LSU is the premier program in college baseball.
In my mind, I heavily doubted that statement before, but now there's not a shadow of a doubt. Mississippi State may have the Left Field Lounge, Ole Miss may have the beer showers, and Vanderbilt may have the players in the majors, but LSU is hands down the program. We are what Alabama is to football and Kentucky is to basketball. It's a hard thing to say because it comes off as arrogant, but that's the problem with the truth.
This weekend started like all great weekends between August and July start: with soccer. I went to The Londoner (the Baton Rouge chapter of the American Outlaws stomping ground) for the Champions League final with some friends and our very own fearless leader, Pod Katt, who I'm currently conditioning into being a soccer fan. An Arsenal fan at that! As an unbiased party, I just really wanted a great game, and absolutely got one. But this is not a soccer blog and I am not Kevin McCauley, so let's just say that the game set the tone for the weekend and move on.
The nerves didn't really set in until we got to the ballpark on Saturday. Those nerves were erased after Fraley homered to right in the 3rd to take a 3-0 lead and we got to watch Lange cruise for a few innings. That lasted until ULL put up runs in the 6th and 8th, and the panic set in. But this is Alex Freaking Lange, if he wants to go the distance let him out there for the 9th and close the door, let him.
He didn't. On the first pitch hit saw in the pouring rain*, pinch hitter Brenn Conrad took Lange deep, ending Lange's night in the process. For the first time since the end of last year's regional, Alex Box Stadium was deflated. Everybody had accepted that extra innings was inevitable. Chris Sciambra decided otherwise.
Fellow ATVS scribe and Tarp Crewer zrau said all season that he obviously wants LSU to win the College World Series, but he wants it because guys like Chris Sciambra deserve it. I'll let him explain what the hell he means by that, but Sciambra didn't just deserve it, he flat out earned his ticket to Omaha. In the list of "bottom of the ninth, who do you want up" guys, Sciambra is maybe my eighth or ninth choice and even lower if you're asking for a home run to win it. But the mark of a great team is any player stepping up at any time and any place to contribute to the team and that's exactly what Sciambra did.
The resulting atmosphere in the Box was...well I can't think of any time better than it right now. In the six years of it existing, nothing has topped that. It was amazing.
aftermath pic.twitter.com/nU4ohLfQDT— Adam Box Stadium (@AdamATVS) June 7, 2015
We went to Chimes after the game, soaking wet with a weird combination of rain water and sweat before turning in for the night**.
*At one point the entire Tarp Crew was sitting on the way waiting for the order to start pulling. The NCAA and LSU got it right by playing through, because the system that came in after the game would have been too much to play through.
**Pod Katt and Marques Leger (@marq113) watching wrasslin while I dozed off. PK thinks he's in a cultural exchange where I start watching WWE and he starts watching the Premier League when really it's just a commensalistic relationship.
We slept in on Sunday, waking up only to go get Cane's for a fast food brunch while we watched the Astros begin their mid-season collapse and played NHL 15 with the rules turned off. I found out that I can't pass or defend to save my life, but I'm really really really good at taking the puck the length of the ice with one player.
It's a good thing we did that to keep us preoccupied, because I was absolutely nervous as hell about out date with Gunner Leger. And with very good reason, as Leger Shut. LSU. Down. LSU had 2 hits in 6 innings before the Maurepas Masher Kade Scivicque sent a ball to left field. The next inning, the Tigers tore down the wall and put up a four spot via a Bregman single and Hale triple down the line to Coon's Corner and the student section, where I was banging on the padding without mercy.
LSU made it interesting in the end because, well LSU isn't not going to make it interesting, but LSU pulled it off nonetheless.
And then the celebration began. But unlike every other school, there was no dogpile. LSU made their way to centerfield and jumped up together before taking their victory lap. I can't explain how, but I was there after the 2013 Super Regional and it just felt completely different than that. I think Poseur said it best when he said "this was not a team looking back on its accomplishments this year, this was a team pausing to take a breathe before getting to the real work in Omaha."
As it Tarp Crew tradition, we took a victory lap around the bases before hitting the lights and walking out of the Box for the last time until February. I slid into home plate because of course I did. The Tarp Crew went to Pluckers for fireball shots and to sing Wagon Wheel so loudly that the whole restaurant can hear before going off to play drink the beer late into Monday morning.
This should be the storybook happy ending. For many teams it is. But in Baton Rouge it isn't. Getting to Omaha isn't the goal for us, it's the expectation. Our ending isn't until the 23rd or 24th. But still, it's ok to use these few days between games to look back at everything this team has accomplished and soak it in, because it's been a great ride and there's a lot to take in. That's what I did while I walked off the field for the last time this year, and that's when I realized I wouldn't trade this team for any other. There is nowhere else I'd rather be and no other team I'd rather support.
Whatever happens in Omaha, Geaux Tigers and Forever LSU.