Category Archives: College Baseball
Every 24 June, the LGBTQ community pauses to remember the horror of a Sunday night in the French Quarter.
It was 24 June 1973 when an arsonist doused the stairwell of The UpStairs Lounge with lighter fluid, then set it ablaze. By time the inferno was under control, 32 people perished.
It was New Orleans’ third massive loss of life in seven months.
The first was a 29 November 1972 fire at the Rault Center, a 16-story high rise in the city’s Central Business District. One man died when he was trapped in an elevator. Five women jumped from the 15th floor; three died instantly, one died in a hospital a month later without ever regaining consciousness, but miraculously, Natalie Smith of Metairie lived to tell her story. She passed away in 2014 at 81.
Five and a half weeks after the Rault Center came the infamous sniper incident at the Downtown Howard Johnson’s Motor Hotel across Gravier Street from the Rault Center. Two hotel guests (a honeymooning couple from Virginia), the hotel’s General Manager and Assistant General Manager, and three police officers (Phillip Coleman, Paul Persigo and Louis Sirgo, the NOPD’s Deputy Superintendent) were cut down by Emporia native Mark Essex.
Essex was later identified as the sniper who killed NOPD Cadet Alfred Harrell New Year’s Eve at Orleans Parish Prison, then wounded Edwin Hosli in a neighborhood. Hosli passed away 65 days later without regaining consciousness. He also was fingered by many as the perpetrator of the Rault Center fire.
The Howard Johnson’s incident received national coverage on all three networks. Imagine if there were CNN, MSNBC and Fox News back then.
The Rault Center fire led the national newscasts hours after it occurred, although outside of New Orleans, it wasn’t mentioned after 29 November 1972.
The UpStairs Lounge fire rated less than two minutes on the next night’s CBS Evening News and barely a minute on the NBC Nightly News. Harry Reasoner and Howard K. Smith (a Louisiana native) didn’t mention one word about it on ABC.
The patrons in The UpStairs Lounge were nearly all homosexual males. One woman died, and it’s unclear if she was lesbian or a relative of one of the men.
In 1973, homosexuality in New Orleans, which was more progressive than the rest of Louisiana and most of the rest of the Deep South, was frowned upon.
The coward who committed the dastardly deed at The UpStairs Lounge was never caught. He took the sissy way out and committed suicide a little more than a year after the fire.
The College World Series championship series started an hour ago. I had Vanderbilt right. Arkansas, however, was a big disappointment, losing to Florida State and Texas Tech.
Michigan is the first Big Ten (B1G) team to reach a CWS final since 1966, when Ohio State won the championship. One of the Buckeyes’ best players was Bo Rein, who sadly perished in a January 1980 plane crash only 42 days after being named LSU’s football coach.
Had Rein lived, there’s no way LSU suffers 10 losing seasons between 1980 and 1999. Would he have won a national championship at LSU? Hard to tell. There were so many superpowers in that era. On the other hand, LSU would never have hired such duds as Mike Archer, Curley Hallman and Gerry DiNardo.
If Rein lived and coached a long time at LSU, do the Bayou Bengals entice Nick Saban, and later Les Miles, to Baton Rogue? Who knows.
The Big Ten has long complained about college baseball being slanted heavily towards teams in warmer climates, and in particular, the other Power Five conferences (ACC, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC).
I understand the weather is a problem. But Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and other Big Ten schools, save Northwestern, have no room to complain. They are raking in millions upon millions of dollars through the Big Ten’s television contracts and their partnerships with Nike or another apparel company, meaning they have plenty to build indoor baseball facilities, whether it be through capital outlay or donors.
Michigan has an athletic budget which dwarfs some COUNTRIES. Why can’t it build a dedicated indoor baseball facility in Ann Arbor, one with a full-sized diamond? If the Maize and Blue can afford separate hockey facilities for its men’s and women’s teams, it certainly has the money to build something more in baseball (and softball).
And why does Wisconsin not play baseball anymore? It’s inexcusable the flagship university of the Badger State does not play the sport when there is a Major League franchise in Milwaukee. It’s the same for Colorado.
That’s all from Salina. I need to get home pronto.
I’ve been singing the blues since 2200 last night, at least as far as sports goes.
The Blues choked in their attempt to win their first Stanley Cup last night, losing 5-1 at home to the Bruins. The series goes back to Boston for the winner-take-all game seven Wednesday.
