The Keys to Consistency

The LSU baseball team tasted Omaha in 2008, but the final bite was sour. On Saturday, the Tigers worked through Rice to book their flights back to Nebraska. With 12 months of hard work behind them, redemption is a weekend away.

Head coach Wayne Graham – a skipper who has reeled off 36-straight winning season with a World Series title from 2003 to boot – summed up his Owls’ two-and-out weekend with a bit of insight into the college game.

“Obviously, LSU has some baseball team,” he said.

His prediction from here out is one that the Tigers hope becomes a reality.

“I think they are good enough to win it,” Graham said. “Their three pitchers are probably among the top-20 pitchers in the country. Then they have good left-handed hitters that can go both left and right.

“There are a lot of ingredients. LSU is a good ball club.”

The Tigers did not need Austin Ross to get through the Super Regional, as the performances of Anthony Ranaudo and Louis Coleman sealed the deal with authority.

Ranaudo allowed just one earned run in 7.2 innings of work to take game one. Coleman took the ball in game two, firing eight innings of three-run ball for the series clincher.

“We wanted to carry this team, and I had no doubt that when I got the ball I was going to give it everything I had,” said Ranaudo as he took to Saturday’s post-game celebration. “This is why I came to LSU, to have these moments. I am having the time of my life.”

Speaking of a time-of-your-life experience, take a glance at Coleman.

The senior, who turned down the MLB time and again, had returned for a final year – where he matured from the teams’ hopeful closer to the Southeastern Conference’s best starter.

“I don’t have any words to explain it,” Coleman said. “Coming back was the greatest decision I have ever made in my life. I would not change it for the world.”

Of course, the decision to come back was one that had stipulations.

“I told coach Mainieri when I decided that I did not carry how we did it, I just wanted to go back to Omaha and see what happens there,” Coleman said. “This is something special that I won’t forget.”

Winners of ten straight dating back to their opening round loss to Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Mainieri said that the key to success is clear.

“It all starts with pitching, and the defense will go along,” he said. “The way that you have consistency is through pitching and defense.”

With highlight plays being turned out on the regular – from Mikie Mahtook’s diving grab in center on Friday to LeMahieu’s leaping snags on both nights – the flash is there.

“I have never seen a group of defenders this talented,” said catcher Micah Gibbs. “There have been errors here and there, but that is baseball. This is one of the best defensive teams there is, and that gives our team a ton of confidence.”

Come next weekend, the Tigers will need all the confidence that they can muster.

No worries, according to Mr. Clutch.

“This team is poised, and we are going to Omaha with a purpose,” said Blake Dean. “We had some great memories there last year, but we will make better ones this season.”

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