Hobbs: Stony Brook the better team, but don’t count Tigers out

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Understand that getting to Omaha has never been quite as easy, certainly not as routine, as LSU has made it

look over the years.

This year’s bunch faces a particularly daunting obstacle.

Namely this: the Tigers are not the best team in this NCAA tournament super regional.

Something called Stony Brook is.

It’s not a deal-killer.

The Tigers can work around it.

It’s doable.

They’ve done it before, in fact.

For that matter, it’s never been

properly explained how they won this year’s Southeastern Conference

regular-season championship.

So with the LSU-Stony Brook series tied 1-1 and with Omaha on the line in today’s noon game, there’s reasonable hope.

I’m not sure how the Tigers managed to end up in a tie thus far, but at this stage you’re pretty much done questioning the

unexplainable.

There’s the famed Alex Box magic, to be sure, but LSU may have used up its weekend quota just to pull a victory out of the

hat in the two-day Game 1, thus the knotted series. Stony Brook came back in the second game and won 3-1.

Considering the way these Seawolves swing the bats — as good or probably better than any SEC team — stealing Game 1 and holding

Stony Brook to three runs in Game 2 could already be considered a missed opportunity not to already be Omaha-bound.

I don’t know where Stony Brook was hiding all season — certainly not in the top 10 —  but the Seawolves are as good as anything

LSU has seen all year.

LSU has the deeper pitching, apparently, and can mix-and-match a fairly fresh staff all game today. The Tigers won’t run out

of arms, and head coach Paul Mainieri likely will have a quicker hook than normal with starter Ryan Eades.

The Tigers appear to have the better defense, too, even though when Mainieri, desperate for more offensive firepower, benched

Arby Fields on Saturday it might have left the Tigers with the slowest outfield in the NCAA.

Stony Brook has far better sticks. The Seawolves’ outs have been louder than most of LSU’s hits.

At some point they could blow up.

LSU is going to have to figure out some way, by hook or crook or Alex Box magic, to score some runs.

Some honest runs.

It was pure retro Tigers to somehow feed off that magic Friday and hit solo home runs in three consecutive innings — the ninth,

10th and 11th — when a zero on the board would have ended the game.

They came out bright and early Saturday morning and needed 10 minutes to finish the comeback with a 5-4 victory, getting two

hits in the bottom of the 12th.

Then they managed just three hits the entire second game against Stony Brook’s Tyler Johnson, who pitched a complete game

despite striking out only one Tiger.

“We need to be more productive in all phases of our offense,” said LSU’s Mason Katz, who had one of the three home runs Friday,

then drove in the walk-off winner Saturday morning.

“You’re not going to pop one out three innings in a row to save yourself every time. You can’t wait for that big pop from

nowhere.”

Then where?

It certainly won’t come with slick baserunning.

Just when you — and Mainieri — think

you’ve seen the last possible nutty basepath hijinks, LSU comes up with

yet another “Ripley’s

Believe It Or Not!” moment somewhere in the vicinity of second

base.

LSU finally had something cooking in

Game 2 when Jordy Snikeris opened the fifth with a single. But Snikeris,

a nice enough

lad, managed to get thrown out at second even though it was a free

base because Tyler Moore had just taken ball four behind

him.

“In all my years of coaching I do not think I have ever seen a guy thrown out at second on a ball four when he was forced

to the base,” Mainieri said.

It’s a tough stunt to duplicate, all right.

But Mainieri’s mistake, even with good,

solid baseball intentions, was probably sending Snikeris on the pitch.

Not much good

ever happens to these basepath-challenged Tigers when you dare put

these garden slugs in motion. It’s a surefire recipe for

unexplained disaster.

Adventures in Baserunning — an excellent idea for the next Monty Python movie.

Even Mainieri pointed out that, with a 3-2 pitch, Snikeris was on the run only to avoid a double play — for which the Tigers

have an uncanny penchant — should Moore have found reason to swing.

If it’s strike three, Mainieri admitted, he was going to be thrown out, probably by 10-15 feet.

But getting thrown out on ball four is a remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime feat that only these Tigers could manage.

They have enough trouble getting from base to base without botching the freebies.

Hard to fault Snikeris, though. He was hustling like crazy and, unaware of the doings at home plate, did his best belly-flop

slide and slid right past the bag and lost momentarily lost contact with it.

Not by much, but enough to see daylight between his fingertips and the base, which makes it no longer a free base and, of

course, he was tagged out.

The next pitch hit Alex Edward, which would have loaded the bases with no out, but instead nothing productive came of the

inning.

So scratch any thoughts of a walk-off steal of home to reach the College World Series. Somebody would just get hurt.

But don’t count the Tigers out.

I don’t know exactly how they’re going to do it.

There’s no reasonable scenario.

But I wouldn’t put it past them.

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