Questions mount for LSU baseball, and quite honestly, there doesn’t seem to be enough answers to go around to satisfy the always-reliable social media mob.
After LSU dropped a Super Regional series to Florida State this weekend, big picture questions abound like:
— Why did this team underachieve after a preseason No. 1 ranking?
— Why did LSU pitchers suffer arm soreness all season long?
— Is one national title 10 years ago good enough?
— Why can’t LSU get the fundamentals of base running?
— Is a Super Regionals berth alone good enough anymore?
Some of these questions are answerable. Some of them aren’t.
The first question about LSU underachieving has a simple answer — the Tigers couldn’t stay healthy. Let’s run through just a few of the injuries, shall we? In the month of April alone, Zach Hess pulled a muscle in his groin, Chris Reid pulled his right hamstring, Hal Hughes got nicked after colliding with Brandt Broussard on a popup and Zach Watson missed multiple games with a groin injury.
And that’s just the beginning of it. The biggest injuries of all were linked to arm soreness, which is one of the questions I can’t answer. Why did LSU suffer so many pitching injuries in 2019? Were Cole Henry and Landon Marceaux’s arm soreness throughout the year a product of years of summer league ball? Should LSU pitching coach Alan Dunn take some heat for players like Henry, Marceaux and, of course, Jaden Hill, getting on the field much less than any of us thought going into the year. Hill suffered an elbow injury this year, and after two dominant weekend starts was sidelined the remainder of the year.
The pitching injuries, which reared their ugly head again in the Super Regionals when Henry had to exit after just two innings of work Saturday, certainly factored into LSU underachieving.
But really, because of some of those injuries, you could argue LSU overachieved. Had you told LSU fans three weeks ago that this Tiger team would go on to host a Super Regional, many of them wouldn’t have believed you.
And that should be celebrated. But it’s also painstakingly obvious LSU had potential to do so much more. If LSU runs the bases correctly, the Tigers are likely playing a Game 3 in front of a crowded box Monday night. Instead, Giovanni DiGiacomo got picked off at third base in the sixth inning and Zach Watson got thrown out at second base after he eagerly tried to advance to second following a game-tying RBI single in the eighth. So instead of having runners at the corners with one out and all the momentum, the Tigers had one runner on third with two outs, and LSU couldn’t get that last runner across.
It’s those fundamental errors that force fans to reflect on LSU’s coaching situation, despite Paul Mainieri’s achievements as the Tigers head coach. And I’ve been on record in the past calling him the most underappreciated coach in the country for the stability he’s given LSU after Smoke Laval fizzled out. Mainieri has won one national title, four regular season SEC titles and six SEC tournaments. Since winning that national title in 2009, LSU has made it to the College World Series three times. But here’s the hard truth fans don’t want to hear — it’s more difficult to win a national title in baseball today than it was in the past. Even the great Skip Bertman admitted this in an interview with WAFB’s Jacques Doucet earlier this year.
And the stats back it up. If you look at the last 16 years, 14 different schools have won national titles. We will never see what Bertman did in the ‘90s ever again, and LSU fans have to realize that.
Tiger fans grow impatient since it’s been a full 10 years since LSU has own a national title in baseball. And all you have to do is get on Facebook and Twitter to uncover the outrage from the fan base. A big reason for that is the lack of answers to these questions.
And listen, I, like everyone else, wish I had all the answers. But sometimes baseball is a mystery, and you have to live with some of these mind-numbing results in hope for a better day tomorrow.
Accept the landscape has changed, and stick with the guy that’s always going to give you a fighting chance to win a national title.
I believe Mainieri has been successful enough in easily the toughest conference in the country to warrant such logical thinking.