Category Archives: LSU
I realized something yesterday when I was in Buffalo Wild Wings, something I had forgotten in my post on the opening of the college baseball season.
February 16 is a date which lives in LSU baseball infamy.
It was February 16, 2003 when LSU was swept in a doubleheader at home by….Kansas.
Yes, the same Kansas which is in Lawrence. The same Kansas which is considered a basketball blue-blood. The same Kansas which has a horrible football team right now.
The Jayhawks came to Baton Rouge for a three-game weekend series on the second weekend of the 2003 season. LSU was 4-0 and feeling pretty good about itself, but that good feeling was dampened by a 10-inning loss to Kansas in the series opener.
The second game of the series was rained out, so a doubleheader was scheduled for Sunday.
It was one of the most miserable days I have ever experienced at a sporting event.
It was cold, damp and windy. The old Alex Box Stadium did not have an enclosed press box, and the wind whistled through the “press area” like nobody’s business.
The twinbill started at 9:30 a.m., because the Jayhawks had to make their connecting flight from Baton Rouge to Dallas, and then to Kansas City. No new inning could start after 4 p.m. Yet for some reason, both games were scheduled as nine-inning contests, contrary to the policies of the Big 12 and Southeastern Conferences, which require seven-inning games during conference season when doubleheaders are necessary on Sunday.
That provision is why LSU and Kentucky asked the SEC to play a doubleheader Friday last year in Lexington when rain was forecast for Saturday. Paul Maineri and his Kentucky counterpart, Nick Migione, did not want to play two seven-inning games Sunday. The SEC said okay, and it all worked out.
Kansas ended up winning both games. The second game ended after seven innings due to the curfew. The Jayhawks became the first team to sweep a three-game series in Baton Rouge in three years, the first to sweep a doubleheader from LSU since 1991, and the first to sweep LSU in a doubleheader in Baton Rouge since 1988.
In 2010, Kansas returned to Baton Rouge and won two of three. However, the Bayou Bengals exacted revenge with a sweep in 2016.
Last night, LSU trailed Notre Dame 6-0 going into the bottom of the fifth. However, two home runs, a grand slam by Bryce Jordan and a three-run shot by Josh Smith, lifted the Bayou Bengals to a 7-6 victory.
I texted Bill that I hope every game is not like this. If not, cardiologists might have their hands full in Baton Rouge this baseball season.
Dawn’s going away soiree at Buffalo Wild Wings last night was fantastic. Had a great turnout, with Jeremy Smith, a former manager at two Buffalo Wild Wings in the area, Zona Rosa and Overland Park north, was there, as were Robb, Victoria, Mike Decker (LOWPOP) and Schylar Reed (SLYCKS). Kevin couldn’t make it because his mother underwent surgery in St. Joseph Thursday. Luckily she pulled through.
Dawn leaves next Saturday. Hopefully we do not lose contact like so many I’ve lost contact with over the years. The five I mentioned in the blog post of December 20 still hurt. So do a lot of my old chums from Arabi Park Middle, even though we communicate on Facebook. The only one I have seen since I left in 1989 is Toni LaRocca, and that was in 2000, when she was working at a Hooter’s in Metairie. She rocked the orange shorts.
Brenda LeBlanc is the one I’m really distressed over, at least among those I knew in Louisiana. She always got back to me in the past whenever I e-mailed her. Now, I haven’t heard from her in almost two years. If I go to Baton Rouge next month, I hope and pray I see her. Maybe I need to light a candle in a church or say the rosary.
I worry about Liz drifting away. She has trouble getting back to me. I don’t want to blame her, but it would be nice to hear from her more often.
Lisa is busy with a new home now and with Liam growing up. Hopefully she and Jeff will be adding to the family soon. Losing her would be tough, too.
I would be devastated if Peggy or Caitlyn exited my life for good. Those are the two I really couldn’t afford to lose.
Actually, it would be worse if I didn’t have Dr. Custer taking care of my health for the most part, Dr. Jones taking care of my vision, and Crista trying to keep me on the right path. All three could choose to be full-time mothers, and while it would hurt, I wouldn’t blame them. I think it’s easier for Dr. Custer since she has boys; the other two have girls, and the mother-daughter bond is usually very strong, as I’ve seen with Peggy and Caitlyn, Chelsea and Courtney.
