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Hobbs Column: Super regional done, Tigers seek ultimate Omaha dogpile

Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:56 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — The dogpile has almost become too cliché in college baseball, so in that regard the one LSU fashioned out of relief and determination Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium was somewhat refreshing.

This obligatory tangle of humanity was fairly mundane, although JaCoby Jones’ flying, 20-foot high-jump leap for the finale would get some style points in most precincts.

Until then, it almost looked like a staged event, which in fact it was after LSU completed a two-game sweep of Oklahoma with an 11-1 victory.

Far from spontaneous, it was almost awkward in the blooming stage, with a couple of the Tigers’ first responders looking at each for a moment before the construction finally commenced with almost forced smiles and staged glee as if they were waiting for directions.

The Tigers had already taken a better victory lap, so to speak, bidding adieu to The Box by batting around in the ninth inning. They actually sent 10 men to the plate while piling on six parting runs and a couple of curtain calls with the outcome no more in doubt then than it was by the time the Tigers started piling up on the mound.

I’ve never been a big fan of baseball dogpiles, having seen too many teams show up a week later in Omaha still licking some wounds and missing some key players from the carnage. It’s always a good idea to count heads when you get there.

But by the time LSU untangled Saturday, all Tigers were present and accounted for and, so far as we know, no medics were summoned.

It was also encouraging that the Tigers didn’t really seem to have their emotions in it.

It seemed more like peer pressure than youthful, spontaneous emotion that built the pile.

That’s the LSU way. There were even a few Tiger teams in the dominant 1990s that agreed in advance to skip the post-regional theatrics as being beneath them since they expected to be Omaha-bound all along and didn’t really think they’d accomplished much yet.

This team, it was OK.

This team should have gotten a mild slap on the wrist for dog-piling after winning the SEC tournament, which is just a mere trinket in LSU’s overall scheme of things.

But if any team deserved a Omaha send-off dogpile, this one was it.

They lived for a year with the shame of losing a Super Regional at home, being one win from Omaha before losing two straight to something called Stony Brook.

In fact, three days after claiming the ghost of Stony Brook’s 15 Minutes of Fame never enters his mind anymore, LSU coach Paul Mainieri admitted shortly after Saturday’s victory that “It’s been a long 365 days.”

It’s been longer yet, for a certain dogged trio of Tigers — fourth-year seniors Mason Katz, Alex Edward and cult figure bullpen closer Chris Cotton.

They arrived at LSU in the afterglow of the 2009 national championship, eager to jump on board what looked like an annual Omaha Express.

For good measure, we’ll make it a Mount Rushmore and throw senior Raph Rhymes in there, too, even though he technically spent his freshman year in junior college only because LSU wasn’t interested in him.

But they were in danger of becoming the first class to miss Omaha entirely in generations.

Now that the latest group has been spared the ultimate shame, it can be pointed out that the last freshman baseball class at LSU to stay four years without reaching Omaha enrolled in the school in 1983. Skip Bertman wasn’t their coach — he wouldn’t arrive until the next season.

Katz said he was tired of hearing about it. That it motivated him. That it was the reason he and Rhymes came back for their senior seasons.

Actually, the looming embarrassment was news to me until after it had been avoided. It wasn’t a common topic during the season.

But, you get your motivation where you can. Underclassmen, Katz said, made it their mission to make sure they were spared the shame.

Rather than a potential red face, it’s more another testament to just how good LSU baseball has been in the last 30 years.

Many schools go generations without a whiff of the Omaha steak houses. Most never go at all.

For that matter, it doesn’t seem like all that long ago that the Tigers were celebrating that last national championship.

But I guess it was four years.

“People don’t quite understand how hard it is to get there,” Mainieri said.

These days, it’s certainly not as easy as perhaps LSU teams of yore used to make it look.

This year, in particular, there seemed to be no guarantees. The old gang you used to could count on being in Omaha with LSU ain’t what it used to be.

Earning a national seed — LSU is No. 4 — has built-in advantages, but as of Sunday night the Tigers are the only one of those elite to punch a ticket to Omaha.

There’s something to be said for that.

But there’s one more thing Katz & Co. should know.

Other schools are revered just for making it to the College World Series.

For LSU, it’s just a good start — another step toward the ultimate dogpile.

• • •

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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