…if you’re a Ragin’ Cajun fan you probably won’t want to watch it much.
Two things are true about tonight. One, Chris Sciambra’s game-winning shot follows in a long tradition of big-time deliveries by seniors at LSU in postseason play. In the past, late-game heroics in tight situations like Sciambra’s have led to wipeout performances propelling the Tigers to championships. For example, though he wasn’t a senior Tyler Moore’s pinch-hit double that broke an 8th-inning scoreless tie against Oklahoma two years ago broke open a dam and started a flood resulting in an 11-1 win and a trip to Omaha the next day. That’s entirely possible for this team, as even though ULL is throwing their ace on Sunday LSU has Jared Poche’ on the hill; Poche’ specializes in breaking balls and the Ragin’ Cajuns are by no means proficient in hitting junk.
But something else which is true is a lot more troubling; namely, that in recent years the Unlikely Hero who ignites a postseason juggernaut is a pattern found more commonly in previous eras of LSU baseball. Moore’s double notwithstanding, the postseason heroics have not been as plentiful in the past several years as LSU’s fans are used to. More common since the 2009 national championship team blasted its way into history has been a string of disappointments.
And five hits and four runs against the third-place team in the Sun Belt, particularly when they were throwing a freshman not their ace, doesn’t look like a juggernaut. Nor does giving up a 9th-inning home run to tie the game like Alex Lange did a half-inning before Sciambra’s walkoff bomb. Virtually everyone watching that game knew that Lange, who until the 8th inning was dominant, was lucky to get out of that inning without losing the lead; sending him back out for the ninth was a stupid decision. But it was one that Paul Mainieri made; Mainieri’s visible relief at Sciambra’s home run was a good indication he knew he’d erred badly by leaving Lange in to start the 9th and very nearly cost his team a Super Regional game against ULL at home in making that mistake.
Meanwhile, Florida wrapped up a two-game destruction of Florida State earlier today, Miami wiped out VCU in two games, Vanderbilt went to Illinois and blew out the Illini 13-0 and TCU destroyed Texas A&M 11-4 in a battle for the spot opposite LSU in the first game in Omaha should the Tigers get there. There are teams peaking at the right time this weekend; LSU doesn’t appear to be one of them.
The upshot is that tomorrow’s contest will tell us which trend to which this LSU team belongs. So while Tiger fans can certainly take a great deal of joy in Sciambra’s heroics, Mainieri and his team are going to have to ratchet up their game – significantly – for this season to end like 2009 and not the last three.