OMAHA, Neb. — You always knew if LSU ever lost in a championship situation in the College World Series, it would seem like agony for a program and its fans, who have never known anything but success.
But the pain from this — the self-inflicted pain — may have been more bitter than anyone could have imagined.
After a tense but hardly fatal 4-3 loss to Florida in Game 1 of the CWS finals Monday night, the Tigers went looking for their hero on Tuesday night. Someone to come through in the clutch to force a Game 3 and bring pitching ace Alex Lange surfing in from the bullpen on a wave of momentum.
OMAHA, Neb. — For those tens of thousands of LSU baseball fans who turned the seats at TD Am…
Now Lange’s next pitch will be in pro baseball. Instead of a path to their best, the Tigers at times gave it their worst, finding mistakes, mishaps and at least two giant missed scoring opportunities in a 6-1 loss that left LSU in a position it’s never been in here:
Watching someone else hoist the big trophy.
"I really don’t know how to describe it," Tigers right fielder Greg Deichmann said. "It’s disappointing. It hurts for everybody that gave their all to this program."
Credit the Florida Gators with getting the job done, an excellent program that finally completed its quest for that elusive first College World Series championship. But the LSU Tigers, whose history in this event has been flush with championship-game victory after victory, will think back on these finals and how they might have passed if they hadn’t made so many blunders.
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Those two lonely runs Florida scored off LSU senior starter Jared Poché? They were unearned — gifts to the Gators from a team that has taken pride in its defense all season. (Except for that NCAA regional opener against Texas Southern, with Poché pitching, in which they committed five errors that led to six unearned runs.)
"As a pitcher, there’s nothing you can control after you let go of the ball," LSU's all-time winningest pitcher said. "These guys have been making plays for me my entire career. Unfortunately we kicked it around a little bit, but I’d go to war with these guys again."
LSU could hit its way back from that, it seemed. But the one area where Florida was superior, pitching, wouldn’t ever let the Tigers extend their arms and find the holes to make it happen.
Poché doesn’t work without an airtight defense to back him up. As Dr. Jerry Poché joked about his son when talking to reporters Tuesday afternoon about the Florida fan he helped save from a heart attack the night before, Jared isn’t the kind to strike out 27 batters in a game.
“Two,” the elder Poché said with a grin. He struck out three.
OMAHA, Neb. — After 25 years as a family doctor in Lutcher, Dr. Jerry Poché was looking to g…
LSU’s defense looked like a classic sloppy New Orleans po-boy — debris and gravy all over the place, and some of it bound to wind up staining your shirt. First baseman Nick Coomes committed two blunders and got replaced by Jake Slaughter.
Slaughter had his own misadventures. With runners at the corners and none out after LSU finally cracked through to score with a run by Zach Watson, Slaughter slid too hard through second base on a double play grounder by Michael Papierski. He was called for runner’s interference, sending Josh Smith back to third base when he looked for all the world like he had scored the tying run.
"I tried to go hard into second and do what I thought I was supposed to do," Slaughter said. "He said I went out of my way to get him or something. That was his judgment; it’s how it happened."
"We talk about baserunning all the time," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said glumly. "They know the rule. The umpire said he did that and my baserunner said he slid into the base. Somebody isn’t telling me the truth."
The rule is harsh — especially since Florida second baseman Deacon Liput looked like he had no intention of trying to throw home to get Smith. But it’s a rule nonetheless, properly applied. When Beau Jordan then lined out sharply to center field, the Tigers had let a grand opportunity slip through their grasp and shatter on the floor.
The same was true in the eighth, when Kramer Robertson and Cole Freeman led off with hits to put runners at the corners with none out. Then Antoine Duplantis struck out, Deichmann grounded out and Watson flew out to center.
Even the home run ball that LSU rediscovered here like it was back at old Rosenblatt Stadium was a weapon taken out of the Tigers hands by a steady Nebraska wind that blew straight in from center. Fly ball after fly ball that might have gone over the fence before went to die in the Gators’ gloves. Like Florida, that wind never relented.
LSU was finally out of mojo.
The Gators picked the lock of previously studly reliever Zack Hess for four runs in the eighth to, in a sense, take some of the sting out of the Tigers’ squandered chances. Then again, in a tie game or with LSU holding a 3-2 lead, maybe it would have been the Gators who couldn’t come through.
OMAHA, Neb. — Zack Hess is really starting to channel his inner Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn.
Skip Bertman once said the law of averages said LSU had to lose in this situation one day; it just didn’t have to be tomorrow.
This time, tomorrow never came for the Tigers, and now they have to experience what Wichita State, Miami, Alabama, Stanford and Texas knew when they faced LSU in these situations:
They’re going home empty-handed.