You knew LSU was going to roll into Omaha, right?
You knew it last fall. After Jay Johnson assembled his roster, chock full of talent, with a heavy dose of transfer portal gold to blend with returning Tigers, everybody knew it last fall.
The hype machine cranked up, Tiger fans guzzled the purple Kool Aid, and why not?
As the preseason polls began to pop out, they all agreed. LSU was No. 1.
There the Tigers stayed, until shoulders and elbows began to pop in the cruelest ways. By midseason, LSU was NOT No. 1, and the presumed sweeps of Southeastern Conference series were very much in doubt.
Hosting Kentucky in the Super Regional might have seemed like a gimme, until you looked back at the mid-April series at Alex Box. The Tigers needed an eighth-inning bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to squeak out a 7-6 victory in the final game to win the weekend.
Still, with Paul Skenes on the bump, LSU could chalk up a Game 1 win as certainly as Donald Trump enters not guilty pleas.
All Johnson had to do was not lose Skenes to a long rain delay after a short, interrupted outing. For all of the talent on his roster, Johnson’s best asset for most of Saturday was a lightning detector. The Super Regional opener finally unfolded seven hours after it was slated, with a well-lubricated 12,000 and change in the ballpark.
The Wildcats had no chance. Two TDs and a couple of PATs later, the Tigers needed only one more win.
The result was inevitable even if things were tense with a 5-3 lead heading into the top of the ninth. After LSU added a run, the great Tiger scriptwriter above brought Dylan Crews to the plate with runners in scoring position.
So the two-time SEC Player of the Year ended his homefield career in the only appropriate manner, LSU’s advantage was 8-3, and retiring the Wildcats was little more than a ceremonial exercise in the bottom of the ninth.
Geauxmaha, we comin’.
Bar owners up there are grinning broadly. The good ole days are here again. Not every Tiger fan is a big drinker, but the ones who are more than make up for the ones who aren’t.
It’s not a birthright, LSU in the College World Series. It just feels that way. This will be the 19th visit to the Cornhusker State in June for the Tigers, who have returned home on top of the college baseball world six times.
These Tigers have been perfect, 5-0 in postseason. To fulfill their preseason destiny, they’ll need five more wins.
Local hero Hayden Travinski was a third-team catcher when LSU was a dead-solid lock to win it all as the season began. He took advantage of limited opportunities, rose to the occasion when called upon in April, and in May emerged alongside Crews as the Tiger hitter opponents most need to avoid.
Now we wonder if LSU has enough pitching to win five games in Omaha. Figure Skenes throws two of them, the first and the last, and the pitching question comes down to finding ways to win three times.
Wake Forest looks formidable. Florida and Virginia are bonafide threats. But the Tigers can swing with anybody.
And suddenly, they do look a bit like a team of destiny.
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