Yes, I have male friends. Robb, Bill and Dan Borne would be the ones I would cry over losing. I’m not as close to Michael and Herb, but I would be upset if they cut me off, too.
Maybe I hold on to things too long. Then again, my memory can be a good thing.
I have never understood why restaurant customers in Kansas City order barbecue flavored wings.
Kansas City is home to some of the best barbecue in the world, according to many. I am not a big barbecue fan, but I have had some good stuff from Arthur Bryant’s, Gates and Jack Stack.
If there are so many good and authentic barbecue joints in Kansas City, then why the heck are people going to Buffalo Wild Wings and ordering honey barbecue? I’m dumbfounded. But it’s their decision.
Many states are holding their high school wrestling state championship tournaments this weekend. Missouri’s is at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Nebraska’s is at the Century Link Center in Omaha (across the street from TD Ameritrade Park, home of the College World Series), and Louisiana’s is at the Century Link Center in Bossier City, across the Red River from Shreveport in the northwest corner of the state.
Don’t get me started on the debate on where to hold Louisiana’s state tournament. When I lived there, it was at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, at the northwest edge of Jefferson Parish. Most schools in Louisiana which wrestle are south of US Highway 190, but apparently Shreveport and Bossier City offered inducements to the Louisiana High School Athletic Association to move the tournament north.
Brother Martin, my alma mater, is on its way to the state championship of Division I. There are three divisions for wrestling in Louisiana, one fewer than Kansas and Missouri.
My problem with Louisiana’s tournament is it is compressed into two days. Worse, in Division I, many wrestlers will have to win five bouts to claim a state championship. To ask them to do so in about 36 hours is too much.
Missouri and Nebraska hold three-day tournaments. Why can’t Louisiana?
Kansas’ state tournaments are at three sites next Friday and Saturday. Three sites is two too many.
So far, so good on my Lenten promise of not swearing. I just have to keep it up until the end of March, then hopefully continue after that.
Sorry, Peggy. I hope I don’t bore you with this post.
The 2018 NCAA Division I baseball season begins today. Nearly 300 teams open today with dreams of being one of the eight fortunate squads to make it to Omaha and the College World Series.
The reality is, only 20 to 30 teams can realistically expect to have a chance to be one of those eight, even though 64 teams make the tournament. Sure, anything can happen in baseball, and everything has happened, but more often than not, the elite will rise to the top and emerge champions.
There have been exceptions, most notably Fresno State, which won the CWS as a #4 (last) seed in a regional in 2008, and Coastal Carolina, which became the second school from South Carolina to win a national championship in 2016. That has to be a sore spot for Clemson, but I’m sure the national championship Dabo Swinney’s football team won six months later far overshadows any lack of success in Omaha.
Of course, my alma mater is one of the teams which ALWAYS believes it will be forming a dogpile on the mound in Omaha in late June. LSU came close to winning its seventh national championship in 2017, but it was swept in two games by SEC rival Florida in the championship series. Not only was it the first time LSU lost when making it to the final round, but it was Florida’s first championship in baseball. The Gators are one of the few schools with a “trifecta”, national championships in the three major men’s team sports of football, basketball and baseball. Michigan, Ohio State and UCLA are also members of this exclusive fraternity.
LSU, Arizona, Arkansas, Miami, Minnesota, Southern California, Stanford and Texas each have a hole in their championship resumes. For most, it is basketball, but for the Razorbacks, it’s baseball. The Wildcats have never come close in football, and the Cardinal (formerly Indians) have never won a recognized football championship, although the school claims two retroactive, minor mathematical formulas from years before World War II.
The Bayou Bengals open their 12th season under Paul Maineri in Baton Rouge against Maineri’s former employer, Notre Dame. LSU played in South Bend three years ago, but it was two midweek games in May, not a weekend series. Of course, playing in South Bend right now is next to impossible due to the harsh climate of the Rust Belt. Maineri enjoyed tremendous success with the Fighting Irish, taking them to the CWS in 2002 against incredible odds, since Notre Dame won a super regional at #1 Florida State. Notre Dame even won a game in Omaha that year, eliminating Rice, the team which shut out Smoke Laval’s Bayou Bengals in two super regional games at Houston. Laval was fired after a 2006 season which saw LSU go 35-24 and miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1988.
