The LSU baseball players who have been part of the past two seasons and were still Tigers at Media Day on Friday are battle-tested and have the scars to prove it.
Two years ago, LSU won 12 of its last 15 games to finish 36-20, and believed it had done enough to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament even without qualifying for the Southeastern Conference tournament.
The NCAA disagreed, and the Tigers had to live with that disappointment for nine months before returning to the diamond.
The lesson that the returning players took to heart was not to place their fate in someone else’s hands.
It was a lesson well learned as last year’s Tigers not only qualified for the SEC tournament, they did so as outright conference champions and earned a No. 7 national seed.
They put themselves in as good a position as they could have — earning an opportunity to play in Alex Box Stadium until they either were eliminated or played their way into the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
LSU swept through a regional and won the first game of a best-of-three super regional against Stony Brook, leaving the Tigers needing just one more win to reach Omaha.
But that next win, which would have been No. 48 for the season, never came as the Seawolves won two in a row to grab the CWS berth.
A year after feeling snubbed on selection day, the Tigers let themselves down by doing everything they needed to do for four months — except get that one final victory — and missed a trip to the CWS by the narrowest of margins.
It’s hard to say which disappointment was worse — being jilted by someone else or getting as close as you could without actually getting to Omaha.
Coach Paul Mainieri isn’t the type to compare different types of disappointments.
“I don’t dwell too much on the year before,” Mainieri said. “LSU has won six national championships in its entire history. Every one of the other 100-plus seasons in the school’s entire history did not end with a win in Omaha.
“You don’t dwell on the last day or last two days. At the end of the season only one team is holding the trophy, so I don’t dwell on that as much as I dwell on the confidence and the positive feelings from last season. These guys believe they’re good. They believe they can play. Judging by the preseason polls, other people believe we’re a good team too. It’s my job to build them up, so they feel they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.”
The Tigers know not to leave their fate in someone else’s hands. They know that hosting a regional and hosting a super regional and getting that first win in the super regional aren’t good enough.
It’s a long way from January to getting back to the postseason and putting themselves in position to get that final victory.
But in addition to having CWS-level talent and experience, this team has leaders that have been steeled by the disparate disappointment of the past two seasons.
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