By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
OMAHA, Neb. — For years Kramer Robertson physically ached for the chance to show what he could do on college baseball’s grandest stage.
Needless to say, this isn’t the start he envisioned for his Omaha experience.
LSU’s senior shortstop is 0-for-8 at the plate through two games. His uncharacteristic error Monday night allowed two unearned runs to come home, the start of an Oregon State avalanche that ended in a 13-1 rout.
The Tigers will now have to take the long route through the loser’s bracket if they want to capture a seventh national championship, and that’s not going to happen without their unquestioned leader getting back on track.
“I’m not worried about him,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “But he knows that we count on him so much, and in the big games, he needs to do more.”
For Robertson’s part, the tough couple of games hasn’t discouraged him.
The leadoff hitter pointed to a couple of hard-luck outs Monday as evidence that he’s not far off.
Robertson smashed what would’ve been a leadoff single up in the middle in the first inning had it not hit the pitcher’s foot. Later on he lined out sharply to left field.
“Obviously not what I wanted,” he said of his performance so far. “But last night I actually swung the bat well, I just didn’t have much to show for it … I’ve just got to be better. I’ve got all the confidence in the world and will do my best to help this team win and do my job.”
While not pressing, Robertson said the lineup as a whole needs to get back to doing the things that made it so formidable during the 17-game winning streak.
Step one will be cutting down on the amount of lazy fly balls in the cavernous confines of TD Ameritrade Park. Step two will be getting more leadoff men on, which LSU failed to do until the ninth inning Monday, when the result was no longer in doubt.
“We hit a lot of lazy fly balls last night,” Robertson said. “The first thing you learn when you’re three years old in baseball is how to catch a popup. It’s a lot harder to field it and throw it. We’ve got to get guys on base and put pressure on them.”
It’s not just Robertson who needs to pick it up, either. The top four hitters in the lineup have gone 4-for-27 so far at the College World Series with two RBI and four runs scored, all of which came against Florida State.
Still, Robertson has been the target of most of the criticism from frustrated fans on social media. Between the flashy footwear and high-profile Mom, it comes with the territory to some degree.
That doesn’t mean it sits well with his teammates, in particular his close friend and double-play partner.
“Personally, some of the stuff I’ve seen people saying about Kramer is kind of frustrating,” second baseman Cole Freeman said. “The guy has been there for us all year.”
Of course Robertson isn’t the first star LSU shortstop to endure a nightmarish start at the College World Series. Alex Bregman went 0-for-Omaha and committed a game-deciding error as LSU wen two-and-barbecue back in 2013.
The good news for Robertson on that front is that his team still draws breath despite his inauspicious beginning.
Any of these next three games could be his last in purple and gold, but the ending hasn’t been etched in stone yet.
“Any play can change the outcome of the game, and it can be your last,” Robertson said. “I don’t want this to be my last game as a Tiger and I’m going to do anything in my power to make sure it isn’t.”