Remember when this was a dismal spring? Softball was scuffling, baseball was playing even worse, and LSU fans seemed to be counting down the days until the summer, so we could just hit reset on the year.
Such is the danger of speaking too soon. The stick and ball sports aren’t quite basketball when it comes to the meaninglessness of regular season play, but let’s not kid ourselves, it is all about the postseason around these parts. No one gets a gold star at LSU for just making the playoffs.
The worm turned for LSU baseball when Kramer Robertson told reporters that he had sucked, and it’s his fault for sucking. The team counted on him to lead by example, and his example was poor, so the team’s play was poor. It was a great moment of senior leadership, a player taking full and complete responsibility for the team’s overall struggles based on his own personal play, and making no excuses for either.
Hell, it’s not like Robertson was playing all that bad at that point. Reporters weren’t banging down his door for a quote when there were other targets. But Kramer stood up and painted a bullseye on his chest. And since then he, and the rest of the team, has been flat awesome.
LSU has been 16-2 since Kramer called himself out, winning the final four SEC series, three of them by a sweep, and then the SEC tournament. LSU has won 11 games in a row overall and 12 consecutive SEC games. Of course, some people wanted to fire Mainieri after one of those losses, an out of conference midweek loss to South Alabama. How long ago does that seem?
Some were speculating whether LSU would even host a regional a month ago, and now LSU cruised to its sixth straight national seed, the first program to do so since Stanford from 1999-2004. LSU won its fourth regular season title under Mainieri, and its sixth tournament title, as Mainieri pushed his all-time record in Hoover to 31-6.
There’s still two weeks of play in the way of a return trip to Omaha, but the Tigers are well-positioned for such a feat. The team is playing great right now, and looking every bit like the team that was a postseason favorite. This is why Kramer Robertson came back for his senior year.
Softball looked like they were in even more dire straits, and their turnaround would not come during the regular season. LSU lost four of its final five SEC series, including going just 3-3 in the final two series against Mizzou and South Carolina, two teams which combined to go 15-31 in SEC play. Any preseason hopes of a deep postseason run seemed to have skated away.
LSU bounced back for a deep SEC tourney run which ended in the title game, but it was enough to earn a national seed and hosting a regional, even if the Tigers drew ULL, a team that has dominated LSU in postseason play during Torina’s tenure. LSU fell into the loser’s bracket, but rallied back behind a stupendous performance by Carley Hoover to qualify for a Super Regional in Tallahassee.
Again, LSU lost early and found themselves on the brink of elimination. But there was no panic in this team, and in the true sign of a champion, it was a different hero who stood up to save the team’s bacon. Carley Hoover could not recapture the magic she had at home, but no matter, Allie Walljasper carried a no-hitter for six innings on Saturday, and was just good enough on Sunday to hold off a potent Seminole offense.
A team that was mostly given up for dead a month ago is now one of the last eight teams left standing. I don’t want to say the regular season doesn’t matter, as the season’s success allowed LSU to play at home the first weekend and earn a national seed. The draw was a direct result of the regular season, same with baseball, who has an even better draw, and will play at home if it makes the Supers.
Both teams were pushed to the brink, and now both are not thinking of the end of the season, unless that ending includes hoisting a large trophy after you finish the dogpile. The spring season suddenly seems pretty great in Baton Rouge.