OMAHA, Neb. — LSU skidded off the paved path to a championship and found itself on the bumpy dirt road that is the loser's bracket.
Sunday's loss to UCLA derailed all those ideal scenarios that had LSU cruising to the Championship Series. Instead, the Tigers must win four games in five days, including three straight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
If they can even get past North Carolina, the No. 1 national seed, on Tuesday.
But before you craft your frustrated rant on how this once-promising 2013 season has come to a screeching halt, remember what brought LSU to this point. There's no question that the Tigers played one of their worst games of the season on Sunday, but a team doesn't win 57 games by playing poorly more often than they play well.
When clicking on all cylinders, this team was and still is among the elite squads in the country. All three phases have shown they can win games this season, and while two of those let the Tigers down Sunday, it's improbable they'll continue to remain a liability.
Yes, the offense and defense have had their rare moments of ineptitude this year, and that UCLA game was a prime example. But the numbers speak to a larger consistency. The .308 team batting average and .980 fielding percentage are still the kinds of numbers teams strive to have.
But upsets do happen. Players the caliber of Alex Bregman and Raph Rhymes will commit errors and ground into double plays.
And teams like UCLA will beat teams like LSU in the College World Series.
So while it's certainly a dark time for the thousands of Tigers that made the pilgrimage to Omaha, the ride isn't over yet. LSU has only lost consecutive games once this season, and this is a team that's built to take the scenic route to a championship.
Pitching always has been the key ingredient to a CWS title. The more games a team has to play, the more arms a team has to rely on.
Fortunately for LSU, they have plenty of pitchers at their disposal. Ryan Eades and Cody Glenn have completed a rotation that's as formidable as any in the nation. Chris Cotton, Nick Rumbelow, Joey Bourgeois and Will LaMarche have earned the right to be counted on out of the bullpen.
If LSU's championship journey continues past Tuesday, the Tigers will need every one of those guys to come through, and more often than not, they have.
Low moments do happen. Eades has looked uncomfortable in the NCAA Tournament and Glenn hasn't pitched since May 22. But if LSU must ride these two to victory, it's at least promising they're taking the pitchers with sub-3.00 ERAs.
It's safe to admit this is an optimistic outlook. For any team to win four straight against this talented field would be a miracle in itself. History isn't on LSU's side either. Only three teams have reached the championship series after dropping the opener.
But the Tigers have their own history that's working for them. They're a team whose resiliency has shown all season, and the talent is undeniable.
The next few days will be a rough journey. It will be tense and uncomfortable. But at least LSU has the tires to handle the bumps.
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