Kristian: LSU bounced from CWS - What happened?
LSU fans proudly donned shirts that read “Geauxmaha" at the College World Series. Perhaps they should trade them in for shirts that read “Geaux-home-aha." That’s exactly what LSU is doing after just two games in Omaha, and until they change a championship is not in their future. What happened? Where do I start?
How about the fact that LSU’s three, five, and six hole hitters went “0 for Omaha” in the two losses. LSU scored just three runs in two games. The Tigers stranded over a dozen runners on base in the loss to North Carolina. I think LSU lost this game back on Sunday night. LSU never got over the stunning loss to UCLA and it carried over to game two.
I can’t understand the team’s reluctance to bunt and play small ball. Why? LSU is built to play in small parks, and play for the big inning. The Tigers are not built to play and win in Omaha. They rely way too much on the big inning instead of stringing together a couple of runs here and a couple of runs there and sacrificing runners around the bases. The Big Bat era is gone. Today’s collegiate game is built around teams that can advance runners, get solid pitching, and play good defense. The Tigers didn’t have one, not one sacrifice bunt in the CWS.
In the 8th inning against UNC the Tar Heels were in “No doubles” defense. In other words the 1st and 3rd basemen were guarding the lines to prevent a double. North Carolina was begging LSU to bunt with runners at 1st and 2nd base. Instead LSU chooses to swing away and promptly ends the inning with zero runs to speak of.
The game of collegiate baseball has changed with the change in the bat rules. It’s no longer a game of long balls and 11 to 9 wins. It’s now about stringing together a few runs and winning it with pitching. LSU has a bunch of players who can smash it, and no players who can place it (as in a well-timed bunt). The Tigers spend time in practice working on bunts, but don’t call it in the game. Why practice something you don’t use in the game? It’s a waste of time to work on it and never call for it in a game.
If LSU doesn’t adapt to the style of baseball that is staring them in the face, there are likely more “two and out” trips to Omaha in their future. Warren Morris, Blake Dean, Todd Walker and other power hitters are not putting on an LSU uniform again. The days of digging into the box and seeing how far you can hit it are over. It’s a small ball game, and either you adapt to that or you will have a small collection of national championship trophies to speak of.
All is not lost for LSU. The experience that freshman short stop Alex Bregman, and sophomore right hander Aaron Nola gained in Omaha this year will be invaluable next year. The big question is not if LSU will return to the CWS, but if they’ll change their approach a bit to get to the CWS and WIN.