St. Louis has performed very well away from the Enterprise Center in the playoffs, winning 9 of 12. However, no team in the Stanley Cup Finals has lost game six at home, then recovered to win game seven on the road since the Maple Leafs in 1945, who lost to the Red Wings in Toronto, but somehow got back up and took the Cup at Detroit’s venerable Olympia.
The Blues became the third team this millennium to lose game six of the finals on home ice. The Devils blew it in 2001 and the Flames did it three years later. New Jersey bowed to the Avalanche in Denver, and Calgary choked against the Lightning, subjecting us to the ridiculous spectacle of the Cup being skated in Tampa by the home team.
Three other times since 1995 have the finals have reached game seven:
2003–the Devils and (Mighty) Ducks each fail to break through on the road. New Jersey has the good fortune of home ice advantage.
2006–the Hurricanes lose twice to the Oilers after taking a 3-1 series lead, but recover to win the Cup in Raleigh
2011–the Canucks and Bruins split the first six games, with neither team able to win away from home. In the seventh game, that changes, with Boston rolling 4-0 in Vancouver, prompting lawlessness in the streets of British Columbia.
Meanwhile, about 800 miles down the Mississippi River, LSU’s 2019 baseball season came to a sorrowful conclusion.
The Bayou Bengals were swept in their super regional by Florida State. LSU blew a 4-0 lead in the first game and lost 6-4, and in the second, it erased a 4-0 deficit, only to lose 5-4 in 12 innings.
LSU’s season ended 40-25. There were some highs, like winning a series in Starkville, but some real lows, like being swept in Austin by a mediocre Texas team which finished last in the Big 12 and losing a series for the first time to Missouri.
The Seminoles are going to the College World Series in coach Mike Martin’s 40th and final season. Martin has won the most career games of any baseball coach in NCAA Division I, surpassing 2,000 earlier this year.
The Seminoles will be in Omaha for the 17th time under Martin, who succeeded the late, great Dick Howser when the latter left Tallahassee in late 1979 to become manager of the. Yankees and later the Royals. FSU also played in Omaha six times prior to Martin’s ascension. The Seminoles’ baseball stadium is fittingly named Mike Martin Field at Dick Howser Stadium.
For all their success in the regular season and early rounds of the postseason, the Seminoles have yet to claim the brass ring. Their 22 previous CWS appearances without a title are the most. By comparison, LSU didn’t make its first CWS until 1986 and has six titles in 18 appearances.
Martin’s plight resembles that of longtime FSU football coach Bobby Bowden, who came close season after season in the 1980s and early 1990s before winning two titles in 1993 and ’99. Bowden and Martin are good friends, and I bet Bobby will be in Omaha rooting on his former school.
I’ll never forget the 1998 CWS. I went to Omaha for the first time. In the first game of that year’s series. FSU lost 11-10 to Arizona State in a game marked by numerous errors and wild plays.
A reporter came back to the Rosenblatt Stadium press box with audio from Martin’s postgame press conference. The first words out of Martin’s mouth: “We stunk the dadgum cotton picking ballyard up!”
The Seminoles were eliminated two days later by Long Beach State. Martin was much more subdued and conciliatory after losing to the 49ers (aka Dirtbags).
In 1999, FSU reached the championship game, but lost to archrival Miami (from 1988-2002, there was a single CWS championship game). In 2000, the Seminoles were ousted by LSU, which went on to win its fifth title under Skip Bertman.
Another school which has been to Omaha plenty with nothing to show for it, Mississippi State, is going back. Also in the field are Louisville, Texas Tech, Michigan (first time since 1984), Auburn (first time since 1997) and Vanderbilt. Arkansas looks like it will round out the field, as the Razorbacks lead Ole Miss 7-1 in the fourth at Fayetteville in the decisive game of that super regional.
I’ll take Vanderbilt and Arkansas in an all-SEC championship series. And I’ll take the Razorbacks to overcome their heartbreak from last year’s championship series loss to Oregon State, which would bring Arkansas its first baseball national championship and first major sports title since basketball in 1994.
Once the Blues fell behind 3-0 last night, I turned off live television and switched back to The Brady Bunch DVD collection. I’m halfway through season four. I’m going to rewatch them once I get through the entire series.
I need to get my car washed. The bugs are bugging me big time. It looks horrible.
For those who live in a big city, you would be well advised to get an unlimited car wash plan. It will do wonders against the bugs in the summer and the snow, ice and grime in winter.
One good news for my car: my custom sunshade arrived today. It works great. The generic ones in Target (and Walmart, even though I no longer shop there) don’t fit my car. They are awful. No wonder they are #########################################################################
The United States plays its first match in the FIFA Women’s World Cup tomorrow in France. At least Hope Solo, Lauren Holliday and Sydney LeRoux are no longer on team. However, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd are, and those are three big reasons I’m rooting against the Americans.
