I watch a considerable amount of college baseball and consider myself a college baseball fan first and an LSU fan second. This leads me to not always tow the party line, but for the most part everything we say about LSU is true.
The fanbase is the most passionate in the entire sport, neck and neck with Mississippi State. When Alex Box gets rocking, it’s a hard place to play, the baseball equivalent of Death Valley. We drink a lot. Like ordering 123 Jello shots at a bar over 1,000 miles away before we’re due to arrive there.
But no other trope is truer than our lofty expectations. We model ourselves as a program of excellence, the Powerhouse of College Baseball (TM), and we act like it, for better or worse. We more or less chased off a sure-fire hall of fame head coach because he only won one national championship. When I’m watching college baseball around the country, I often see schools advertising their trips to Omaha, or even their Super Regional and Regional appearances. We don’t do that here, because Omaha is not the goal, Omaha is the expectation. That’s the baseline for what would be considered a modestly successful season.
We only advertise national championships here.
But this year feels different, and I don’t like it.
I was at both games of the Super Regional, and while seeing your team punch their ticket to Omaha should always come with a good deal of joy, the celebration felt a little too...different. This is LSU’s first trip to Omaha in five years, the first since the ill-fated 2017 season, the longest such draught since Skip Bertman took over and started building the program with changing stations and autographs for foul balls. And there was a justifiable sense of getting the monkey off our back by making our return to the promised land of Douglas County, Nebraska.
But I don’t want to lose sight of the ultimate goal: winning the whole fuckin’ thing.
Omaha is not our reward for a season well done and winning five games in a week, Omaha is the next challenge that you earn by winning five games in a week.
And let me tell you, it's going to be a challenge. We’re on the side of the bracket that is STACKED: the only other team to be ranked #1 in the country besides us, a Tennessee team we’re very familiar with, and a Stanford team that has proven that they will lay everything on the line to win a game, like throwing 150 pitches. And then if we get past them all, TCU and Florida are waiting on the other side. Or Virginia. Probably not Oral Roberts though.
But then there’s us, the team led by the top two picks in next month’s draft in Dylan Crews and Paul Skenes, plus Tre Morgan, Gavin Dugas, Cade Beloso and a very resurgent pitching staff. We’ve earned the right to be here, but getting to Omaha isn’t the ultimate goal.
Updating the Intimidator is.