The Better Team Won – From the Bird’s Nest
One of the great things about the Super-Regional format in baseball is everyone has a chance.
You don’t have to have a better team. You just have to be better for a weekend.
Ask Fresno State, who was better than Arizona State for a weekend in 2008. Ask Louisiana, who was better than South Carolina for a weekend in 2000. Ask Southern Miss, who was better than Florida for a weekend in 2009.
Thirty innings of baseball were played at Alex Box Stadium over the weekend and, when all was said and done, the better team over the weekend won.
But, I’m not so sure they weren’t the better team, period.
Never mind what league Stony Brook plays in. Never mind their strength of schedule. Never mind where they are located. Never mind their baseball budget. Never mind their crowd support during the season. Never mind how long they’ve been in Division I.
Because none of that mattered over the weekend.
Crunch the numbers. Sometimes numbers don’t tell the story. In this case, they do.
Stony Brook outhit LSU 35-15 in the three games.
LSU only managed nine hits and two earned runs in 25 innings against Stony Brook starting pitching.
LSU did not get back to back hits in the series until the seventh inning of game three when Alex Edward and Tyler Hanover did it.
LSU never scored more than one run in an inning all weekend.
Stony Brook never had an at-bat all weekend when they were trailing.
Over the weekend, Stony Brook wasn’t better….they were decidedly better.
Stony Brook didn’t beat LSU. They dominated LSU. And, they pretty much did it in every facet of the game.
Stony Brook has a veteran team; a team didn’t get intimidated by Alex Box Stadium or the fans of LSU. In fact, they embraced the atmosphere, something so many schools have been unable to do over the last twenty-five years.
Fans who watched the series were undoubtedly impressed with Stony Brook’s hitting. And, rightfully so. But in the first two games, Stony Brook only scored seven runs in 20 at-bats. LSU won one of those games.
No, the issue wasn’t Stony Brook’s ability to hit. It was LSU’s inability to do the same.
While LSU won the regular-season Southeastern Conference championship, they didn’t exactly go out and overpower people. They won with their pitching, their defense and some timely hits. LSU was 19-11 in SEC play. They scored four runs or less 18 times and were 8-10 in those games.
That’s right. In 60 percent of their SEC games, LSU was held to four runs or less.
Overall, the Tigers were 9-15 in games where they were out-hit.
In the postseason, they were held to four runs or less five times in nine games. They won only one of those games, against ULM in the Baton Rouge regional.
Those scoring woes were overshadowed by LSU’s pitching and outstanding defense. Offensively, LSU relied on the incredible season of Raph Rhymes, the power of Mason Katz and some timely hits by the others to get to the postseason.
When Rhymes disappeared in the final six games, so did LSU. They just weren’t good enough offensively to get it done.
LSU actually managed to win five times during the season when they were held to three runs or less. But they failed to score more than three runs in a game 16 times during the season. That’s not the kind of numbers champions usually have.
Maybe we should have seen this coming.
Stony Brook heads to Omaha now, where they’ll face UCLA in their opening game. Don’t expect the Seawolves to be overwhelmed by their opponent or the atmosphere. Pressure? That’s something they put on the other team.
No…LSU fans, fans of the SEC and fans of college baseball in the South need to understand what they saw over the weekend.
They saw the better team; the more complete team, win.