In 2006, LSU missed the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time since 1988. LSU made two moves, that may have been equally important, to rectify this situation. One was hiring Paul Mainieri to coach the team. The second was to welcome Blake Dean to campus. The rebirth of LSU baseball as a national power under Mainieri simply could not have happened without Blake Dean mashing the ball at the plate.
As a freshman, he was immediately LSU's best hitter. His 20-game hit streak was the longest hit streak since Cedrick Harris went for 21 games in 2000. He hit 316/366/505, leading the Tigers in batting average and slugging and second in OBP. In fact, he was the only Tiger to hit .300 or slug .500, which explains the 29-26-1 record. 2008, honestly, didn't start out much better. LSU was in dead last in the SEC and looked to be a longshot to even make the tournament again. Dean's best seasons seemed to be going to waste.
On April 20, 2008, LSU choked on a 10-3 lead to Georgia. That was the last bad thing that happened all year. The Tigers wouldn't lose again until June 7th, rattling off 23 straight wins. 14 of the first 20 wins were come-from-behind wins. And in the middle of it all was Dean, hitting 353/432/665 with 20 home runs, 62 runs, and 73 RBI. He was first or second in all of those offensive categories. In the SEC tournament, he went 7-16 with 3 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R which he almost matched in the regional, going 5-11 with 3 HR and 9 RBI. He was even better against UCI in the Supers, going 7-14 with 1 HR and 4 RBI. It was his single which tied the game 7-7 in the 8th of that epic Game Two, or as we Tiger fans know it, The Greatest Baseball Game Ever Played. It was Dean's home run in the first inning which keyed the blowout in Game Three. He hit a 3 RBI double against Rice in the CWS, giving LSU its first victory in Omaha since winning the title in 2000. When all was said and done, Dean had hit .407 with 7 HR and 25 RBI in the postseason. Dean was named first team All American.
It's a testament to how great Dean is that his junior year is seen as a disappointment. He hit 328/432/595, which wasn't that far off the pace of his sophomore year. He hit 17 HR and drove in another 71 runs, and also pulled one of the more remarkable statistical oddities against Tulane by hitting back-to-back homers with Ryan Schimpf. Twice. In the same inning. He "only" hit .322 in the postseason with 3 HR, 13 RBI, and 19 R. His numbers might have taken a very minor dip, but this time, LSU won its first national title since Skip retired.
The great thing is, Blake Dean is still building his legacy at LSU. After powering LSU from literally its worst season in twenty years to the peak of the baseball mountain, he now gets a shot to repeat. He assault continues his assault on the LSU record books, ranking 8th all-time in homers and 6th in RBI. Remember, he's doing this without the "big bats" used by the Gorilla Ball teams. Anything less than another All-American season and a trip back to Omaha will be viewed as a disappointment. But Dean is used to that, and I'm sure he'd rather have those expectations than go back to the dark days of his freshman year.