LSU enters home stretch of baseball season
LSU designated hitter Brad Wilson knew there was no tomorrow when he dug his cleats into the dusty batter’s box at Rosenblatt Stadium in the bottom of the 9th inning.
It was a red-hot June day in Omaha, Nebraska, and everyone knew the gravity of the situation.
This was the 13th and final game of the 1996 College World Series, and one team was going to walk away with the title of national champions.
The Tigers had done an admirable job to chip away at a 7-3 deficit earlier in the game and put themselves within striking distance of the Miami Hurricanes, but the task was not done yet.
The Hurricanes were still in the driver’s seat and on the top end of an 8-7 score. Miami pitcher Robbie Morrison would start the inning by facing LSU’s Wilson who was 0-for-4 on the day with three strikeouts.
Wilson had been ice cold the entire College World Series, sporting a 1-for-16 performance at the plate when he stepped in the box to begin the LSU 9th, but none of that seemed to matter to the senior DH who roped a double down the left field line.
Next up for LSU was outfielder Justin Bowles. He was looking for the third leg of the cycle in his last at-bat after having hit a double and a single in his previous two plate appearances. His worm burner of a hit to Miami’s first baseman would dash any hopes of that, but his ground ball out was able to move Wilson to third base.
Catcher Tim Lanier was next into the batter’s box, and represented the type of player that everyone expects to come through in the big moment.
He struck out swinging on six pitches.
The Tigers were now faced with two outs in the bottom of the 9th and were in danger of far more than stranding a runner at third base. If LSU’s next batter Warren Morris failed to get the job done, the Tigers would have to watch Miami celebrate the final out of the game with a championship dogpile.
Morris had battled a hand injury all season long, and was mostly regulated to the role of defensive specialist and bunter extraordinaire since returning to the team in late May.
He turned on the first pitch he saw, and the ping of his bat against that cowhide sphere still reverberates in the heart of every LSU baseball fan.
It is a scene that has been played out many times in every baseball-loving child’s backyard, yet the moment is still remembered as one of the most improbable, unlikely, and dramatic finishes of a championship game to this day.
Bottom of the 9th, two outs, and a home run to win the College World Series.
LSU began the inning with its back against the wall, and rose to the challenge to capture the school’s third baseball national championship.
Fast forward to the present team in 2021. LSU is in the home stretch of a lackluster season and coming off of a bitterly disappointing loss at home to Northwestern State.
Despite that, if the Tigers win their last series on the road against Texas A&M beginning this Thursday, LSU will play in the SEC Tournament, and the chances are high that the team will make a regional.
Lose the series, and the SEC Tournament may be the end of the road for this installment of LSU baseball. Get swept by the Aggies, and the only thing hotter than the summer heat will be the “Fire Paul Mainieri” message boards on Tigerdroppings.com.
However, the Tigers still control their own destiny. Similar to the situation the 1996 championship team and many teams before and after have found themselves facing, it’s win or go home time.
A lot has been said about this LSU team, both positive and negative, but the Tigers have clawed their way back into relevancy after having one of the worst starts in school history.
While this has certainly been an admirable feat, the task is not done yet.
It’s the bottom of the ninth in the 2021 regular season, and the Tigers are up to bat.
Let’s see if they come through.