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.
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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.”
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Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig. (Photo shot on 6/19/04) CWS LSU fans Brad Jukes and Blaine Morse show off their spirit in front of Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska. The 18-year-old pair are Omaha residents who started following the Tigers in 1991 and have been fans ever since.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Bill Feig. (Picture shot on 6-7-97) Skip Bertman after his team defeated Alabama at the CWS.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Leon Landry flies high over the mound as he dives into the pile as LSU beats Texas in the Final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 24, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Sean Ochinko celebrates as LSU beat Texas in the Final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 24, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Travis Spradling. (Picture shot on 6-4-97) Catcher Clit Earnhart, Skip Bertman and pitcher Doug Thompson wait for the arrival of Chris Demouy at the mound, after Stanford knocked Thompson out of the game.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Travis Spradling. (Picture shot on 6-4-97) Mike Koerner (2) gets congratulations from teammates after a first-inning homer.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Tiger fans, from left, Laney Clostio , Randy Frederick, II, Grant Frick brave the heat as Peggy St Romain wipes the sweat off her face while waiting in line at noon for a 6 p.m. start as LSU takes on Texas in the second Final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne., on June 23, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- LSU takes on Texas in the first final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 23, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Travis Spradling. (Picture shot on 6-4-97) LSU graduate Dave Cutton (left) hangs out a sign proclaiming Rosenblatt Stadium to be "Alex Box North," denoting LSU's recent dominance there in the College World Series. He lives in Maryville, Missouri, as does his friend to his right, Lou Schreck.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Travis Spradling. (Picture shot on 6-4-97) Blair Barbier slides headfirst home safely in the big seventh inning, as Stanford catcher Jon Schaeffer's tag is late.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Paul Mainieri gets lifted as LSU beats Texas in the Final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 24, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photo MARK SALTZ -- Paul Mainieri and Joe Aleva celebrates the National Championship win as LSU takes on Texas in the Final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 24, 2009.
Warren Morris whoops with joy as he rounds the bases after hitting the winning home run as LSU claimed the College World Series title in 1996.
Bertman gets the trophy from the head of baseball for the NCAA at the Championship Game of the College World Series in Omaha, Sat., June 7, 2097. TRAVIS SPRADLING PHOTO
June 18, 2010 photo by Crystal LoGiudice -- Skip Bertman, former LSU athletic director and baseball coach, smiles as he stand among other College World Series Legends Team members during opening ceremonies for the 2010 College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. The 28 members of the team were narrowed down from 95 nominees and selected after more than 100,000 votes. Also voted as one of the 28 from LSU was Todd Walker, a former second baseman.
The team gathers in at the end of practice for the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska. (Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig. Photo shot on 6/20/04.)
LSU Tigers celebrate victory over Miami in 1996 College World Series.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Mark Saltz. (Picture shot on 6-8-97) LSU baseball players check out the Advocate picture page of the CWS Championship game that they won while in Omaha yesterday. After greeting fans at Ryan Airport members of the team got a quick look at the paper while waiting to board the bus . L-R, Danny Higgins, Mike Koerner, Jeremy Witten, Johnnie Thibodeaux and Brad Cresse.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Angela Connor, left, and Natalie Huber, right, both from Cameron, La. brave the weather as the CWS is in a rain delay as LSU waits to take on Texas in the second Final game during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 23, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Mark Saltz. (Picture shot on 6-1-98) Doug Thompson gets mobbed by Keisler, Leaumont and Barbier after defeating Miss. State 10-8 in the CWS in Omaha.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Fans Keith Hopkins, right, an LSU alumni living in Houston, Tx. gets all the trimming as Tiger fans are treated to a BBQ at McFlys by the Lampe family during the College World Series in Omaha, Ne. on June 21, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Rick Barrios of False River, La. spends all day cooking for some 5,000 fans and anyone else who wants good food outside of Rosenblatt Stadium along the first base side as his group tailgates while waiting for LSU to take on Virginia during game two of the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Ne. on June 13, 2009.
In 1996, Warren Morris makes the connection for his championship winning ninth inning home run.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Travis Spradling. (Picture shot on 5-29-97) Casey Cuntz (left) and Mike Koerner, members of last year' s LSU CWS team who sport championship rings, sign autographs on a CWS poster that shows Rosenblatt Stadium at twilight.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Mark Saltz. (Picture shot on 6-5-98) LSU's Bleacher Creatures watch as LSU plays USC for the 3rd time in the CWS.
Tim Lanier tags out Rudy Gomez to end the second inning.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Coonor Westbrook, of Pineville, La. tries to wake up while waiting for the start of the LSU/Arkansas game in the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Ne. on June 15, 2009.
Photograph by Phillip Barr -- 1991 file photo
Advocate Staff Photograph by Mark Saltz. (Picture shot on 6-8-97) From left, Megan Aucoin, Katie Pilgreen and Bridget Daigle take photos of LSU's Eddy Furniss as he poses in front of fans at Ryan Airport with the CWS plaque in arm.
Advocate Staff photo by Bill Feig -- Fans celebrate after LSU's win
STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING - David Shipp and Mike Koerner greet a sea of hands after the game on the victory lap.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- From left, LSU's AD Joe Aleva, Samantha Mainieri (coach daughter) , Karen Mainieri (wife) enjoy the game at Rosenblatt Stadium during the LSU/Arkansas game in the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Ne. on June 15, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- Mikie Mahtook makes the out as LSU takes on Virginia during game two of the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Ne. on June 13, 2009.
Advocate Staff Photograph by Mark Saltz. (Picture shot on 5-28-98) Skip Bertman has a devilish smile during questions and answers at the Press conference before the start of the CWS in Omaha.
Advocate staff photo by Mark Saltz (Picture shot on 6-5-98) LSU's Brad Cresse waits for the throw at home plate as USC's Jeremy Freitas slides in the the Trojans third run in the fifth-inning Friday at the College World Series in Omaha.
Advocate photo by Bill Feig -- Skip Bertman hugs MVP Brandon Larson after the game
Advocate Staff Photo Mark Saltz -- LSU's Blake Dean hits a home run as LSU/Arkansas game in the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Ne. on June 15, 2009.
Advocate Staff photo by Bill Feig -- LSU players pile onto pitcher Doug Thompson (9) on the mound, after LSU clinched its second straight national title Saturday with a decisive victory over Alabama
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”
“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.