Maineri led LSU to the 2009 national championship, as the Bayou Bengals defeated Texas in the three-game championship series. LSU won its other five national championships (1991, ’93, ’96, ’97 and 2000) under a one-game championship format, one which was grossly unfair, especially if one team went through its bracket undefeated and lost the title game to a team which lost once in its bracket. LSU was a beneficiary of this in ’93, when the Tigers lost to Long Beach State in bracket play, beat the 49ers in a winner-take-all bracket final, then bested previously undefeated Wichita State for the title. In ’97, undefeated LSU beat once-beaten Alabama in the final, so it worked out. The other three times, LSU beat a fellow unbeaten in the final (Wichita State in ’91, Miami in ’96 and Stanford in 2000).
LSU is a mystery in 2018. The Bayou Bengals were hit hard by graduation and the Major League Baseball draft, and Maineri must find replacements at nearly every position. SEC coaches picked LSU fourth in the West division for the upcoming season, behind Arkansas, Texas A&M and Mississippi State. Florida is the favorite in the East and to win the overall title. LSU got a big break in the schedule, since it does not have to play the Gators nor Kentucky, which was picked second in the East. LSU also gets Arkansas and Mississippi State at home.
One month from today, I’m planning on being in Baton Rouge for LSU’s SEC opener vs. Missouri. I usually try to make one series a season. The easy choices are Missouri and Arkansas, since they are closest to Russell. Last year, I chose Kentucky because (a) I had never been to Lexington during my years at LSU; (b) I knew LSU would be going to Fayetteville in 2019, and I had been there three times before; and (c) Kentucky’s current baseball stadium would be replaced in 2019 by a fabulous new park, so I wanted to see the old place. I have NOT seen the current Alex Box Stadium, since I left Louisiana in 2005 and have been back to the Bayou State only once, and that was after baseball season ended in 2010.
My mentor and friend, Bill Franques (Fran-kez) begins his 30th season as public relations director (technically, communications director or sports information director) for the LSU baseball program. Since Bill turns 55 in July, it means he has spent more than half his life in one place, which is remarkable. For three years (July 1997-June 2000), he technically was a member of the baseball staff as administrative assistant, and then-coach Skip Bertman had him doing other things, like team travel and budgeting. Bill also handles the public address for home games and radio color commentary for road games, so the guy wears many hats around campus. Not only that, but he’s a devoted husband to Yvette Lemoine and doting father to boys William and Benjamin, and daughter Madeline.
Here is a very good article from The Advocate (Baton Rouge) about Bill:
I have many, many stories about how I have angered Bill through the years, and I might share them in the time leading up to the trip to Louisiana. I’m convinced the man deserves sainthood for putting up with me the way he did. So do a lot of other people. At least two of them have the last name Cox. Two used to work at a particular Buffalo Wild Wings. And three ladies from Hays who have tried to keep me healthy, both physically and mentally, as well as making sure my vision doesn’t get any worse.
College baseball season barely registers in these parts. Wichita State is nowhere near as good as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, and Kansas and Kansas State have almost always occupied the cellar of the Big Eight/Big 12. Missouri had its moments in the 1950s, but it is overmatched in the SEC. The only baseball that matters in this part of the world is happening in Surprise, Arizona, where the Royals are holding spring training.
Florida attorney general Pam Bondi said the state will seek the death penalty against Wednesday’s school shooter. Hopefully it doesn’t take 10 years to execute him if he pleads guilty or is convicted by a jury. I say 10 years because that’s how long it took for Ted Bundy to be put to death after his first conviction for the murders of two Florida State sorority sisters.
Speaking of Florida, tonight may be the last time I see Dawn. She’s moving to Florida next week. I’m afraid she’ll go the way of Brenda LeBlanc and many others I knew in Louisiana. Also, the Daytona 500 is Sunday. Not that I’ll watch much, if any, of the so-called Great American Race.
It isn’t an official holiday in Lawrence, Kansas, but I’m certain many, many, many people are finding excuses to skip work or classes at the University of Kansas.
The Jayhawks begin the college basketball season tonight when they host Tennessee State.
