LSU set to honor 1993 championship baseball team

Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU coach Skip Bertman (center) celebrates with championship game winning pitcher Brett Laxton (left) and CWS Most Outstanding Player Todd Walker. Show caption
Advocate file photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- LSU coach Skip Bertman (center) celebrates with championship game winning pitcher Brett Laxton (left) and CWS Most Outstanding Player Todd Walker.

Along with Skip Bertman’s legacy, LSU will honor the 20th anniversary of its 1993 national title team — a squad that thrived when the outcome looked bleak — in ceremonies Friday

For once, the 1993 LSU baseball team won’t have to come from behind to earn its due.

This time the honors are coming right up front.

LSU’s second College World Series national championship team will be honored Friday night shortly before the 7 p.m. first pitch of the middle game of the LSU-Ole Miss weekend series at Alex Box Stadium.

Also being honored is former LSU coach and athletic director Skip Bertman with the formal dedication of the field at Alex Box as Skip Bertman Field.

Bertman also coached CWS champions in 1991, 1996, 1997 and 2000, but none captured the crown in Omaha, Neb., quite like the 1993 team.

“They came out of the losers bracket three straight times, including in the SEC tournament,” Bertman said Thursday.

“It was a high-character team,” he said. “It was loaded with big leaguers, too. I was proud just to be a part of it.”

About 20 players and coaches from the 1993 team are expected to attend Friday’s game, including Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. An assistant coach at LSU from 1993-97, Bianco also played for the Tigers in 1988-89.

“It’s neat being here to honor a baseball legend (Bertman) and a Louisiana icon,” Bianco said.

Among those not expected to attend is former LSU coach Ray “Smoke” Laval, now head coach at North Florida.

Laval was an assistant on the 1993 team and succeeded Bertman as head coach in 2002 but was fired in 2006 after a five-year record of 210-109-1 with two CWS appearances and an SEC title. He was succeeded by current LSU coach Paul Mainieri.

The Tigers’ 1993 national championship came in the midst of a power run for LSU that saw the program win 50 straight games from 1989-93 with two CWS crowns, four CWS appearances and four Southeastern Conference titles.

The Tigers started that season, the 100th anniversary of the program, ranked No. 1 in the country and ended it by raising the CWS trophy, but it wasn’t without a fight.

LSU battled back from an early loss to Mississippi State to win the SEC West Division tournament (the SEC had two divisional tournaments then), then rebounded from a 15-12 loss to Kent State in the NCAA South Regional at old Alex Box Stadium. Facing elimination, the Tigers had to beat South Alabama twice to advance, doing so by scores of 11-4 and 9-4.

In the CWS, LSU beat Long Beach State 7-1 and Texas A&M 13-8 before losing to Long Beach State 10-8.

With a trip to the national championship game on the line, LSU faced Long Beach again. The Tigers trailed 5-3 in the bottom of the ninth before Armando Rios tied the game with a two-run double and Todd Walker won it with an RBI single.

No such dramatics were needed in the winner-take-all national championship game against Wichita State, thanks to LSU pitcher Brett Laxton.

The Tigers freshman threw one of the most dominant games in CWS championship history, striking out a record 16 batters while allowing just three hits in an 8-0 victory.