Morgan is nowhere near the caliber of player former teammate Abby Wambach was, and certainly not in the same league as past greats Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly and Cindy Parlow.
The only reason Morgan is getting attention? She’s a sexpot. She posed in a bikini for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. So what?
Rapinoe is association football’s version of Collin Kaepernick, taking a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner to protest pay inequality in association football and the poor treatment of LQBT athletes like Rapinoe (and Wambach). If she wants to protest on her own time, that’s her business. I don’t give a darn if she’s a lesbian. That’s her privilege. However, she should not protest her country’s national anthem representing that country on an international stage. Rapinoe needs to pipe down during the competition. Save it for later.
Lloyd is nowhere near Hamm. Give it up already.
Solo is a crybaby. And she’s stupid for marrying a man, former Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens, who beat the piss out of her days before their wedding. This weekend, Solo opened her mouth and inserted her foot by saying US manager Jill Ellis chokes in pressure situations.
Last I checked, Ellis was the team’s manager in 2015 when Solo and the US won the World Cup. Therefore, Hope(less) Solo should shut up.
Of the current players, Julie (Johnston) Ertz would crack the starting XI in any era. But that’s it.
Personally, I’d like to see France, Germany or England win the Women’s World Cup. The jingoism of American broadcasters is sickening. That’s why I loved the 2018 Men’s World Cup–the Americans were nowhere to be found, and Fox had to actually cover the matches as neutral journalists, not as surreptitious cheerleaders for Uncle Sam.
Have I bored you? If I have, I’m sorry. That’s it. For now.
The above photo was taken at Buffalo Wild Wings in Salina last night.
The purpose of the sign is to remind both customers and employees the latest possible birth date to be legally served alcohol.
It reminded me of one of my most embarrassing days, an embarrassment I created for myself and have nobody to blame but myself.
On April 26, 1998, I was in Gainesville for the final game of LSU’s baseball series with Florida. The Bayou Bengals and Gators were the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference, both ranked in the top 10 by all the major polls of college baseball at that time: Collegiate Baseball newspaper, Baseball America magazine, and USA Today, which was the coaches’ poll, the same way it was in football and basketball.
LSU won the first game of the series 13-5, but Florida came back to win game two 4-3. The winner of the “rubber” game would have the inside track to the SEC championship, although both would more than likely host an NCAA regional tournament in late May, barring a total collapse.
I was already a bundle of nerves. We were flying from Gainesville to Atlanta to New Orleans after the game, then taking a bus back to Baton Rouge, meaning we would not be home before 2200, and then the players, managers and myself would be in class the next morning.
The flight from Baton Rouge to Atlanta was my first time in an airplane since 1981. It was a harrowing ride for me. The Delta 727 hit turbluence and I was scared the plane was going to crash. Jeremy Witten, an outfielder for the Bayou Bengals, sat next to me and was doing his best to keep me calm, but to no avail. When the plane landed at Hartsfield-Jackson International, the players and some other passengers cheered. I’m sure those not on the team were glad I would never be in the same plan as them again.
I wanted to beg someone–Bill Franques, Jim Hawthorne, Jim Schwanke, Dan Canevari–to rent a car and drive from Atlanta to Gainesville, five hours on Interstate 75. Then again, I didn’t want to torture them. So I kept my mouth shut and trudged through the terminal to the gate.
The leg from Atlanta to Gainesville was uneventful, even though it was on ATR-72, a turboprop which became infamous when one crashed into a field in northwest Indiana on Halloween 1994 after wings developed on the ice. That crash killed 68 and forced American carriers to remove all of their ATR-72s from anywhere above the 35 degrees north latitude.
Gainesville is not one of my favorite SEC locales. I had nightmares about Gainesville from the infamously horrendous 1985 Disney World trip with my family, since our station wagon blew out a tire there and we were forced to wait three hours for a new one.
McKethan Stadium, Florida’s baseball facility, is near the bottom of my list. The grandstand is completely open, and there are huge picture windows in the press box which open and let in the heat. There is no air conditioning.
Fortunately, the first two games of the series were played at night, but the Sunday game was at 1300 EDT, and it was BROILING. And I had to wear pants, since there would be no time for me to change after the game.
But what was to come was the worst. And I will never live it down.