I really don’t care much about college basketball. I will watch if there’s nothing else on, or I’m in a location where it’s on all the televisions and I have no choice but to watch–unless I want to blindfold myself. Otherwise, no thank you.
I don’t know why I fill out a bracket during the NCAA tournament. I guess it’s just to do something fun. I really don’t give a darn who wins.
LSU has been awful at men’s basketball for the better part of the last 20+ years, save for a trip to the Final Four in 2006 and scattered NCAA tournament appearances.
I don’t expect one of those scattered appearances to occur in 2018.
LSU is picked 14th–DEAD LAST–in the Southeastern Conference. By contrast, Missouri, which finished tied for last in the SEC with LSU last year and lost to the Bayou Bengals AT HOME, is ranked in the preseason polls and is expected to make the NCAA tournament, thanks to new coach Cuonzo Martin and a stellar recruiting class, led by Michael Porter Jr., widely regarded as the nation’s top prep player of 2016-17.
The. Bayou Bengals have a new coach, Will Wade, who came from VCU, where he conintued the Rams’ run of success began by Shaka Smart, now at Texas. Wade has brought needed enthusaism and discipline to a program lacking both under Johnny Jones, but Wade has a tougher task ahead of him than what Dale Brown did when he came to LSU in 1972.
I hope Wade succeeds. I want my alma mater to do well, like most graduates want to see their schools thrive. But i can’t see it happening this year or next. LSU must be patient with Wade. It has to give Wade at least four years to get this thing on the right track. I’m not saying beat Kentucky every time. The top half of the SEC year in and year out would be a major improvement.
Kentucky is the favorite in the SEC. As it should be. Until someone can consistently knock off the Wildcats, the title will remain in Lexington. John Calipari has adapted so well to the “one-and-done” phenomenon. You may hate the guy, but nobody can deny he can fuse together a whole new group, get them to play cohesively, send them off to the NBA, where most will be high draft picks, then start all over again.
When I frequented Ivar’s, the sports bar near the LSU campus where I spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of days, one of the first things I noticed was a bumper sticker behind the bar. It read:
Kentucky Pervert–a man who enjoys sex more than basketball.
Very tue. It’s not just that way with the Big Blue, but at Louisville, Western Kentucky, Morehead State, Eastern Kentucky and Northern Kentucky, too. Basketball, horse racing and bourbon are all Kentucky traditions, traditions which should be cherished. It makes the Bluegrass State one unique place.
Kansas will win the Big 12. Again. For the 14th consecutive season. Arizona will win the Pac-12. Duke the ACC. Wichita State should roll in its new conference, the American Athletic Conference, but how much of an upgrade from the Missouri Valley is it really? The Big Ten should be interesting, but look for Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans to come through.
Wichita State fans have been begging and pleading to play Kansas (and Kansas State) in the regular season. Bill Self refuses to bite. Cuold a Shockers-Jayhawks match take place in San Antonio at the Final Four? Maybe.
Let the games begin. Just don’t expect me to be watching too much.
The 2017 Division I college baseball season, and the entire 2016-17 NCAA athletic calendar for that matter, ended at 10:26 p.m. Central Daylight Time last night when Florida recorded the final out of its 6-1 victory over LSU in the second game of the College World Series championship series.
The Gators won their first baseball national championship, joining a very select list of schools which have won national championships in football, men’s basketball and baseball.
Only four have done it since the Associated Press began its major college football poll in 1936. Two of the four are Big Ten Conference archrivals Michigan and Ohio State. UCLA, which has one championship each in football and baseball and 11 in men’s basketball, was the third until Florida. Two of UCLA’s Pacific-12 Conference rivals, California and Stanford, each claim national championships, but those were retroactively awarded by math formulas or other polls.
Florida, Michigan and UCLA have also won national championships in softball.
LSU, which won national championships in 1991, ’93, ’96, ’97, 2000 and 2009, came up short for the first time when making the CWS final round. The end of the CWS in the full double-elimination era (1950-87) depended upon how many teams were left after 12 games. The series could end in 14 games if one team went undefeated, or 15 if nobody did. In 1988, the format was changed to a single championship game contested between the winners of two four-team brackets. The best-of-3 series began in 2003.
