The Tigers earned a reputation in the 1990’s and the early part of this decade for their ability to punish opposing pitchers and after a few years hiatus the Tigers once again have that look at the plate that sends shivers down the opposition’s spine.
“I think every time I go up to the plate I just try to show the guy that he can’t beat me no matter what,” said LSU designated hitter Blake Dean. “No matter what pitch he has he can’t defeat me. Even on his best day and on my worst I just try to make them think that I will always come out on top.”
Dean and the boys certainly came out on top of the Baton Rouge Regional over the weekend as they swept through the tournament with three convincing wins.
The Tigers had quite a bit of pop in their bat over the weekend as they hit .318 and clubbed nine homers.
Dean continued to pound the other team’s pitching as he went 5-for-11 with three homers, a double, a triple and nine RBI which was good enough to win regional MVP honors.
With 19 homers, the sophomore from Florida now trails Matt Clark by six long balls because it seems that every time one goes yard the other follows suit.
In fact, the two sluggers have combined for 23 homers during the current 23-game win streak and have homered in the same game 11 times this year.
LSU fans must feel as if they have been watching some of Skip Bertman’s teams from the past that obliterated the opposition with long ball after long ball.
Many of these young Tigers of today were playing summer league youth ball back then but they have seen the videos and heard all about the great sluggers in LSU history to know that they are part of something special.
“It’s been pretty cool just to be able to be in the same category of the legends from LSU that you hear about all of the time,” Clark said. “(Brandon) Larson hit like 40 homeruns when he was here and that’s unbelievable. Just to be in the same category as him, (Eddie) Furniss and (Brad) Hawpe and all of those guys has just been really cool.”
Clark has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as those former Tiger greats with his 25 homers which is the most for an LSU player since Brad Cresse hit 30 the last time LSU won a national championship back in 2000.
One thing that LSU had back in the 1990’s and with that 2000 championship squad was guys in the lineup who had a look of confidence and swagger that some outside of the program may have taken as cockiness.
They had that stare and look at the plate that made pitchers take a deep breath and think twice before they fired to the plate.
Anyone who has seen Paul Mainieri’s squad play on television this year definitely saw that look from these heavy hitters.
“We just go up there with a mentality that we aren’t going to get beat at the plate and when you have that confidence it shows in your eyes,” Dean said.
Dean and Clark have made plenty of noise with some of the bombs they launched on to Nicholson Drive this year but Mainieri has gotten some long ball production from a spot in the lineup that normally doesn’t produce to that extent.
Second baseman Ryan Schimpf is ranked in the top three in several statistical categories including homeruns as he is third on the squad with 10 and third in RBI with 48.
“It’s kind of nice being a little guy and being able to hit the ball with a little pop,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter, though, as a long as we keep winning.”
Winning is something the Tigers have made a habit of over the last 23 outings along with watching highlights from the 1996 team that brought a national championship back to Baton Rouge.
“We watch all of the videos before each game so one of the things we strive to do is bring back the traditions they had here,” Dean said. “LSU is one of the top programs in the country and we strive to bring back the stuff that they brought to the program.”
They always say you can’t go back in time and relive history but don’t tell that to these kids.
“It’s tremendous,” Schimpf said of being part of LSU baseball. “That’s what we’re playing for. We’re playing to try and keep their name alive and the history that they brought to this program. They set the groundwork for us and now we’re just trying to glorify them by carrying on the tradition.”