Late in the game when LSU left runners on base, I kicked a huge garbage can. Bill Franques and Jim Hawthorne were busy in the radio booth and they didn’t see it, but Florida’s publicity man, Steve Shaff, and a few of the Florida writers did.
I should have crawled into a hole. Had I been old enough to rent a car, I would have and driven back to Baton Rouge by myself.
I confessed my transgression. If Bill or someone else wanted to leave me in Gainesville, I would not have contested. I deserved to be deserted. But I got on the plane, and made it back to Baton Rouge without further incident.
That was one of about 384 incidents during my years with LSU baseball I regret. I want to go to the SEC tournament in Birmingham and apologize to all of those I wronged through the years. I am well aware many have moved on, I want to be able to at least look some people in the eye and say I’m sorry.
I returned to Gainesville and McKethan Stadium four years later. I was surprised I was not banned. This time, Bill and I made like Smokey and the Bandit and drove as fast as we could, taking liberties with the speed limit all the way. Bill’s second son, Benjamin, was born only three weeks prior to our departure date (not to mention their first son, William, had not yet turned two), and he did not want to leave Yvette any more than he had to.
The previous week, Bill was delayed at Hartsfield–Jackson trying to get to Knoxville, and it looked like he would miss the first game of the LSU-Tennessee series. However, the game was rained out, so he had a cushion.
Bill and I left Baton Rouge at 0600 CDT the morning of the first game. We were in Gainesville by 1600 EDT, three hours before first pitch. We made the reverse trip from Gainesville to Baton Rouge with similar alacrity, leaving the stadium at 1630 EDT and arriving at my apartment at 0005 CDT. LSU won two of three in that series, so the drive back was much more enjoyable.
I will never see McKethan Stadium again. It will be demolished after the 2020 season, and the Gators will open a palatial new facility in 2021, one where all the grandstand seats are covered. Hopefully LSU lucks out with the schedule rotation and does not have to go to Gainesville next year.
My last flight was April 4, 1999, when the LSU baseball team flew home from Knoxville. There was a slight bit of turbulence on the flight from Atlanta to New Orleans, but nothing like what we hit two weeks prior when flying in a puddle jumper from Memphis to the new Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Cave Springs, somewhere between Bentonville and Fayetteville.
Given security and the lack of leg room, I do NOT want to fly if I can help it. I prefer driving and getting to take as much as can fit in my car. Also, I’d have to drive to either Wichita or Kansas City (UGH!) unless I wanted to fly in a small plane from Hays to Denver to connect. Why bother?
The Masters teed off at 0630 (0730 EDT) this morning in order to beat anticipated heavy rain in Augusta. I was not watching.
Why bother? Tiger Woods is going to win and every talking head and writer is going to pee their pants and drool all over themselves about Tiger being the greatest golfer who ever walked the earth.
Francesco Molinari would win his second major in less than a calendar year if he holds on. But if you want to read about it, I suggest finding an English-language version of an Italian newspaper, because all the coverage from American journalists will be about Eldrick Woods and his greatness.
Tiger is one reason why I do all I can to avoid watching SportsCenter these days. Tiger is part of a privileged class that can do no wrong. The class also includes Tom Brady, LeBron, Serena Williams, the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Warriors, Alabama football and Duke, North Carolina and Virginia basketball. ESPN doesn’t give a crap about the NHL, so nobody is listed here, although NBC is strongly biased against the Canadian teams (especially the Canadiens–you can figure out why) and in favor of the Rangers, Flyers, Capitals, Kings, Ducks, Golden Knights, Lightning and Panthers, even though the last team in that list sucks most of the time.
Tiger is a great golfer. I won’t deny it. However, I get nauseous whenever he is referred to as the “Greatest of All Time”. No. Not for me. The problem is people today have ridiculously short memory spans. I bet many people under 40 would have no idea who Jack Nicklaus is, even if they watch golf regularly. On the other hand, someone who couldn’t tell the difference between a golf ball and a tennis ball knows about Tiger Woods because he’s been forced down America’s throats for over 20 years.
I don’t begrudge anyone who is a member of Augusta National. Good for them. Congratulations on your success. However, I have no earthly desire to join a country club of any kind. Not my thing.
LSU and Missouri wrap up their baseball series at 1200. The home team won yesterday 4-1, its first win over LSU in Columbia in eight tries, and just its second in 17 games all-time. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
I recall LSU won seven consecutive series vs. Arkansas when the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992 until the Hogs finally broke through in 1999. Arkansas swept twice within four years (2001 in Fayetteville, 2004 in Baton Rouge).