The Bayou Bengals were left for dead in Omaha after losing 13-1 to Oregon State June 19. The Beavers improved to 56-4 and won their 23rd consecutive game. LSU defeated Florida State to stay alive, but then would have to beat Oregon State twice to reach the championship series.
Not only did LSU end Oregon State’s winning streak with a 3-1 decision last Friday, it completed the comeback the next day, 6-1. The Beavers collected only five hits over two games. FIVE. Thus Oregon State finished the year with a .903 winning percentage, but did not even play for the title.
LSU did this before.
In 1989, LSU was in the regional at College Station, where Texas A&M entered the tournament 55-5. The Aggies, who smashed the Southwest Conference that year, outscored their first three regional foes (Jackson State, BYU and South Alabama) 65-13. LSU lost its second game to South Alabama, and thus had to defeat UNLV and the Jaguars on day three to advance to the final round, where it would need to defeat A&M twice.
The Bayou Bengals pulled it off somehow. They won the first game 13-5 behind Golden Spikes Award winner Ben McDonald. In the winner take all game, McDonald came on in relief in the 10th inning and earned the win as LSU prevailed 5-4.
LSU didn’t win the championship this year, but the season was far from a failure. Quite the opposite.
When Bill Franques and I parted company at 5 p.m. ET in Lexington the afternoon of April 23, neither of us had much confidence LSU would be one of the eight to make it to Omaha. LSU was 27-15 overall and 10-8 in the SEC after dropping two to Kentucky and needing an eighth-inning rally to pick up the one win it got. Some projections had LSU going on the road for a regional, and its chances of hosting a super regional were slim and none.
Yet LSU steamrolled its way through the rest of the regular season (winning a share of the SEC championship) and the SEC tournament to earn the #4 national seed, one spot below Florida. The Bayou Bengals went 5-0 at home and were on their way to Omaha for the 18th time.
I didn’t get emotional over the CWS this year. There were times in the past where I would get upset that I wasn’t in Omaha. I would let jealousy get the best of me, because people I knew were there and I wasn’t.
This year, I felt fine with being at home. I did not want to pay exorbitant prices for hotels (a halfway decent hotel costs over $200 per night during the CWS, and if you want to stay close to TD Ameritrade Park, you can expect to pay at least $350 a night), fight all the crowds and the heat just to sit in the bleachers. Reserved tickets on the secondary market for LSU games ran anywhere from $150 to $700. LSU games were twice as much as other games. The only other school I can see driving ticket prices that high is Nebraska. Of course, the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn’t like the Cornhuskers in the CWS, because their fans will commute back and forth from Lincoln.
If I ever go again, I’ll probably have to stay in Kansas City or St. Joseph and commute the 2 1/2 hours up Interstate 29. But I don’t see it happening.
Here’s the good news for LSU: if history repeats tself, it will win it all in 2018.
Since winning their first title in 1991, the Bayou Bengals have won every nine years. They did it in 2000 and 2009, so 2018 is ripe.
Need a break from college sports. Football hype is too much for me to take in late June. It’s only going to get worse.
If you’re in Kansas City today, I have two words for you: AIR CONDITIONING. And lots of it.
There is an excessive heat warning in effect for the Kansas City area, which extends south on Interstate 49 to the Arkansas state line, and then into Kansas and Oklahoma. There is a heat advisory as far west as Salina and far east as Columbia. Summer is here in case you didn’t know it. Yes, summer does not officially start until Wednesday, but it was here on Memorial Day, and it is now unleashing its fully fury.
The heat indicies they’re talking about in Kansas City today are common in Louisiana this time of year. Yes, I realize Kansas City gets hot and the humidity is worse than it is in Russell and points west, but this is oppressive. I hate to think how bad it gets in St. Louis.
It stormed again last night. I went to bed a few minutes after midnight, just when it was getting cranked up. It didn’t prevent me from falling asleep. I finally got up at 9–there was no reason to really get up early–and made my way to Buffalo Wild Wings for a Saturday of trivia. I’ll eventually cross Barry Road and go to Minsky’s, where I went for an hour and a half yesterday. I was looking to go back in the evening, but when I went at 7, the parking lot was completely full. So I went back to Buffalo Wild Wings and played more trivia with Robb and Dawn, leaving at 8:30.
