With two weeks to go until the season opener, sophomore Brennan Breaux is in a two-horse race with incumbent starter Beau Jordan to be LSU’s opening-day starter in left field.
That begs the question: Did four at-bats in early May alter the course of an LSU baseball career?
Considering it as a whole, Breaux had a largely forgettable freshman season. He accumulated just 36 at-bats, and managed just five hits for a meager .136 batting average. Heading into May, Breaux had just one hit in 20 collegiate at-bats.
Then, out of nowhere, he was the catalyst during the defining moment of LSU’s 2016 season.
“It’s tough to not be in the lineup every day and not produce like you want to,” Breaux said. “But, when you get your chance, to come through the way I did, it was awesome just to see I could still help my team.”
LSU was hosting Arkansas and Breaux was thrust into the lineup midway through the second game of the series —the famed “Rally Possum” game. His two-run, ninth-inning double on a 3-2 pitch brought the Tigers, once down 9-1, to within a run. They’d go on to win the game in extra innings.
He started the next day and picked up another hit, a two-run single in his first at-bat, that gave LSU a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Breaux’s unlikely contribution spearheaded what would be an 11-game win streak that earned LSU a national seed.
It doesn’t matter that Breaux finished his season hitless in his last 10 at-bats. Those two games against Arkansas gave him the momentum he needed to carry into the offseason.
“It definitely gave me some confidence, especially with the slow start I had at the beginning of the year,” Breaux said. “To have a game like that and then follow it up with another game … gave me a lot of confidence moving forward.”
Others in his position — rarely used and even more rarely contributing — may have considered a transfer.
Breaux did not.
“I knew that wasn’t my best,” Breaux said. “I knew I had a lot left in the tank. For me, it was a matter of finding it and letting it come out.”
LSU coach Paul Mainieri sent Breaux to the Cape Cod League, widely regarded as the summer destination for college baseball’s premier prospects.
Mainieri said he had some reservations about that decision initially, worrying that Breaux might get overmatched, not play much and not develop accordingly.
He had his share of lumps in the prospect league, hitting .200 in 55 regular-season at-bats, but his bat came to life in the playoffs, where he went 6-for-14 (.429) with a pair of RBIs.
Breaux carried that flourish of a finish into the fall, where he forced his way into the conversation for one of LSU’s three starting outfield spots. At LSU’s media day, Mainieri said Breaux “has made remarkable improvement.”
He also physically looks like a different player, adding 10 pounds to his frame this offseason.
“He’s come back here and is looking much more physical and getting his money’s worth at the plate,” Mainieri said. “He’s hitting the ball with more authority.
“He’s right in the mix there.”