Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — With two dominating wins against Oklahoma, the LSU baseball team earned a spot in the College World Series. For the Tigers, the unforgettable weekend was the result of 12 months of memories.
"It's what I dreamed of doing, it's what I guaranteed we were gonna do at the beginning of the year, and that's what we're gonna do," said shortstop Alex Bregman
A rain delay could not stop the Tigers in Saturday's game, and neither could the Sooners. LSU allowed the Sooners just seven hits on the weekend, and outscored them 14-1.
"That's why I came to college," second baseman Jacoby Jones said. "That's why I came to LSU: the past and the history they had in Omaha, and that's what I wanted to do."
Jones was the hero in Game Two, batting 4-4, scoring three times and driving in two. He hit a home run in the ninth inning, and turned lazy play by Oklahoma's center fielder into a double in the fourth.
At this stage in 2012, the Tigers were stunned by Stony Brook. But losing in that Super Regional might have been the best thing to happen for this year's team.
"Everybody wanted to dwell on what happened at the end of last year," head coach Paul Mainieri said. "And I kept saying, 'all that happened from last year was us getting a lot of, gaining a lot of confidence and the belief that we could do it.'"
"Well, it started day one with team meetings," agreed catcher Ty Ross. "And we set our goal not only to be [in] Omaha, but to win the whole thing."
By the ninth inning of Game Two, the Sooners knew they were beaten. The score was 5-1, and LSU had shut them out in seven consecutive innings. Then the Tigers put up another six runs, allowing Mainieri a chance to give his seniors a proper ending to their last home game. Raph Rhymes and Alex Edward each got RBI hits in the inning, and each was lifted for a pinch runner so fans could cheer them off the field.
"It was a special moment," Rhymes said. "I play in front of the best fans in the country. I was so happy for these other seniors, to get that standing ovation, as well."
"You know, you don't put the bats away, you don't count anything yet, but I was starting to enjoy it a little bit, I have to be honest with you," Mainieri said, smiling again.
This marks the first trip to the College World Series for the Tigers since 2009. None of the players on the current roster have ever experienced Omaha, but Mainieri sees no reason for it to overwhelm them.
"A good friend of mine once told me, too, that if experience was a prerequisite, then we'd have never put a man on the moon," Mainieri stated. "Right? Nobody had ever been there before; how do you know you could do it for sure?
"The autograph seekers, the media coverage, the big crowds, the beautiful ballparks; that kinda sounds like normal to us."
Bregman believes he and his teammates have prepared well enough all season long to handle the spotlight, based in part on the philosophy of Malcolm Gladwell.
"We have a 10,000 hour rule here," Bregman said. "You can't be great at something until you work at something for 10,000 hours, and that's what this team did. We're just so happy and so thankful for all these fans to come out, and we can't wait to go to Omaha and win that thing."
The Tigers will play their first game in Omaha on Saturday against the UCLA Bruins.