However, my stay in Columbia is not over. I’m not departing until Tuesday. I have work that has to get done tonight and tomorrow, and the rest must be wrapped up by 1200 Tuesday so I can make the two-hour drive west to Kansas City. It also means more White Castle. I had waffle sliders for breakfast. Great as ########################################################################
Max Scherzer’s number 31 was officially retired before yesterday’s game. Of course, the honoree was with the Nationals in Washington, so his parents accepted the honor.
The Royals must have been stuck on stupid when they did not draft him #1 overall in 2006. Instead, they took Luke Hochevar, who was drafted #1 overall by the Dodgers in 2005, but did not sign, so he spent time in an independent league before re-entering the draft in 2006.
The 2006 draft was the last act of Allard Baird as Royals general manager. He was fired the previous week and Dayton Moore was hired as his replacement, but Baird was allowed to conduct the draft. Had Moore been in charge, it may have been very different.
Scherzer would not have been with the Royals right now, because he would have been too expensive to control. However, he would have come to Kansas City quickly and allowed the Royals not to spend a lot of money on Gil Meche, and maybe Zack Greinke would have stayed. Who knows. But Hochevar definitely was a big-time miss when Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw were available.
Speaking of the Royals, maybe they need to play Cleveland more. They have beaten the Indians 8-1 and 3-0 so far and can sweep the series today. Prior to that, Kansas City lost 10 straight, getting swept in three by the Tigers and four by the Mariners.
As I drove to Columbia Thursday, I got a glimpse of the upper deck at Kauffman Stadium during the game. I estimated there were maybe 80 fans in the entire upper deck. Attendance has slacked off since the 2015 World Series championship.
The Brewers were swept in Anaheim by the Angels, but can sweep the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine today. That’s baseball.
LSU and Missouri will do battle on the diamond on a windy evening in Columbia. The ball might jump out of the park, just like it has in Lawrence, where Oklahoma State hit EIGHT home runs vs. Kansas through six innings.
I committed a serious error today. One which cost me $77.
I accidentally locked my car keys in my trunk at the QuikTrip. I got out of my car to retrieve something from my trunk, and I accidentally hit the lock button. When I closed the trunk, I realized I had just gone stupid.
It took an hour for everything to get cleared up and for me to be on my way.
It’s not the first time I’ve had automotive adventure on an LSU baseball road trip.
Two years ago, I drove from St. Louis to Lexington on a flat tire. Fortunately for me it was a rental vehicle, so Avis replaced it in Kentucky and I drove that one back to Kansas City.
Last year, the first rental car from Hertz in Hays did not have a working air conditioner. Had to return it and wait for a replacement to come in, which didn’t come until two hours later.
Missouri’s baseball stadium is just west of the football stadium. The Tigers’ indoor practice facility sits behind right field, and the outdoor practice fields are behind left field. Mizzou’ s bullpen is behind the left field fence, but the visitors’ pen is in foul territory down the right field line.
The infield is artificial, but there is grass everywhere else. Kind of surprising since artificial turf has made serious advancements over the past two decades. Missouri’s football stadium has artificial turf, one of five in the SEC (the others are Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt).
That’s all for now. Game about to begin.
I couldn’t help but feel guilty and nostalgic driving to Columbia today.
Of course, it’s Columbia, Missouri. If it were Columbia, South Carolina, I would have had to have left on Tuesday to make it there in time.
LSU plays Missouri this weekend, the third time the Bayou Bengals have visited Columbia since Mizzou joined the SEC in the 2012-13 school year. LSU is 6-0 in Columbia, with the series in 2013 and 2016. Last year, Mizzou defeated LSU in the second game of the series in Baton Rouge, its first win ever over the Purple and Gold Tigers.
The Bayou Bengals lost to Southern Tuesday, just the third time the Jaguars have defeated their cross-town rivals in baseball. Southern won in 2001 and 2005 at the old Alex Box Stadium, but this was the first time the Jaguars defeated LSU at their home park, Lee-Hines Field, in north Baton Rouge.
My dad wanted to go on this trip so bad, but he has been battling a terrible infection. He wasn’t sure he would be able to make the nearly six hour drive from Russell without something happening.
My gut was churning from Russell to Lawrence with guilt. I wish he were with me. I called home when I stopped in Liberty to get my car washed. He told me it would be okay, although he wishes he wasn’t having these episodes.
The nostalgia part comes from last year’s trip to Baton Rouge, which happened to be the same weekend as this year’s trip.
