Since 2009 and LSU’s last national title, LSU baseball has been consistently great. LSU has won seven SEC titles (four tournament titles and three regular season crowns), been a regular in the Supers, and made several trips to Omaha.
LSU even had great teams who could have competed for the title but suffered some bad luck along the way: 2012 was bedeviled by the weather against Stony Brook messing with the rotation, 2014 had some crazy bounces go bad against Houston, 2015 just couldn’t figure out TCU. But the programs best chance at adding a date to the Intimidator came in 2017.
A loaded roster with such greats as Alex Lange and Kramer Robertson added a ton of freshmen talent: Josh Smith, Zach Smith, and Eric Walker especially.
LSU won the SEC regular season and tournament titles, and after dropping a midweek game to Tulane April 25, LSU rolled off a 12-2 record to close out the season, including winning all of their final seven games. LSU swept three of their final four series and then rolled through Hoover in four games, winning by a combined score of 35-5.
LSU continued its roll in the Baton Rouge Regional as well as the Supers against Mississippi St. LSU won nine straight games to make it to Omaha, and won its first game in Omaha as well, running the streak to ten.
The Tigers made it to the final series in Omaha by taking it the hard way. LSU had to beat #1 Oregon St. twice after dropping their first meeting 13-1. The Tigers responded and rolled into the final series by winning 3-1 and 6-1 decisions against the top ranked team in the nation.
Then came hated Florida.
Due to their run through the loser’s bracket, LSU had to burn their staff and couldn’t start either of their lethal one-two punch of Lange and Jared Poche’ in Game 1. If LSU could get through Game 1, they could then get to their twin aces, and maybe win the title.
Florida jumped out to 3-0 lead and while LSU rallied, they never could close that gap. LSU had a rally in the eighth, but twin baserunning errors cost LSU two outs, and the rally fell short, 4-3.
In Game Two, LSU fell behind early again, and again, a late rally was defused by baserunning errors. Jake Slaughter was ruled out sliding into a player’s legs rather than the bag, meaning runner interference, sending Josh Smith back to third, taking away the tying run. Twice, LSU got runners on the corners in the late innings, and the team came away with nothing. LSU would fall 6-1 to not just any conference rival, but a program that truly ratcheted up the hatred with LSU over the past decade.
This was a great LSU team. There was no Rally Possum or can of corn or any other mystical totem. This was a team that simply had talent. They knew they were good and went for it. And they fell just short.
Worse, injuries derailed Eric Walker and Josh Smith’s career at LSU. A team that seemed on the precipice of multiple runs to Omaha has instead not been back to the college baseball’s most hollowed grounds.
That is the story of LSU baseball in the ‘10s: a very good program that was frustratingly close to immortality, but still a step away. They still remain that step away today. The run was great, there just wasn’t enough magic.