I ate lunch with Peggy and Caitlyn yesterday at Yard House in the Legends shopping plaza, where the Kansas Speedway and Children’s Mercy Park, home of Sporting KC of Major League Soccer, are located. I really wanted to go for a steak or a big piece of fish, but I opted to just get the sashimi. Peggy paid, and I didn’t want to take advantage of her generosity. I hadn’t seen either of them since early May, and this was the first extended time I spent with them since the end of the basketball season in late February.
The U.S. Open gollf tournmaent is in the thrid round in Wisconsin. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day all missed the cut. Jordan Spieth is well off the lead. Phil Mickelson didn’t even play, choosing to attend his daughter’s high school graduation in San Diego. Eldrick Woods? WHO CARES? Rickie Fowler is the biggest name in contention, trailing by one stroke at 8-under. He shot 71 yesterday after a 65 Thursday, which tied for the best opening round in U.S. Open history.
Johnson will not be able to repeat as U.S. Open champion. It hasn’t been done since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and ’89. This is the second consecutive major in which the defending champion has missed the cut; it happened to Danny Willett at The Masters. Willett has basically fallen off the face of the earth since winning at Augusta National 14 months ago. Sergio Garcia made the cut, but he’s probably too far back to make a run.
People have complained about Erin Hills, the course hosting the tournament for the first time. Many do not like new courses thrown into the mix of the traditional sites, which include Oakmont, Winged Foot, Shinnecock Hills, Baltusrol, Pebble Beach, Congressional, Lower Merion and Bethpage Black. Those players may have a point.
The College World Series starts in one hour. Cal State Fullerton and Oregon State, which has won 21 consecutive games and is the top ranked team in every poll, as well as the #1 national seed, open the festivities in Omaha. Then it’s LSU and Florida State at 7. LSU is aiming for its seventh national championship and its second under Paul Mainieri, who led the Bayou Bengals to the title in 2009 at Rosenblatt Stadium, the penultimate year the CWS was played there. It moved to TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha in 2011. LSU has not fared well there, going 1-4 in two appearances, including an 0-2 trip (coloquially referred to as “Two and Barbecue” in college baseball lingo) in 2013 when LSU entered 57-9 and the #1 national seed.
I went to Omaha in 1998 and 2003. Great experiences, but I am not big on the crowds. I certainly do not want to be in the heat, and not in the general admission seats in the outfield, where if you leave your seat, you might as well leave the park, because someone will swipe it. General admission seating is a terrible idea for college and professional sports. TERRIBLE. The NCAA should outlaw that for the CWS and other Division I events.
LSU has won 15 consecutive games, and is 21-2 since I saw the series at Kentucky. Bill Franques, who is attending his 16th CWS as LSU’s baseball publicity director, told me as we departed April 23 he didn’t see LSU making it to Omaha, and he was worried LSU would have to travel for a REGIONAL. LSU has played in a regional away from Baton Rouge only once since 1990, in 2010 at UCLA, when it lost twice to UC Irvine. LSU did not make the NCAA tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
LSU’s prospects in a road super regional would have been very iffy, considering it is 1-6 all-time in super regionals away from Alex Box Stadium (old and new): 0-2 at Alabama in 1999, 1-2 at Tulane in 2001, and 0-2 at Rice in 2002. The 2002 super regional saw LSU get shut out in both games, the only time that’s happened.
The other bracket tomorrow has Louisville playing Texas A&M and Florida battling TCU. TCU beat LSU twice in the 2015 CWS. The Horned Frogs are in Omaha for the fourth consecutive year under former Tulane assistant Jim Schlossnagle, doing something LSU has never done. LSU made it three straight years from 1989-91 and again from 1996-98, but never four.
UGH. Some employee at Buffalo Wild Wings is playing nothing but horrendous hip-hop. I’m already getting nauseous.
SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — Last post from Kentucky. I am at a gas station/White Castle off Interstate 64, about 35 miles from the Ohio River and the Kentucky/Indiana state line.
LSU lost to Kentucky yesterday 10-2, giving the Wildcats the series two games to one. Not much of a game. Kentucky scored four in the first, three in the third and three more in the fourth, and that was that. The Wildcats still lead the SEC East and are just one game behind Mississippi State for the overall SEC lead. LSU is now 10-8 in the league, which means it is more than likely headed for the one-and-done round of the SEC tournament. The top four teams–as of now, State, Kentucky, Auburn and Arkansas–will have a bye to the double elimination portion of the bracket.
