with an empty feeling. Now, again, go look at ESPN. You won’t see much. Since FSU’s Martin, in his last year of his four-decade career, has made the College World Series you should see a story about him but I wouldn’t expect much more.
It’s a grand mystery that I guess I will never figure out.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: Sierra Nevada’s Brut IPA
Playlist Recommendation: Prince and the Revolution – “America”
Around the Way
Last week, I mentioned the drama surrounding the Tulane Green Wave baseball team and Coach Travis Jewett and posited that AD Troy Dannen should make a statement since Jewett is obviously returning to the program. Also, obviously a statement hasn’t been made and that’s troubling to a degree.
Why? The locals are not happy with what’s going on with the program. Last year, the club posted its second losing season in a row, a feat that had never happened before in the program’s history. This year, while they did have a winning record, was another year without making the NCAA regionals, the third year in a row under Jewett.
So, fans are not only unhappy but no one sees any direction from this program, let alone the right one. The team just had five players drafted into the major leagues. They’re definitely losing their best pitcher, Kaleb Roper, and possibly their second best pitcher, Chase Solesky. On top of that they lose Kody Hoese, their All-American third baseman as well as Trevor Jenson and possibly Grant Mathews. That’s three .300 batters and your top two pitchers. Think the fans are nervous?
If Dannen is not going to move on from Jewett then he needs to make a statement of support of the coach just to show the fans that someone is at least paying attention. Sure, it’s superficial as can be but when you have a program that is floundering in a major way sometimes that’s all you have.