Recruited for a Purpose

The LSU baseball team is headed to the World Series for the second straight season. Yet, four freshmen Tigers will be making the trek for their first time. The destination, they said, is one that has been on their calendar since signing day.

For LSU’s four young guns, the script could not have played out more accurately.

Let’s run it down.

Louis Coleman was supposed to be the Tigers’ go-to man in the ninth, until Matty Ott stepped in.

Leon Landry made a living in 2008 off highlight reel nabs in centerfield, and Mikie Mahtook followed suit.

Tyler Hanover, the Gatorade Player of the Year out of North Carolina, nabbed the starting spot at third base just ten games into the year.

Even DJ LeMahieu, the Tigers’ top infielder, was forced to slide to second base to get Austin Nola into the lineup.

The path to success, it seemed, could not have opened up more.

“Everything just kind of fell in line for us,” Nola said.

Sitting alongside Ott and Hanover in the dugout before Monday’s practice, the Baton Rouge-native said that Omaha was an expected destination that came with becoming a Tiger.

“When I signed, I had the vision of us going to the World Series,” Nola said. “I think that goes for everyone on the team. That is what the coaches sell.”

Flashing back to one year ago, the freshmen crop point to Mainieri’s word as gold – as they are now headed on the same path the Tiger skipper promised they would travel.

“When the coaches brought me in, I saw the plans for the new stadium and knew that the baseball team had something special going,” said Hanover, a North Carolina-native. “When coach Mainieri told me that he needed me to win championships, I was ready to join on.

“I had some offers from east coast schools, but nothing like LSU,” he added. “After growing up a fan and watching the World Series wins, it was not a tough decision.”

Recruiting, according to Nola and Ott, handled itself.

“I never looked at another team,” Nola said with a laugh. “I guess you could say that LSU was the only school that recruited me.”

Ott, who was a standout on the mound at Holy Cross, echoed his shortstop’s sentiments.

“All that coach Miles and coach Grewe had to do was give me a jersey,” he said with a smile. “There was never any doubt.”

Realizing a lifelong dream, of course, is not restricted to Ott and Nola.

Take, for instance, the story of Mahtook.

The Lafayette-native, who juggled the decision between football and baseball until the bitter end, decided to forgo his chances as a D-I quarterback to join Mainieri’s squad.

Before there were high times, of course, there were low.

“I was pretty upset when I was at football games in Tiger Stadium last fall,” Mahtook admitted. “It was one of those things where I just missed being out there and competing, and it was tough to watch.”

Six months later, the freshman has no complaints.

“This was one of the best decisions I have ever made,” he said. “The experiences that I have had – from the SEC Tournament to the Regional and Super Regional wins – are something that I will never forget.”

With their recruitment having panned out to perfection, one question remains.

Will Rosenblatt be too big a stage for the young guns?

“All the guys who have been there tell us that we will be all wide-eyed, but I see us being fine,” Ott said. “We have been playing in front of big crowds and tight situations all year.

“That is why we signed here, to get to those moments.”

Mahtook – the most evident lifelong Tiger fan of the group - cut to the chase on his fellow freshmen’s goal.

“We want to be able to get the sixth title – where we could go in restaurants and see The Advocate framed with our picture,” he said. “The World Series is why we came to LSU, to bring it back.

“We will get the sixth.”

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