A Taste of Louisiana

Head coach Paul Mainieri guided his team from Baton Rouge to Omaha, a journey that has not been run with success from start to finish since 2000. Thanks to the skipper, for the first time in nine years, the Bayou State's youth has a new set of names to grow old upon – and a few homegrown ones at that.

When head coach Paul Mainieri arrived at LSU, his approach to winning was evident: go out and get the best talent available.

And, that he did.

Anthony Ranaudo, the winning pitcher during last week’s game three final at the College World Series, was a standout right-hander at St. Rose High in Belmar, New Jersey when Mainieri and Co. came calling.

“They sold me on winning championships, and I came down and made that happen,” Ranaudo said. “To see it all come to fruition is a great feeling.”

The same year that Mainieri found Ranaudo, he found DJ LeMahieu – a lanky 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop that would develop into an All American infielder for the Tigers.

Just like Ranaudo, his roommate at LSU, LeMahieu was sold on winning championships.

“It feels good to know that coach Mainieri was right,” smiled LeMahieu as he stood alongside Ranaudo following game three’s press conference.

“He promised us this chance, and we took it hoping that we could come down and make the impact needed,” added Ranaudo. “You could say we did that.”

Yet, for other Tigers, the story was written much differently.

There were 22 Louisiana-born student-athletes on the 2009 roster, and each is quick to tell you that no recruitment was ever needed. Rather, Matty Ott’s approach of “the staff just had to give me a jersey” seemed the consensus response as to why each player chose LSU.

That being said, those graduating, like senior reliever Buzzy Haydel, leave the program on a bittersweet note.

“You can’t put this into words,” Haydel said. “You grow up all your life watching stuff like this happens, and you hope you can one day be a part of it. There are 290 D-I teams or something like that, and only one team ends the season how they want it.

“That is LSU this year, ending our season with a win.”

For a Gonzales-native, of course, the taste is even sweeter.

“You come to LSU to have a moment like this, and we did,” he continued. “We finished like we wanted to, and hopefully we left the program better than we found it. Winning a National Championship, I can’t think of any way better.”

For those who will presumably be leaving for the professional ranks, like Covington-native Ryan Schimpf, the moment is one that he wished he could have captured in a bottle.

“It is just an unbelievable feeling,” he said. “To start No. 1 and finish on top, I am just glad to be part of that kind of history. I grew up trying to do this … loving LSU. To be part of history with Warren Morris and those guys, it is special.”

Yet, many of the names will stick around – hoping to make more memories for generations that follow.

“For a small time Baker boy, what else could you want,” laughed Leon Landry, who was a standout at Baker High from 2003-2007. “I represent my city well, and they would say the same.”

The win, for a Baton Rouge-native, goes out to one special set of followers.

“The trophy we got is for all LSU fans,” Landry continued. “To show that we are appreciative, this is all for them. The fans were great, and they never gave up. Cheering the whole time and what not, that is huge. It is just as important to them as it is to us.”

Mikie Mahtook, a Lafayette-native and the son of a former LSU football standout, wreaked havoc on the back end of the season – from Most Valuable Player at the Southeastern Conference Tournament to a slew of clutch hits at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Part of a crop of freshman that look to make waves over the coming years, the talk has become more about the future than the past.

“We got many more to come,” Mahtook said. “I am going to be out in Omaha for a long time these next few years. It was just a great feeling, and something we all want to make happen over and over.”

For Austin Nola, a standout at Catholic High in Baton Rouge just one year ago, the realization has not sunken in.

“I don’t think it will hit me until I go to a restaurant and see the sixth newspaper with my teammates on it,” he laughed. “Then, I will realize we won it all.”

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