Last year, it was more about seeing everyone I had not seen in ages–Brenda, Dorinda, Dan and Lisette Borne, Bryan Lazare, Kent Lowe and others–than it was about LSU’s performance vs. Tennessee. Of course, it was a much happier return to Russell after the Bayou Bengals swept the Volunteers, with Daniel Cabrera’s three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in the Sunday game being the final play of the series.
This will be pretty much a repeat of 2013 and ’16. I’ll have fun watching baseball, but most of my down time will be spent working in my room for stuff which needs to be done for Monday. It has to be done.
One of the best things about Columbia: WHITE CASTLE!
Columbia is one of only two SEC cities with White Castle. The other is Lexington, not surprising since White Castle’s corporate headquarters are an hour north in Cincinnati. I got hooked on White Castle when I stopped near Louisville on the way out of Lexington.
Of course I had to stop there on my way in this evening. Great decision.
White Castle has introduced a crab cake slider for Lent. YUMMMMM! It also has clams, and those are good, too. I think I’ll have to go back for more tomorrow. I order A LOT of sliders tonight. That means I’ll have plenty of leftovers Saturday and maybe Sunday. Sliders for breakfast? Not the first time.
The Masters is this weekend. Tiger is playing, so tickets at Augusta National are running much higher than they did for Super Bowl LIII, which was played in Atlanta, 145 miles west of Augusta on Interstate 20. Five thousand would have bought you six to eight tickets to see the Patriots beat the Rams in February. Five thousand might not get you into the gate at Augusta National this weekend.
Not that I want to visit Augusta National. If I had a choice of any golf course in the world to visit, it would be St. Andrews, where the game was born. To me, The Open Championship is more prestigious than The Masters, the same way Wimbledon is more prestigious than the others in tennis.
That’s the beauty of St. Andrews. ANYONE who pays the greens fees can play. Same with Carnoustie, another Open Championship course in Scotland. Augusta National? You’d better have a friend in a VERY high place, or you’re out of luck.
Tiger ended the day 2-under par, four shots back of co-leaders Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka. Koepka has won the last two U.S. Opens and last year’s PGA, and if he wins the green jacket, he will enter the exosphere of major championship domination, occupied by only Tiger and the Golden Bear. Phil Mickelson, who turns 49 later this year, is 5-under. The oldest champion at The Masters was none other than Jack Nicklaus, who won it at 46 in 1986.
It’s getting late. I didn’t get enough sleep last night (or the night before), and the effects of all that time on the road is taking its toll. Have a good night and a pleasant tomorrow.
The 72nd edition of the MEN’S (that’s the NCAA insisting the women be given equal footing) College World Series has been plagued by rain. Omaha isn’t New Orleans when it comes to precipitation, but it gets quite a bit more than some locales (Hays and Russell come to mind first for me), and there is a chance Mother Nature will intervene.
She did this week, forcing the winner’s bracket games of Monday (Mississippi State-North Carolina) and Tuesday (Arkansas-Texas Tech) to be pushed back a day. The CWS is back on track after Oregon State defeated the Tar Heels last night to send UNC back to Chapel Hill.
The Beavers now must defeat MIssissippi State twice to advance to the championship series. Last year, Oregon STate was in the driver’s seat in bracket one, only to lose twice to LSU, the team the Beavers beat in the second round.
Arkansas holds the upper hand in bracket two after defeating the Red Raiders. The Razorbacks are 2-0 in their Southwest Conference reunion tour, having defeated former archrival Texas Sunday. The Hogs await Florida or Texas Tech tomorrow.
If the Bulldogs and Razorbacks each advance, it will guarantee the SEC will crown its sixth national champion in baseball. The winner would join Georgia (1990), South Carolina (2010, ’11), Vanderbilt (2014), Florida (2017) and some other school which has won six. Of course, the Gators could also repeat and keep the crown in the SEC, but keep the number of schools to win it at five.
That school which has won six is, of course, my alma mater. The Bayou Bengals won it all in 1991, ’93, ’96, ’97 and 2000 under Skip Bertman, then added the sixth in 2009 under Paul Mainieri.
Arkansas and Mississippi State, like the other four schools in the SEC West NOT named LSU, have none. This is particularly galling for Texas A&M, whose two most bitter rivals, LSU and Texas, have six apiece.
The Bulldogs reached the championship series in 2013, only to be swept by UCLA. It is surprising to a lot of people State hasn’t won it all given the school’s rich baseball tradition. Baseball in Starkville was a huge deal long before the other nine schools got with the program. LSU got with it when Bertman arrived in 1984, and then the rest followed suit, although it took the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt into the new millennium to finally be up to full speed.
