It has been nearly four months since the LSU baseball team was left out of the NCAA Tournament
The selection committee found the Tigers’ résumé lacking, but whether the team should have gotten a bid, or should have done more to earn one — or both — is old news at this point.
It’s a new start as LSU begins fall practice Sunday, and the focus will be on working every day to make sure a repeat of that Memorial Day disappointment isn’t repeated in May.
“I can’t deny that there will be a little bit more intensity in this fall practice,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “Everyone still has a very bitter taste from the end of last year. We want to get going in the right direction.”
Mainieri said he makes it a point not “to live in the past,” but remembering the past can be useful in this case. The Tigers tuned in to the NCAA selection show expecting that a 36-20 record, which included 12 victories in the last 15 games, would be enough to offset a 13-17 SEC record and ninth-place finish in the league.
But Mainieri and the players watched the field unveiled team by team until there were no spots left, ending their season as quickly as a walk-off homer.
“I want us to remember what a lousy feeling it was watching that selection show, and making sure that never happens again is absolutely motivation,” Mainieri said, “Every day during the fall I’m going to remind them that if we don’t give everything we have in every drill, we run the risk of making our bed again, and that feeling is unacceptable here. It’s unacceptable to me, the university and to our fan base.”
Though the Tigers might have a little more of an edge to them this fall, Mainieri said the goals are essentially the same as they are every fall.
“No. 1, you want to teach your players to play the game the fundamental way, the way we play it at LSU,” Mainieri said. “We’re going to have a lot of scrimmages and fundamental work to teach them the LSU way.
“The other thing is we want to create as much competition as we possibly can so we can identify the players who will give us the best chance to be successful in the spring. When we get done in the first week of November, we should have a pretty clear-cut depth chart going into the spring. It won’t be etched in stone, but it will be a good starting point.”
Mainieri said he wants to put as much pressure on his players as he can to see how they respond. The best way to do that, he said, is to match the top pitchers and the top hitters against each other, sometimes in full games, sometimes in special situations.
Outfielder Raph Rhymes, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, won’t be available for the start of fall practice.