I’m going to miss Kentucky. Had a very good time. I enjoyed visitng with Bill Franques, who honestly put up with my crap much longer than any human being should put up with me. I really put him through the wringer more than a few times. He probably has taken more from me than anyone except my parents, and this includes Peggy, Caitlyn, Robb, Dawn, Liz, Lisa and even Crista. He’s a great man for doing so, and I’m very glad we still keep in touch.
I picked up some White Castle in Shelbyville. Can’t get that in Kansas or Kansas City for that matter. St. Louis is the closest location to where I am. I can get Zaxby’s in KC, which I might do tonight when I get to my usual spot, the Fairfield at KCI.
Okay, time to hit the road. Next stop, Indiana.
We are less than an hour from the final game of the LSU-Kentucky baseball series. It’s a rubber game, as the teams split their doubleheader Friday, with the Wildcats winning the opener 12-5 and the Bayou Bengals the nightcap 4-3.
This is LSU’s final game at Cliff Hagan Stadium. The field has been here since 1969, but the stadium itself opened in 2002 as part of a renovation. The 2018 season will be the Wildcats’ last at Cliff Hagan, as they are moving into a new stadium off campus the next season. LSU and Kentucky probably will not play next year, but if they do, it will be in Baton Rouge. The next time LSU will come to Lexington will be either in 2020 or 2021.
Bill told me the likely SEC East road trips next year are Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Tigers go to Auburn, Ole Miss and Texas A&M in the West. That leaves Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi State at home. plus Missouri and either Florida or Kentucky.
With no game yesterday, it was more like a typical Saturday I would spend in Kansas City. I treated Bill to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings, then went about the rest of my day on the other side of town. I went to the other B-Dubs in Lexington and played three hours of trivia. I left at 7:30 and decided to call it a night.
It’s chilly in Lexington. The sun is not out, and the mercury is struggling to climb above 55 (13 Celsius). There’s a good wind blowing from left to right, which means the ball will carry very well to right field, which is already very short (310 down the line, 350 to the power alley).
Tonight is a working and packing night. Tomorrow I’m on Interstate 64 and Interstate 70 to Kansas City. If I’m there by 7 pm CT, I’ll be happy. Other than returning the rental car to KCI, it’s pretty much normal in KC (read: trivia at B-Dubs and maybe Minsky’s) until I have to go to Hays Thursday.
As Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris sang in the mid-1980s, I have made up for lost time.
I can safely say that I have now had more than my fill of Cliff Hagan Stadium after not traveling to Lexington during my years working with LSU’s baseball program.
Seven hours, 34 minutes of actual baseball, plus the hour before the game and the hour between games.
It isn’t the longest day I’ve spent in a college baseball stadium–the regionals at LSU far surpass that–but it’s one of the longest days I’ve spent in a facility during the regular season.
For the record, Kentucky won the first game 12-5, and LSU the second 4-3. The Bayou Bengals were down 3-0, but rallied with three in the fifth to tie, then scored the winning run in the eighth on an RBI single by Antoine Duplantis.
Tomorrow’s game is the last of the series, and the last for LSU at Cliff Hagan, period. LSU and Kentucky probably won’t play in 2018, and if they do, it would be at Baton Rouge. The Wildcats are opening a new stadium in 2019, the earliest LSU could return to Lexington, but I don’t look for that to happen until 2020 or 2021.
Finding an LSU road series to attend in 2018 will be difficult. Arkansas goes to Baton Rouge. If LSU plays Missouri, that will be in Baton Rouge too. Texas A&M is too far. So are Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. Ole Miss? Maybe. Vanderbilt? Maybe. Tennessee? Less likely. However, I may be able to convince my dad to go to Nashville or Knoxville if my brother and his family could make it.
The games were the easy part of yesterday. The hard part, of course, was the flat tire on the Cadillac. The trade is going to work out better, since the Expedition has more room for my baggage to carry back to Kansas City. I’ll stow everything in the hotel room there and retrieve my Chevy at KCI for the drive back to Hays (I have an appointment with Crista Thursday at 10).
The bad part about the long, long, long games? Finding something to eat after.
