I’ve stated my affinity for college baseball’s postseason format many times. I think the alternating between a double-elimination tournament and a straight-up best-of-three series is perfectly reflective of the sport and a great way to crown a deserving champion by eliminating some randomness while not diluting it with too many games.
One aspect of that is how if you lose a game in the first or second round of the double-elimination part, you’re not done but the task is significantly harder. You then have to win three or four straight games or else you’re done. It rewards teams for winning and makes the path harder for those who don’t. To use a term LSU fans would understand, it’s the baseball version of a redemption shot in beer pong.
LSU lost a tough-fought game in the second round against Wake Forest but rallied back to win three in a row against very formidable and worthy opponents. When they beat Wake Forest on Wednesday night, they had to do it again on Thursday night.
LSU’s path back pitted them against the two teams with the deepest pitching staffs in college baseball, Tennessee with their plethora of flamethrowers, and Wake Forest with their pitching lab-grown machines. Or so we thought.
In the month of May, to say LSU’s pitching staff as a whole was worrisome would be an understatement. They were outright bad, and I feel no regret over expressing concern about their ability to get the job done in the postseason. Anybody with two functioning eyes and an understanding of the game would reach that decision.
But when the calendar flipped from May to June, so did the bullpen. They have not only been good enough to get the job done, they have carried the team through the loser’s bracket and become the team’s best asset. When the winds of Nebraska and shoddy ballpark design neutered LSU’s high-powered offense, the pitching staff was there to hold the rope with a steel grip. Regardless of what happens over the next three games, LSU fans should not forget the heroic efforts of Nate Ackenhausen, Riley Cooper, Griffin Herring, Thatcher Hurd, and Gavin Guidry. But something tells me if LSU wins two more games, it’ll be hard not to hear about it for the next decade.
Those next two wins will have to come against Florida in a rematch of the 2017 series final where the Gators beat an LSU team wiped out by late injuries that exposed pitching depth and fatigue generated by having to come out of the loser’s bracket, the same task they are faced with this year.
There’s already a commentary among LSU fans that this is redemption for the 2017 team we loved so dearly, the best shot Paul Mainieri had at landing a second title he deserved and haunted him for the rest of his tenure. But beating Florida in 2023 won’t bring the 2017 trophy to Baton Rouge, and it won’t change what happened six long years ago.
It’s not redemption. It’s revenge.
Alex Box Stadium/Skip Bertman Field
As many of you may know, I joined the LSU grounds crew for the 2013 Super Regional and continued doing it until 2017, when I started covering the team for And The Valley Shook. I covered home games off and on for the next two years until 2020, when I covered every bit of the COVID-shortened season.
I did the math, and conservatively, I have spent 1,452 hours, or 60 1⁄2 days, inside Alex Box Stadium in the last decade. I’ve been inside every last bit of it, explored every nook and cranny, ones you probably don't even know are there.
I know the stadium like the back of my hand, and I truly love it, except for one small detail: I’m tired of looking at the same outdated billboard in right field.
It’s time to update it.