When it comes to sports and streaks, the usual solution to sustaining it is simple: Don’t talk about it.
While there may be no physical evidence to support whether that actually works, it’s an old axiom that many players and coaches adhere to. By not focusing on a steak, in theory, it won’t consume a player or team — even if the streak is always in the back of everyone’s mind.
But ask LSU center fielder Zach Watson about his 12-game hitting streak. He’ll flash a crooked smile and tell you he’s thinking about it in every at-bat. And he’s openly talking about it, too.
“I’m not scared to say it," Watson said. "I’ll say it in the dugout. I’ll say, ‘I've got a 10-game hitting streak going on right now. I’m going for 11.’ I’m not shy about it. I told my dad about it before the game. I even said it after the last game. I said, ‘I've got an 11-game hitting streak. Let’s see how much further I can go.’
“I feel like if I don’t mention it, I’ll end it."
He accomplished both of his missions Tuesday night against Lamar, extending his hitting streak and recording his ninth multi-hit game of the season. He went 2 for 5 in a 10-4 win against the Cardinals, lining an RBI single in the second inning and legging out an infield single in the seventh. He also reached base in the sixth on a fielding error.
It was his second straight start as the Tigers’ No. 3 hitter, but the Ruston native has bounced around in the order in his first 25 starts.
Before moving up in the order, he was most recently the No. 5 hitter, where he’s made the most starts thus far. But he’s also served as the Nos. 6, 7 and 9 hitter this season.
Watson saw the move to the top of the order as just another opportunity in a season full of them, and he’s especially determined to not give any away.
He wasn’t an opening day starter — but at LSU baseball media day, coach Paul Mainieri, was quick to note another LSU freshman who didn't initially start but became a lineup staple: former Tigers All-American Mikie Mahtook.
“Zach, I think, is a very underrated athlete,” Mainieri said. “He doesn’t come across as being a really athletic guy because he’s just not a really big guy. But he’s really wiry strong, and he can run. And he’s got a little bit of that ‘it’ factor too.”
Like Mahtook, Watson has seemingly snatched every opportunity he’s been given and run with them. He's started the last 24 games, mostly in center field — a position the West Ouachita High graduate never played before he got to LSU.
Now, he’s charged with batting in front of Greg Deichmann, the Tigers’ RBI leader and best power threat.
“If I can get on, Greg can drive me in. It’s a win-win situation,” Watson said. “I don’t want to give coach Mainieri a reason to take me out of the three hole. ...
“I feel as if, even if I get a single, (Deichmann) can drive a ball to the wall like it’s nothing. With my speed, I believe I can score.”
Even with the speed and athleticism Watson has shown in the outfield, including on some fly balls he ultimately did not catch, his production at the plate has been critical for an offense that has struggled with consistency.
Over the past 16 games, Watson went hitless just once and has been on base at least once in each of his last 24 starts. In that 16-game stretch, he’s batting .333, the same as his season average.
“He’s got some sneaky pop, not being a big kid,” said LSU second baseman Cole Freeman of Watson, who has six doubles, a triple and two home runs. “But he’s stepped up big time when we needed it. We were struggling for that last outfielder, and he’s made a couple really, really good catches.”