Cory Hale admits all of this has been just plain crazy.
His little brother’s baseball career has gone from zero to 100 in what’s seemed like a blink of an eye.
“He’s on TV and playing for the No. 1 team and batting cleanup,” Cory said of his brother, LSU senior Conner Hale. “It didn’t hit me until I watched my first game on ESPN.”
That’s when it really sunk in: His brother had gone from receiving zero scholarship offers as a high school senior to starting at third base and batting fourth for LSU. He’s gone from being a normal junior college player to a top-70 college baseball player, according to one outlet.
Oh, yes, it’s been quite crazy.
“Just to see that coming out of high school I didn’t have anything and now I’m here,” Conner Hale said pausing, “it’s awesome.”
Hale isn’t your everyday LSU starter — the highly touted, highly ranked, sought-after talents that flock to Baton Rouge each year. In fact, outside of catcher Kade Scivicque, Hale is easily the most overlooked, least-hyped player in the Tigers’ lineup.
He’s no Jake Fraley, Chris Chinea or Andrew Stevenson — each a high school All-American who had a host of college offers.
He’s no Jared Foster, a dual-threat athlete who originally came to LSU for football and baseball, and he’s not Alex Bregman, the dazzling shortstop in line for a first-round selection in the June draft.
As top-ranked LSU (37-7, 14-6 Southeastern Conference) readies for a series at Mississippi State (23-21, 7-14) starting Thursday, Hale and Scivicque — the underdogs — are contributing just as much as anyone else to a squad that’s on pace for a fourth straight top-eight NCAA national seed.
Hale is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 37, and Scivicque has 32. No two players have had longer hitting streaks this season than Scivicque’s 23-gamer and Hale’s season-opening 16-game streak.
How are two guys with no prospects as high schoolers starting on, arguably, the nation’s best college baseball program?
The answer’s easy, coach Paul Mainieri said.
“It’s not an exact science,” he said. “Just like that happens, there’s a lot of guys that get great exposure, that you see a lot, and they come to college and they flop.”
Most know how LSU stumbled upon Scivicque, a slugger from the tiny bayou town of Maurepas. Assistant coach Will Davis owed a favor to a friend and helped Scivicque land at Southwest Mississippi Community College, where he blossomed and earned an LSU scholarship.
But Hale? He’s from near Tampa, Florida.
Hale has his own story.
He led the nation in batting average as a high school senior at .505. That resulted in three offers from junior college schools in Florida. Nothing else.
“He didn’t have a D1 offer,” said Clay Hale, Conner and Cory’s father. “We started doing a lot of the showcases, where a lot of colleges would be at, but it didn’t pan out.”
He spent two years at State College of Florida, a junior college, during which former recruiting coordinator Javi Sanchez stumbled upon him. Sanchez was recruiting other players on Hale’s JC team — like former pitcher Nick Goody — when he noticed Hale.
Later, Mainieri saw Hale at a junior college tournament at Alex Box and was wowed. At first, the coach didn’t have a spot for Hale on his roster.
“I didn’t know if we had room for him,” Mainieri said. “Circumstances developed over the next few months and I decided, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make room for him.’ ”
And now could it be much more? D1Baseball.com released their list of the top college prospects ahead of June’s Major League Baseball Draft. Hale was No. 66.
Don’t tell him that.
“I feel like I have a good shot. I’m just going to go out and finish this season as best as I can,” Hale said. “I haven’t really heard anything, and I’m not trying to pay attention to that right now. I’m just trying to go out there and win a national championship.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.