Saturday's stunning 9-7 win by LSU over UC-Irvine was one for the ages, and fitting for a stadium that has seen so many transcendent moments as it makes one last trip around the bases itself.
Watching -- albeit without sound -- from my home far away from Alex Box Stadium, I truly believed as early as the fourth inning that this would be the final swan song for the 2008 season. I didn't have that feeling like I did during the SEC Tournament that the Tigers could flip the switch and find their groove. Irvine was playing too well. LSU was listless. The crowd was antsy.
Finally in the eighth, the faintest glimmer of hope. Jared Mitchell's solo home run and one more run pushed across. But LSU could muster nothing else and still trailed by three with only three outs left. UC-Irvine fans were undoubtedly planning their first meal in Omaha already. Tiger fans faced with the reality of Alex Box Stadium going out a loser.
Then, Leon Landry worked a walk. The venerable stadium awoke and worked its magic for LSU one more time. One ripped hit, inches over the glove of the first baseman for a double. An infield single. A double-play ball broken up by tripping up the third baseman on some dirt. A well-hit single by Blake Dean -- who else -- to tie it. Finally, a huge hop grounder that managed to just clear the third-baseman's glove for the winning run.
Alex Box was not going to let LSU lose. You could see it in the crowd, in the UCI players faces when the bases were loaded with nobody out. The Anteaters were helpless.
It is now up to the Tigers to carry that momentum into Monday's finale. Something as simple as scoring the game's first run could put the nail into the coffin of Irvine. It's players minds dancing back to what should have been, losing focus on the task at hand. LSU's players playing with a sense of inevitability. This is their trip to Omaha and there's nothing anyone else can do to stop it.