Four weeks ago, as the LSU baseball team awaited its postseason fate, the Tigers had several reasons to believe they’d make the NCAA tournament.
Despite finishing in a tie for ninth place in the Southeastern Conference with a 13-17 league record, the Tigers (36-20 overall) could hang their hat on a strong 12-3 stretch to finish the regular season, a sweep of West Coast power Cal State Fullerton in pre-conference play and, most notably, a No. 25 spot in the “all-important” RPI ratings.
The best argument on behalf of LSU, however, took awhile to present itself - too long to matter, as it happens.
If you’ve paid any at
tention to the College World Series this week, you have probably found yourself wondering what LSU might have done in the postseason if given the chance.
Defending national champ South Carolina has run its winning streak in the NCAA tournament to a record-tying 15 straight with two more wins, and Florida is 2-0 at the CWS as well behind a roster littered with sophomores.
Vanderbilt, boasting an SEC-record 12 draft picks, has lost only to Florida in its 2-1 start.
No conference has ever dominated the CWS quite like this. The SEC is turning new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., into Hoover north.
South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt join Atlantic Coast Conference champ Virginia as the four teams still alive for a national title - the first time in the history of the event three teams from one conference were among the final four. The SEC is assured of having either Florida or Vanderbilt in the championship series next week, and it will take two Virginia victories over South Carolina in the next two days to prevent an all-SEC showdown for the CWS trophy.
LSU probably wouldn’t have had the same success in the NCAA tournament as the big three, but it’s clear the SEC should have been more than a seven-bid league.
This year marked the first time since 2007 the SEC had fewer than eight teams advance to regional play. As recently as 2008, it had nine teams make the tournament.
Even before South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt took over Omaha, it had already become clear that an eighth SEC team in this year’s field probably would have fared well.
Mississippi State was considered the last of the conference’s seven teams to get a bid, and the Bulldogs nearly upset Florida in the Gainesville super regional. Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama all made it to the championship round of their respective regionals.
Bottom line, the SEC has never been stronger than it was this year.
LSU could have helped its case by pulling out any of the eight games it lost by a single run.
But the Tigers still won 36 games.
And the 17 losses in league play, well, maybe that wasn’t quite so bad after all.