LSU baseball season has parallel from 30 years ago

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LSU Baseball: Duplantis and Watson
Antoine Duplantis and Zach Watson has been bright spots for LSU during the 2018 season (Photo: Jonathan Mailhes)

I recall a time 30 years ago, when we were on the way back to New Orleans after LSU baseball was eliminated in the SEC tournament at Starkville, Mississippi.

The 1988 Tigers, with 39 wins, didn’t qualify for the 48 team NCAA tournament after the previous year’s very talented team reached Omaha.

The ’87 club’s top three hitters for average – outfielder Joey Belle, catcher Craig Faulkner, and outfielder Jack Voigt – also combined for 45 homers.

The following season, LSU as a team hit a total of 41 home runs.

Also missing was the superb work of ’87 starting pitchers Gregg Patterson with a 1.84 earned run average and Mark Guthrie with his 2.61 ERA.

In 1989, the Tigers were back in Omaha, knocking on the door for a national title. Two years after that, LSU won its first of five national championships under Skip Bertman in a span of 10 years.

It is easy to see that 1988 turned out to be an outlier, not the norm.

It may also be the case 30 years from right now, where people may not appreciate head coach Paul Mainieri may have done one of his better jobs, coaxing 37 victories from a depleted roster.

The losses of pitchers Alex Lange and Jared Poche’ to the draft fellow weekend starter Eric Walker to arm surgery was enough to overcome. Toss out the loss of the 19 homers hit by Greg Deichmann and the 11 hit by Michael Papierski. Also gone is the leadership of shortstop Kramer Robertson and second baseman Cole Freeman.

You can only come to one conclusion: Expectations, always astronomical at Alex Box Stadium, were too high in 2018.

That’s right, even at LSU where the baseball facilities and fan support are second to none, winning big is not a guarantee.

Two of LSU’s best players have had very good years in 2018. Antoine Duplantis raised his batting average 21 points. Fellow outfielder Zack Watson hit .304 with 22 of his 66 hits for extra bases.

But the Tigers never did overcome the loss of infielder Josh Smith, who played in 66 fewer games in his sophomore season due to a stress reaction in his vertebrae.

In 2017, Smith had 21 extra base hits, and his on base percentage was an outstanding .407.

When you take the cumulative effect of what LSU lost since the end of the 2017 season due to departures and injuries, a six-win dip in SEC play from 21 to 15 should not have been unexpected.

Last week, the LSU baseball program showed its pedigree by reaching the tournament’s championship game in Hoover, Alabama.

The Tigers, as the two seed in Corvallis this weekend, will likely have to defeat host Oregon State twice to reach the Super Regionals. LSU will need last week’s effort and them some to advance.

If they don’t, the 2018 season one year from now will look like an aberration, nothing more.

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Ed Daniels

WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM

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Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…

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