Mississippi State’s run this year has been nothing short of sensational. The Bulldogs suffered an embarrassing sweep by Southern Miss in Hattiesburg to open the season, and less than 48 hours later, coach Andy Cannizaro, a former LSU assistant who played in the CWS for Tulane in 2001, was forced to resign.
It was revealed Cannizaro carried on an affair with a female staffer in the Bulldogs’ football office. The woman apparently dropped the bombshell after she left Starkville to join her boss, Dan Mullen, at Florida.
It was bad enough Cannizaro cheated on his wife. It was much, much, much worse that he cheated on his wife while she was pregnant. Geez, keep it in your pants!
Gary Henderson, who once was in charge at Kentucky, was named interim coach by State athletic director John Cohen, himself a former Bulldog coach and standout player. The Bulldogs had a losing record through the first half of the season, but recovered well, ending the regular season by sweeping Florida in Starkville.
The Bulldogs were one-and-done in the SEC tournament courtesy of LSU, then lost 20-10 to Oklahoma in the first game of the regional at Tallahassee.
However, State came all the way back through the loser’s bracket, then won a scintillating three-game super regional at Vanderbilt, scoring four runs in the top of th 11th of the deciding game.
In Omaha, the Bulldogs won 1-0 vs. Washington, scoring the lone run in the bottom of the ninth, before pounding the Tar Heels 12-2.
The Razorbacks had a strong tradition in the Southwest Conference under Norm DeBriyn. For most of the late 1970s and 1980s, the Razorbacks, Longhorns and Aggies held the SWC lock, stock and barrel in baseball, with the others far, far behind. It became so hopeless SMU dropped the sport in the mid-1980s, not long before the NCAA handed the Mustang football program the death penalty.
Once Arkansas left for the SEC in 1992, the fortunes of the rest of the SWC, especially Rice, went up, while the Razorbacks struggled mightily against LSU and Mississippi State in the SEC, and were also well behind Auburn. Alabama soon caught and passed the Razorbacks when it hired Jim Wells in 1995, leaving Arkansas battling Ole Miss for the bottom of the West.
Dave Van Horn, who led Nebraska to the College World Series in 2001 and ’02, returned to Fayetteville, where he played for DeBriyn, and immediately returned Arkansas to national prominence. Arkansas has been a consistent presence in Omaha since 2004, but has yet to break through and reach the finals.
Arkansas is now one win away from its first championship series, and its first trip to the final since 1979, when DeBriyn’s Hogs lost 2-1 to Cal State Fullerton, which was coached by a young fellow named Augie Garrido.
The Razorbacks’ road to Omaha wasn’t as dramatic as that of the Bulldogs, although Arkansas had to win a third game in its super regional vs South Carolina.
I’ve postulated about whom LSU fans would root for in an All-SEC championship series. If it’s State vs. Florida, I’d say the Bulldogs, because (a) State is in the West and Florida the East and (b) the Gators beat the Bayou Bengals in last year’s final. If it’s the all-west final, I don’t know, but I’d lean to State. Some LSU fans still wish Arkansas would have gone to the Big 12 instead of the SEC. But that cat is out of the bag.
LSU fans should stand and cheer if either Arkansas or Mississippi State (or even Florida) wins it all. It would again reinforce the SEC as college baseball’s sine qua non. Then again, Oregon State did outscore LSU 26-1 in two regional games. Unless Texas Tech somehow pulls it off, the Bayou Bengals can take pride in knowing they’ve gone up against the best once again in 2018.
My stay in Baton Rouge is down to its final two hours, maybe less. My dad and I will depart the Courtyard on Acadian a little before 8:00 and make one last stop in the city to buy crawfish at Tony’s Seafood on Plank Road.
We should be out of Louisiana no later than 1:30. Tonight’s stop is McAlester, Oklahoma. By Tuesday evening, I’ll be back in Russell.
The last few times I have been in Kansas City, I couldn’t get out fast enough. I knew it was time to head west and didn’t waste any time doing so.
This time, I wish I could stay another week. Maybe another month. I got to see so many people I had not in nearly 13 years, but there are still many I didn’t see and I still want to. Some are no longer living in Baton Rouge (Herb Vincent), and some were too busy to make it out to Alex Box.
I last was in Baton Rouge in 2010, but I saw hardly anyone I knew. This time was much different. It reminded me of the different lives I led before and after Katrina. Not that the life in Kansas is terrible, but I lived longer in Louisiana and knew people for a lot longer. Other than Peggy, there aren’t any in Kansas I knew nearly as long as I knew in Louisiana.
