Well before it ended, even before sheets of rain came in and out like the tides, the outcome of Game 2 of the NCAA Baton Rouge super regional between LSU and Mississippi State seemed like a foregone conclusion.
LSU is off to Omaha for the College World Series after dispatching of Mississippi State in t…
The Tigers’ six-run fifth inning and the shutdown relief pitching of Caleb Gilbert — at one point he retired 17 of 18 batters he faced — seemed to finally take the starch out of the resilient Bulldogs.
So the question became not would LSU win to make its 18th trip back to the College World Series, but when. And, to a smaller but fascinating degree, how many fans would be there to see it at the end.
When reserve second baseman Rankin Woley squeezed Hunter Stovall’s pop fly for the final out, the clock on the Alex Box Stadium scoreboard lording over the left-field bleachers said 1:36 a.m. The game that started at 8:36 p.m. (delayed by weather from the start) was finally over with LSU a 14-4 winner.
After sweeping Mississippi State in the Baton Rouge super regional, what's next for the LSU …
But remarkably, there were still fans in those left-field stands. And in right field. And in the grandstands and the suites.
There’s no way to make an accurate count of how many of the paid crowd of 11,706 were still there when backup catcher Jordan Romero drilled Hunter Newman amidships and sent him sprawling backward, setting off a joyful dogpile at the pitcher’s mound. But it easily was 5,000-6,000, on a night when people had to go to work later Monday morning, or bring kids to summer camp, or travel far — or all of the above.
Once again LSU baseball fans — who threw in a few lusty boos for former assistant and current State coach Andy Cannizaro as he came out for one of his 137 or so pitching changes — proved their worth as the best around. They stuck around on a sticky, rainy night and refused to leave until the Tigers gave them a victory lap.
“My friend Sarah Hays and I went to the game last night and stayed till the bitter end!!” wrote Katie Penny of Lafayette on Monday. “Sarah has a little boy who was home with a friend of hers, so we figured, in for a penny, in for a pound — we lasted this long, might as well stick it out!!
“What's the difference between 1:30 and 1:45 am, really?”
No difference at all to Kathy and David Beauchamp of St. Francisville. Kathy even got a selfie with senior shortstop Kramer Robertson as reward for her dedication.
“I got soaked but well worth the long night to thank Kramer for his part in making this dream a reality!!!!” she wrote.
We assume the dream was finally going to Omaha, Nebraska, not taking the picture.
This was the worst road trip of Kramer Robertson’s life.
Near the LSU dugout, Maradith Boone, Robertson’s godmother, was in the grandstand near Kramer’s mother Kim Mulkey, and his sister, Makenzie Robertson. Mulkey always stays with the Boones when she comes to watch Kramer play home games. This being his last one, there was no way Boone was going to leave, as she informed daughter, Hattie, early on.
“I told her if you go, there’s no leaving early,” Boone said. “You’re going to have to deal with it. She hung in there.”
So did her husband, Dr. Ryan Boone, an ear, nose and throat specialist who had to be up a few hours later for surgery. We’re happy to report Maradith said all went well in the O.R.
It was a bittersweet night for the Boones, Robertsons and Mulkey, knowing Kramer had fulfilled his dream of playing in the CWS but that this chapter of his baseball career was ending at LSU.
“It feels like raising kids: The days are long, but the years are short,” Boone said. “I will miss him so much. We’ve really enjoyed having him here for four years.”
The Boones hope to join Mulkey in Omaha if LSU makes it to the championship series. So does local lobbyist Rob Landry, who also had to be up and back at work later Monday morning with the legislative special session in full swing.
“(Monday) morning was rough,” said Landry, a season ticket holder. “But in the end, I’m glad I stayed. It was worth it to get to see the team go to Omaha.”
Landry’s reasoning was simple, and probably shared by many who remained into the wee hours.
“If I went home, I was still going to watch the game,” he said. “Why leave? Why miss the moment we’ve been waiting on for two years now?”
LSU players took to Twitter in the wee hours to thank fans for their devotion.
“To all LSU fans, we love y’all!” third baseman Josh Smith wrote. “Best fans in college baseball by far. Thousands of people stayed to watch the Tigers till 2 am. #OMAHA”
To all LSU fans, we love y'all! Best fans in college baseball by far. Thousands of people stayed to watch the Tigers till 2 am.. #OMAHA— Josh Smith (@josh_smith8) June 12, 2017
“Huge S/O (shout out) to the fans this weekend,” wrote designated hitter Beau Jordan, “the box was deafening. Also an unbelievable job by the @LSUTarpCrew #OmahaBound”
LSU coach Paul Mainieri wasn’t too busy trying to navigate his team to their fifth CWS appearance in his tenure to notice all the fans who stayed, either.
“Our fans are awesome,” said Mainieri, who said his ears hurt from the noise Saturday night like when he’s been on the field in Tiger Stadium. “They inspire us.”
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If Mainieri doesn’t use video of the scene as a recruiting video, then there’s no such thing.