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Hobbs Column: LSU deserved better fate

Last Modified: Friday, July 26, 2013 2:53 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

OMAHA, Neb. — Watching LSU’s mostly fruitless quest for runs in the College World Series in its new digs at TD Ameritrade Park, a line from the movie “Jaws” came to mind:

“You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Or, to borrow from the age-old Cajun proverb for any tricky maintenance problem:

“Get a bigger hammer.”

LSU certainly needed something it didn’t bring from Baton Rouge or learn in its SEC battles during perhaps its most frustrating Omaha trip ever.

As good a team as LSU has ever produced came to the city where it gets its legacy stamped, and the Tigers looked almost helpless.

Two and done.

Or, to paraphrase from the wonderful documentary “Major League”: Three runs? We only got three dadgum runs!

Go ahead, blame it on the ballpark.

It’s probably simplistic, but makes as much sense as anything.

Omaha is selling TD Ameritrade as having the same dimensions as beloved Rosenblatt Stadium, the old LSU happy launching pad.

Don’t buy it. Sheer propaganda. Snake oil.

Maybe to the tape measure they are the same.

To the naked eye, while it’s still the perfect 90 feet between bases, the TD Ameritrade outfield looks like it stretches over the Missouri River and halfway across Iowa, all uphill.

It could be an alternate landing spot for the bombers at nearby Offutt Air Force Base.

The NCAA cross country national championships would be more at home here than the type of baseball LSU is used to.

It definitely changes the game.

If you’re waiting on a home run, better pack a lunch.

It’s almost as if college football would get to its national championship game and ban any pass longer than 10 yards.

The Tigers thought they had built a team for the newer, smaller ball style of play.

They had no earthly idea.

In truth, LSU doesn’t exactly rely on home runs as a staple of its offense anymore. But it’s nice to know if you happen to get a hold of one, there’s an outfield fence within sight, not somewhere out over the rainbow.

Yes, there’s something to be said for manufacturing runs. But if UCLA bunts one more time up here, I am going to pull my hair out and kick something inanimate.

The baseball purists love it but, outside of Louisiana and a few scattered outposts, college baseball has enough trouble attracting much attention without limiting it to the seamheads.

It’s not just chicks who dig the long ball.

But the NCAA seems to want to ban them.

So the Tigers looked like amateur golfers staring up at a 495-yard extremely uphill par-4 — beaten, basically, before they even took a whack at it.

Omaha has always been quite accommodating to LSU. Maybe they could move the fences into the same area code as home plate. Or maybe the NCAA could arm them with a decent piece of aluminum or throw the same ball (harder, tighter seams) that the pros use.

But there was far more to LSU’s woes.

“You can’t blame it all on the ballpark,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said.

Mainieri admitted maybe he made too much of the canyon.

There weren’t going to be a lot of three-run homers, one of which would have matched LSU’s run haul for the week.

“I think we talked about that, maybe dwelled on it too much,” Mainieri said in second-guessing himself.

It looked like something got inside the LSU hitters’ heads. They looked tentative in both games, the frustration growing as the premature end grew nearer.

“The hitters go up there without a lot of confidence,” Mainieri said. “You know that if you get a ball up in the air, it’s going to be an out.

“You have to go up there and let it rip.”

That was the shocking thing. With all of Omaha welcoming them back with open arms, the Tigers, though no strangers to hoopla, never did really look comfortable on the big stage of a gargantuan ballpark.

Or, maybe we’re overanalyzing. Perhaps it’s possible that the Tigers’ bats just went cold at an inopportune moment, baseball playing its nasty tricks again.

In reality, watching LSU’s mounting frustration in losing two consecutive games here didn’t look a whole lot different from watching the Tigers’ season end last year at home and hearth of comfy Alex Box against the Stony Brook Cinderella Seawolves.

They couldn’t beg, borrow or steal a hit when they needed one then either.

They got 10 hits against North Carolina on Tuesday, just none that really mattered, never the one they really needed.

That’s crazy, but it’s also baseball, all the more dumbfounding when you’ve done it all year.

But it happens.

And LSU knows the rules.

It really was a very good baseball team, great kids.

But they knew what they signed up for. At LSU, you’re rewarded by different standards.

Fair? Maybe not. But it’s the flip side of playing before large, adoring crowds all year when most schools entertain friends and family when the weather is nice.

Those programs erect plaques to teams just for reaching Omaha.

For LSU, in the end, this was just another team that sent its fans home far too early from Omaha.

A shame, really. They were better than that.

• • •

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

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