LSU likes to fancy itself one of the premier baseball powers in the nation. As Duke is to basketball or UConn is to women's basketball, we want casual fans to think of LSU first when someone mentions college baseball.
In the past five years, this colossus of the sport has been to Omaha precisely one time, where it won a grand total of zero games. There's only so long a program can coast on reputation. This LSU team has been #1 pretty much all season long, but nobody cares who the #1 team in April was. College teams, particularly LSU, are defined by what they do in June.
To be fair, LSU has won three SEC conference tournaments in that span. LSU just won its second regular season title of the decade as well. That means LSU has either won the regular season or postseason SEC title every single year since 2008 except for 2011. That's seven of the past eight years.
That's quite an accomplishment and one everyone involved in the program can feel proud of. But you know how many conference titles we put on the Intimidator? Yeah, exactly. LSU measures itself by what it does in the NCAA tournament, and in Omaha specifically.
And I'm getting tired of writing depressing postmortems. You want to know how losing feels? Take a quick stroll through our archives...
I tend to look forward rather than backwards, but to tie a ribbon around this season I would describe it in one word: frustrating.
We put ourselves in a position to get screwed, and then we got screwed. At the end of the day, it's our fault. Win more so you're not on the bubble.
LSU plays their best under the brightest lights. We live for postseason play and huge series on national TV against other major powers. This series has letdown written all over it, and let's be honest, this LSU team isn't good enough to overlook anybody.*
*Yes, I wrote a depressing postmortem in advance of the Stony Brook series. After the series, we rightly pretended it never happened and didn't even bother with a postseason wrap-up. This was the correct decision.
This team was a blast to follow, and maybe the best team we've had since the '90s. But sometimes the best team doesn't win. Ask Texas A&M in 1989 or Stanford in 2001. LSU's been on the other side of these kind of games, and over a long enough timeline, it all balances out. It infuriates me that Mississippi State is playing for the title and we're not, but that's the way baseball goes. Life is unfair.
So, the hitting was terrible, the pitching was worse, and LSU gets to watch the Super Regionals on television. This team played like utter garbage last night. As soon as they faced trouble, they folded, just like they did on Sunday. It was the worst performance by an LSU team I can ever remember. Unless your name is Sean McMullen or Alex Bregman, two guys who combined to go 4 for 6 with 2 walks and 2 RBI, you played like crap last night. The rest of the team combined to go 4 for 28 with 1 walk and 8 strikeouts.
So, let's just set the expectations right here and now: LSU has to win this series. I hate to put too much importance on a Super Regional, particularly for a program that has won six national titles, but... this is the biggest series of Paul Mainieri's LSU career since the 2009 title series against Texas.
You're entitled to a few disappointments and even the occasional upset. Even the best programs can't go to Omaha every single year. However, this is an LSU program that hasn't won a game in Omaha since 2009 despite collecting conference title trophies almost every year. LSU has got to get back to where it thinks it belongs, or else this program's swagger starts to become a delusion.
Most importantly, LSU cannot lose to an instate rival. LSU has owned this state for as long as there has been an LSU dynasty. The annual trips to Omaha can become less frequent and fans will accept as part of a more competitive landscape, so long as we're always in the hunt. But fans will not accept losing to another Louisiana school.
LSU self-identity as a baseball program has no room for losing to ULL in a Super Regional. Not at home. Not when we are the #1 team in the nation. Not when it's been so long since this team has been to Omaha.
I'm sick of writing angry words pounded out in frustration after yet another postseason disappointment. LSU baseball stops the slide right here, right now. Alex Bregman is one of the all-time greats to play in purple and gold. He needs to add some heroics in Omaha to his legacy. Alex Lange grew into his legend last weekend, it's time to become immortal.
This program has been coasting on its reputation in the postseason. That's way too many seasons that ended on a sour note for a program that fancies itself the pre-eminent power. I'll let 2013 slide, but the rest of the decade has been a series of teams that simply weren't good enough going out in less-than-ideal circumstances. This team has been upset too many times in recent years.
Let's get the invasion force ready. It's time to go back to Omaha and re-assert ourselves as the only baseball program in Louisiana that matters. SEC titles are nice, but we want more. It's time to be super.