There was a slight misadventure last night. We wanted to eat at Ivar’s, the sports bar where I hung out many a day and night when I went to LSU and lived in Baton Rouge afterwards. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get service and left after a few minutes. We weren’t upset, just a little disappointed.
However, 18 more chargrilled oysters at Acme Oyster House more than made up for it. WAY MORE. I ate 30 chargrilled oysters in the space of 32 hours Saturday and Sunday. I could eat 30 DOZEN if I had the time. They are that good.
LSU won all three games from Tennessee. The first two were not close, 9-3 and 14-5. Yesterday, however, was a different story.
The Volutneers led 4-0 and 7-3, the latter lead holding up until the bottom of the ninth.
However, the Bayou Bengals came all the way back, scoring six times in their last at-bat, the last three coming on a home run by Daniel Cabrera, giving LSU its first three-game series sweep of 2018 and keeping it alive in the SEC title race.
If LSU manages to become a regional host, this game may be the one which put the Tigers over the top. The next two weekends find LSU at South Carolina and Ole Miss before it plays Arkansas May 4-6.
All good things have to end. It’s over this time. However, next time will come far sooner than 2031. Or 2026. Or 2020.
I was reminded most of today why Louisiana is near the national leaders in rainfall year in and year out.
I woke up at 7:30 with Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Blue Jeans” blaring from my iPhone. Surprisingly, the thunder and lightning did not.
It was absolutely pouring. The sky was quite dark. There were severe weather alerts issued seemingly every two minutes, including a couple of tornado warnings for East Baton Rouge Parish. Thankfully, those warnings were not for where we were staying. However, it was nasty.
The rain seemed to end by 12:30, when my dad and I went to eat at Acme Oyster House. Oyster Rockefeller soup, charbroiled oysters, bread pudding. I can die happy now.
We went to the Mall of Louisiana to kill time, and by time we left the area, it started to rain hard again. It really rained hard when we were on Siegen Lane, and my dad thought there was no way there would be a baseball game tonight. I had some doubt, but from experience, I knew LSU would do everything it could to play the game. It was still raining hard at 5:00 when we went to eat at Outback, which is in the same parking lot as the Courtyard.
Lo and behold, the rain stopped by time we left the restaurant at 5:50. There is a lot of standing water on the streets, but the railroad trestle on Acadian between Interstate 10 and Perkins Road was passable.
Teams have taken infield–batting practice was conducted in the cages in order to allow more time for field prep–and the game will start at 8:00 as originally rescheduled. The good news about playing tonight is the game tomorrow starts at 4:00, so there will be plenty of time to sleep in and eat lunch.
LSU defeated Tennessee 9-3. The Tigers hit four home runs, two by Jake Slaughter, in the first three innings to go up 8-0, then coasted the rest of the way.
The last LSU run helped me.
My dad got tired during the seventh inning and asked me to bring him back to the hotel. I agreed and we left in the bottom of the 7th. Fortunately I was able to map out a route which avoided traffic and we got back in good time. I then drove back to the stadium for the rest of the game.
I thought I might not make it back for the end, but LSU added a run in the bottom of the eighth which gave me some time to make it past Highland Road. By time I pulled into the parking lot, the top of the ninth had just started.
The Volunteers scored twice and loaded the bases again against two LSU relievers before the game ended. In all, 15-20 extra minutes were tacked on to the ending.
Bill is now on the field coordinating interviews with players and coach Paul Mainieri. After that’s done, he’ll interview Mainieri for the radio in the Champions Club on the ground level of the stadium.
Even though I ate a lot of brisket at TJ Ribs, I gave the jambalaya at the stadium a try. Good for stadium fare, but my mother makes it better.
It’s been a great day. But I am tired. I’ve been up for over 18 hours now. Fortunately tomorrow’s game is not until 2000 (8 p.m.), so I can sleep in.
I’ve got to hit the Walmart on College Drive to stock up on drinks and snacks. I don’t think I’m hitting Whataburger tonight. It’s too far to drive. Ivar’s is probably too busy.
I did get a little typing done between dinner and the game. Looks like it will all flow smoothly and allow the return to Russell to be easy.
I’m going to blog about my nice dinner at TJ Ribs in my next post. Whether it’s late tonight or tomorrow morning remains to be seen. If I don’t post again, have a great night and a better tomorrow. If I do post, I hope you’re still up to read (actually, I don’t. Sleep is exponentially more important than my blog.).