I’ve spilled too much ink about LSU’s struggles since May and the doubts it gave me about the team heading into the postseason. I want to talk about something else.
Let’s rewind the clock back to April 13th. LSU opened the conference slate with impressive wins over Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Tennessee before splitting the series in South Carolina due to weather both cutting a Skenes start short and banging the third game altogether. A surging #11 Kentucky team comes to town at 27-5. It’s LSU’s fifth consecutive top 15 matchup.
The Tigers run ruled the Wildcats in the first game, 16-6, before some sloppy defense cost them the second game, 13-10. But the team wearing gold came back on Sunday and closed out the series in a one-run ballgame, 7-6.
At the time, I thought the series being so close told us more about Kentucky than it did LSU, and that thought proved to be prescient. Kentucky is in fact a hell of a team, a 40-19 ballclub who stormed out the loser’s bracket on Sunday to put the screws to Indiana, outscoring them 20-8 across 18 innings. I have nothing but respect for the club Nick Mingione has built in Lexington. These aren’t your dad’s Wildcats.
But this isn’t about them.
That series in April taught me a lot about LSU as well. It showed that the Tigers don’t take any opponent lightly and understand that when they cross the white lines from here on out, every team is capable of beating them if they don’t bring their A-game. Again, this is no offense to Kentucky, but seeing their name on the schedule doesn’t generate the same juice that Arkansas or South Carolina typically does.
But in that series, we saw a team who scrapped until the end and wasn’t afraid of taking some shots. There were moments where Kentucky god some pretty good licks in, but LSU kept coming back and making it a game, ultimately taking the series.
We know what wound up happening in May, but that series was the one that gave me belief that this LSU team could actually go the distance because I wanted to see that fight against every team on the schedule, not just the big-ticket games. And we got that.
Moving the calendar back to the present, I was encouraged with what I saw last weekend for the same reason I was encouraged with the Kentucky series. To their credit, Tulane and Oregon State were game in their three games against the Tigers, the Beavers just ran out of gas on Monday. LSU didn’t demolish them, but they played confident baseball and found a workable groove with their pitching and hitting to outscore opponents 26-14. There were some hiccups, but nothing worth hand wringing over.
I’m not worried about LSU getting to Omaha by “playing their best baseball at the right time.” LSU’s best baseball was probably back in late March when they eviscerated Arkansas after letting a Skenes game slip away in extra innings. Besides, we’ve seen that the Tigers can beat good teams when down a cylinder (see: Alabama series).
I want to see LSU playing their most resilient ball in June. Nothing is ever a cakewalk in June, you’re going to have to earn everything you get.
LSU’s objective is crystal: win two games this weekend and you’re going to Omaha. To do so, you must beat a team you beat previously, in the same stadium That weekend was a hard-fought battle, and you’re a fool if you believe this weekend will be any different.
Do it again.