KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – The Rally Possum made it to Rocky Top.
Well, at least the shirts did.
A staff member distributed “Rally Possum” T-shirts to surprised LSU baseball players after their practice Thursday evening in Knoxville. Micah Gibbs, director of baseball operations, had the box of about 30 shirts shipped from Baton Rouge to the team’s hotel in downtown Knoxville.
Gibbs ripped open the box to a mild outburst from players gathered around him inside Tennessee’s batting cages. They slipped on the purple shirts that read, in gold lettering, “#RallyPossum. An outline of the hairy critter sits atop the words. It’s the same shirt being sold to fans at LSU sports shops.
“These guys love that stuff,” said Gibbs, the Tigers’ starting catcher from 2008-10 in his first year on staff. “I feel like most teams rally around something. Maybe it’s a possum.”
The team is joining in on a craze that’s engulfed fans since the Tigers 10-9 comeback win over Arkansas last Saturday. A possum crawled onto the field in the seventh inning of that game, with LSU down 9-3. The Tigers rallied to win, and the “Rally Possum” was born, buoyed by a social media movement using the hashtag “RallyPossum.”
Players, even, purchased a possum stuffed animal. They brought it on this week-long road trip, hanging it from the visitor dugout during Wednesday’s doubleheader sweep at Notre Dame. It will be there again Friday when LSU (33-16, 14-10 Southeastern Conference) begins a three-game series against Tennessee (26-23, 7-17).
Dunn ‘extremely happy’ about Smith
Alan Dunn’s pitching staff received a shot in the arm this week.
Riley Smith, a highly regarded junior college prospect, threw six innings of four-hit ball, striking out four, in his first college start Wednesday in LSU’s 3-2 victory of Notre Dame. Smith missed five weeks this season battling shoulder soreness.
On Wednesday, Dunn finally witnessed the 6-foot-2 Texan meet his expectations during the 65-pitch outing.
“Those were the things I was expecting that I saw in the fall and that I was expecting this season,” Dunn said. “I thought he did a phenomenal job. His fastball command last night was outstanding. I was extremely happy.”
What’s Smith’s role now? It’s unclear, but Dunn put things in perspective.
“It’s almost like if you look at a major league team. At the trade deadline, they get that arm. I kind of feel like that,” he said.
Latz has ‘good’ bullpen
Jake Latz threw what coach Paul Mainieri termed as a “good” bullpen Tuesday at Notre Dame.
Latz, the redshirt freshman suffering from an elbow injury that’s lingered for 15 months, traveled the two hours from his home near Chicago to South Bend to throw in front of Dunn. Manieri had no update on Latz’s status for the remainder of the season. Last week, the coach said he did not expect the pitcher to pitch again this year.
To meet SEC travel rules, pitcher Cole McKay flew to Baton Rouge while the team traveled from South Bend to Knoxville in a charter jet Thursday.
Mainieri brought McKay, a freshman from Texas, for the non-conference series against Notre Dame. The SEC limits teams to travel 27 players to road conference games.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.