Finding his groove

In 2008, Blake Dean was Mr. Everything for the LSU baseball team. The centerpiece behind the run to Omaha, his bat was red-hot by mid-April.

One year later, things took a bit longer to heat up.


“I don’t know, I guess it is finally catching up to me,” said Dean. “I am finally getting some breaks here and there, so I had to just build my way back up.”


The junior slugger is hitting .322 on the season, a tremendous feat given that just over three weeks ago he was batting an ice-cold .230.


This time last year, he was in the midst of one of the nation’s most impressive hitting streaks.


A significant piece to the Tigers’ 23-game win streak, he batted .412 (49-for-119) over LSU’s final 29 games with 13 doubles, a triple, 12 home runs and 41 RBI.


Despite the sluggish start to 2009, Dean said that he feels like a similar performance is in the works for the homestretch.


“I feel like I am hitting like I was this time last year,” he said. “Baseball is tricky, but one hit or home run will click and you just feel something, and it rolls from there. I feel like I am rolling now, so I think that I can keep things up at the pace I have been going recently.”


The junior’s 37 RBI are good for third-best on the team, though his six dingers are a far cry from his long ball mark in 2008.

 

Last year, Dean had the luxury of hitting in the No. 3 hole for much of the season which was consistently a spot or two ahead of Matt Clark, who tied Georgia’s Gordon Beckham for the nation’s lead in homers with 28. Micah Gibbs also spent a good portion of the season batting cleanup and his .322 average combined with Clark’s power didn’t allow pitchers to be able to work around Dean.

 

This season, Mainieri has given several guys a chance to hit behind his junior from Crestview, Fla. Sean Ochinko leads LSU with a .354 average and he’s hit seven homers then Ryan Schimpf, who leads the Tigers with 10 homeruns, has also hit in the No. 4 hole.

 

Regardless of who Mainieri puts in the order behind Dean, though, they’re not going to have the same power that Clark had which in turn will make things a little tougher on Dean and everyone else in the lineup.


“I would like to have a few more home runs, but things will play out,” Dean said. “I will keep the hits coming for now and let the home runs play out later. The runs will always come when they do, and that’s how you have to leave it.”


The mental battle is one that weighed heavy on Dean throughout the early parts of his season, though he said that the ability to stay at the designated hitter spot instead of moving to the bench during his cold-streak put him in a spot to succeed.


“I could keep my head in there and stay focused because coach Mainieri told me that he had faith in me, so I knew that my spot was not in jeopardy,” he said.


“Now, I would like to play left field, but it is hard to get me out there over a guy like [Jared] Mitchell,” added Dean. “Still, hitting is what I am best at, so I am happy to stay in there and get things done.”

 

Dean has certainly been getting it done over the last 12 games as the preseason All-America selection is hitting .420 (21-50) with four of his six homers and 18 of his 37 RBI coming over that stretch.

 

However, with LSU dropping five of those contests including three of the last four, Dean says the team needs to regain something that last year’s squad had but is missing from the 2009 club. 


“I think that this team is way more talented than last year, and I really believe that,” he said. “I think we have better pitching and better hitting, but we don’t have that edge yet. Last year we were scrappy, and we need to get that edge back. Once we do, this team will be tough to stop.”

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