There was good food in the press box at Cliff Hagan, but I was trying to be the good Catholic, so I passed on the entrees and stuck to chips, cookies and brownies. I did get a pretzel and a bag of peanuts at the concession stand, but passed on anything heavier, hoping the games would end before 11.
My body was acting like it was still on Central time. I’m convinced Central time is better than Eastern. TV shows come on not too late, but not too early. The news at 10 p.m. might be late for some, but it beats 11! Sunday NFL games kick off at noon. Perfect hour. Buffalo Wild Wings opens at 11, when college football games kick off on fall Saturdays.
By time I got back to my SUV parked behind the right center field fence, it was already 11:15. Then I got lost and went through downtown, right past Rupp Arena. I finally found my way back to Interstate 75, where I went to Man O’War Boulevard to look for a grocery store.
If you’ve never been to Lexington, you would do real well to have a map handy. Interstate 75 goes right past the northern edge of town and then turns southeast. The University of Kentucky, Keeneland race track, and the airport are all well south of the interstate. This is in stark contrast to Louisville, where Interstate 64 passes right by the KFC Yum! Center, the city’s main arena, and Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Triple-A Louisville Bats.
I’ve also seen interstates cut right into downtown Kansas City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Atlanta and Birmingham, among other places. In Nebraska, Interstate 80 bypasses downtown Omaha to the south and Lincoln to the north, but both cities have spurs directly into downtown. And Interstate 49 has made Alexandria, Louisiana almost disappear from the map. If you stay on I-49, you’ll never know you went through Alexandria. By time you realize it, you may be in Shreveport (northbound) or Lafayette (southbound).
I found the supermarket, stocked up, then stopped at one of the few establishments open very late, Taco Bell. Since it was after midnight by this time, I didn’t feel so bad about eating meat.
By time I got back to the hotel–which is not in the best part of Lexington–it was 12:30.
Today is the off day. I now recall during the SEC tournament having an off day on the Friday after winning the first two games, then having a whole day to burn in Birmingham. Same thing in Omaha during the College World Series.
Time to jump in the shower.
The first game of the doubleheader is over. Finally.
Kentucky defeated LSU 12-5 in a tidy three hours, 51 minutes. The second game will now start at 7:05 ET/6:05 CT. The Wildcats will end the night atop the SEC East regardless of the outcome of the second game.
LSU never led. The Tigers scored twice in the second to tie the game, but by time they scored again, the Wildcats led 7-2.
Kentucky second baseman Riley Mahan went 5-for-5 with three RBI, while Luke Becker, who entered the game as the designated hitter in the fifth, hit two home runs, including a grand slam in the seventh that shut the door on the visitors.
It has been a warm and muggy day. Reminds me some of my days in Louisiana, but nowhere near as oppressive. I knew it was coming; heck, the humidity gets bad once you get past Salina on Interstate 70.
I’m trying not to eat meat on all Fridays, even though Good Friday was last week. So far, so good.
Other than the tire dilemma, it’s been good. I can’t concern myself with the outcome of the games. I have no control over them, something I should have learned a long, long time ago.
I’m finally at Cliff Hagan Stadium for today’s LSU-Kentucky baseball doubleheader.
The morning was an ordeal.
In the hotel parking lot, someone pointed out to me my left rear tire was flat. Then Bill noticed it when he came to bring me my media pass.
I deicded to try to put air in the tire. The two gas stations closest to the hotel did not have air machines. A station a little further down Newtown Pike did have an air pump.
First, it was in a neighborhood which took me back to my New Orleans and Baton Rouge days, as well as a few places I’ve seen in Kansas City, notably around the Truman Sports Complex.
The air machine was not good. I didn’t know how to work it. I panicked. Big time.
I finally said screw it, drove back to the hotel and then called Avis to tell them about the problem. Someone came out to put the spare tire on, then I had to drive to Blue Grass Aiprot on the southwest edge of town to exchange cars. I traded the Cadilliac XT5 for a Ford Expedition. Not bad.
I made it to the stadium just before 1. I’m parked behind the right field fence. It will be a long walk back, but it won’t be for quite some time.
I should have been able to handle the tire better, but it’s resolved and I’m back on track. Thank God.
This will be a welcome respite from my life in Kansas, if only for three days. Need it every so often.