There’s no need to better know our Super Regional opponent… we’ve met. LSU and Mississippi St is the premier college baseball rivalry of the SEC, and maybe the country. We’ve been at this for a while. If you need a refresher, we played State the final weekend of the season.
For State fans who may be reading and blocked out that weekend from their memory: LSU won.
So I’m left without much of a team to preview. I literally wrote y’all a preview two weeks ago and everything I said about State then still stands now, even if they did have to rally from the loser’s bracket in Hattiesburg to win four straight and earn a rematch with LSU.
Brent Rooker is still awesome. The back of the order is still terrible. They still fail to get on base much, but have pretty good power, so LSU pitchers should be on the lookout, given their propensity for the longball. The pitching staff is still in disarray, and Konnor Piklington is still likely outmatched as the Game One starter against Lange.
Nothing has changed, except now we’re playing in Alex Box, and this one is for a trip to Omaha. The real opponent isn’t Mississippi St, it’s the Ghost of Super Regionals Past.
Since winning the national title in 2009, LSU has made it back to Omaha “only” twice. Some of that was the team took a giant step backwards in 2010 and 2011, but since then, LSU has been a Supers regular. This is LSU’s fifth Super Regional in six years, only missing in 2014 thanks to an epic collapse against Houston that most LSU fans put on the pile of Super Regional failures.
The good news is, if you’re superstitious, LSU appears to lose Supers in even numbered years and make it to Omaha in odd numbered years. LSU’s last two trips were in 2013 and 2015, so 2017 fits the pattern. We should be all good.
Let’s take a look at each of the Supers to see if there’s something we can learn.
2012 was Stony Brook, a series which some LSU baseball fans still complain about. Stony Brook came in lightly regarded as a 4-seed in their regional and an automatic qualifier no one had heard of. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were merely starring in the Seawolves Cinderella story.
No, LSU should not have lost to Stony Brook, but seven players off that team were selected in the 2012 MLB draft, so it wasn’t like LSU lost to a bunch of chumps. Furthermore, the MVP of that Super was Mother Nature, as Game One took two days to complete, and Game Two was played just two hours later, as part of a mid-morning doubleheader. It wreaked havoc on the pitching staff and negated the home crowd, playing early in the day. It’s not quite the epic choke job that gets remembered.
2014 was the Houston debacle which, to be honest, there is no excuse. Mainieri mismanaged Game Two, and the team played like garbage in Game Three, going into panic mode. If there’s one year that we can point to and say LSU chokes in the postseason, it is the 2014 Regional.
Last year, Coastal Carolina was just better. The Chanticleers would go on to Omaha and win the national title. And they didn’t back their way in either. The Chants beat #1 Florida, #3 TCU (twice), #4 Texas Tech, and then #7 Arizona in the final series in three games. That’s six wins over nationally seeded teams in one trip to Omaha. This just in: Coastal Carolina was really good.
That doesn’t make last year’s Supers any easier to swallow, but it does make it hard to make a case that LSU choked. Sometimes, you run into a great team playing their best baseball. Mississippi St. is a really good team, but they are not last year’s Coastal team.
When you look at the past six years of postseason failure, that failure doesn’t look so great. It’s not that LSU chokes in the Supers or that the team is cursed, it’s just that once they got screwed by an erratic schedule against a good team, once they lost to the national champs, and ok, once they choked. One time ain’t a pattern.
There is no Super Regionals jinx. There is no pattern of choking. LSU is better than Mississippi St. They proved it during the regular season, and now all they have to do is prove it again. History is not an opponent.
We’ll deal with losing in Omaha next week…