GUILBEAU: LSU beat Arkansas and the football mentality in a weekend

By GLENN GUILBEAU | Tiger Rag Featured Columnist

BATON ROUGE – There are 30 games in the Southeastern Conference baseball schedule.

Non-conference games are basically practice games, mean very little and usually do not impact the weekly rankings because the conference games follow them and tend to erase them.

What happened the week before or the day before or the inning or two before – in other words, momentum swings – do not always have a lot to do with what is about to happen in baseball.

These three truths are not new. Use them to confront and erase the football mentality that still permeates the LSU Baseball program even though Skip Bertman preached against them for years and beat them year after year for years.

The football mentality was full frontal lobe last week as the Tigers prepared to play a three-game series at first place Arkansas after LSU had lost five of its previous eight games and two of its previous three series in the SEC. One local radio talk show host – a former LSU football player no less – said the Tigers would lose two of three at Arkansas.

Then LSU lost, 9-3, at Arkansas in the series opener Friday night. Then LSU fell behind 8-1 after six innings on Saturday night.

Goodbye, Omaha.

I always remind nervous LSU baseball fans that the SEC is very long and voluminous and that just about everything can change in a mere weekend or two.

But as of the late innings Saturday night, I was beginning to think Omaha was remote.

Then it happened. And the “it” had nothing to do with the Rally Opossum Sequel. It was just baseball.

The Tigers came back to win, 10-8, on Saturday night with five runs in the ninth, putting together the second greatest comeback on the road since 1984, which was Bertman’s first season.

Funny, it was Bertman who walked up to LSU coach Paul Mainieri after the loss to Texas A&M a week ago Sunday, which was LSU’s fifth loss in seven games and lost that series, to say the Tigers would still win the SEC.

“I’m so proud of our team for a tremendous effort,” Mainieri said Saturday night. “I hope this will inspire us to continue to play with confidence. Arkansas has an outstanding club. We kept batting and worked our way back into the game before starting a great rally in the ninth.”

Then LSU followed it up Sunday with a magnificent pitching performance by freshman Eric Walker for a 2-0 win to take the series.

And all is well again … for now. The Tigers (22-11 overall, 7-5 SEC) are a mere game out of overall first place in the SEC behind leaders Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and Kentucky at 8-4.

And that, while LSU is not playing very well over the last few weeks. In SEC games only, the Tigers are eighth in home runs with nine and fourth in batting average at .262. Their pitching is a lowly 10th in earned run average at 4.71 as starters Alex Lange and Jared Poche have been up and down.

Walker is LSU’s top pitcher in SEC play at 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

Those with more of a baseball mentality than football mentality should realize that this LSU team has something recent teams have not had – three solid starting pitchers in Lange, Poche and Walker. This is why the Tigers will remain in contention or close to it regardless of how the offense does. The starting pitching is what Bertman likes about this team.

And remember this, LSU has already played two of the best teams in the SEC in Arkansas and Florida and gone 3-3 against them while not playing as well as it can play. Over two of the next three weekends, the Tigers play two SEC teams who are not over .500 in the league. Ole Miss (20-12, 6-6 SEC) will be here Thursday through Saturday. Then the Tigers visit the worst team in the SEC in Alabama (14-18, 2-10) from April 27-29 after a trip to SEC East leading Kentucky (22-11, 8-4) from April 21-23.

Five weeks remain in the SEC. We’re not even halfway there. A lot can happen good and bad and then good and bad again.

This isn’t football.

Sip it like fine bourbon. Don’t guzzle.

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Glenn Guilbeau

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