Is it too early to predict gloom for Tiger baseball?

Maybe it is my fault.

Last fall, I told my wife to push our summer vacation back, after July 1. When LSU reached the championship round of the College World Series in 2017, we returned home on June 29.

No sense in risking it, I thought. Just postpone our trip for a few days.

Then Notre Dame weekend happened. The Tigers did more than lose their first opening series in 19 years. The LSU starting pitchers were hammered.

Caleb Gilbert went 4.1 innings, allowing five earned runs.

Zach Hess, returning to the starting rotation after a stellar 2017 in the bullpen, threw only 2.1 innings and allowed a career-high eight earned runs, including six walks.

Todd Peterson was touched up for three runs in four innings of work.

By Sunday night, some Tiger fans were chatting me up. They had already pushed the purple-and-gold panic button.

“We were just outclassed, playing, coaching, everything,” said head coach Paul Mainieri.

Yep, yep and yep.

But, too much was probably expected of a 2018 team that lost 30 wins out of its starting rotation, 19 home runs from Greg Deichmann and a ton of leadership from the double-play combo of shortstop Kramer Robertson and second baseman Cole Freeman.

Mainieri’s teams have found a way to play their best baseball late in the season. Last April, after losing two of three at Kentucky, fans were ready to throw the Tigers to the wolves.

But Mainieri kept the ship steady, and LSU ran off a 17-game winning streak that finally ended with a 13-1 loss to Oregon State in Omaha.

A part of that streak was the outspokenness of Robertson, who blamed himself for not getting the job done. That is the type of leadership that Mainieri must find in the clubhouse.

In the meantime, no one will feel sorry for the Tigers. With the best playing facility, best fans and best tradition in the college game, LSU is expected to win big every year.

Most years, it has happened. The Tigers have been a national seed for six straight years. That isn’t something easily dismissed.

When I left Omaha last June, I promised an old friend when I returned, I would come visit him in nearby Lincoln. After all, it is less than an hour’s drive west. It sounded like a reasonable plan.

Omaha isn’t the same without LSU in June, and a Louisiana summer isn’t the same without purple and gold in southeast Nebraska.

Some things just go together. Ike and Mike. Frick and Frack. LSU and Omaha.

But, opening weekend showed some cracks in the foundation.

“It’s early,” said one Tiger fan.

Let’s hope so.

Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at edaniels@clarionherald.org.

Please follow and like us:

You May Also Like