Why LSU baseball is feeling good and Tigers coach Jay Johnson is happy about it
BATON ROUGE — There was a slight breeze blowing out to centerfield as the sun began to set behind the third base bleachers.
In the first inning, a train had hooted and rumbled its way past the outfield wall. The serene aesthetic remained. Even when a second locomotive passed by two innings later, it couldn't distract from the calm that only a baseball game can provide.
It was Tuesday night at Alex Box Stadium and No. 19 LSU was hosting Nicholls State. It didn't matter what the score was — LSU won 10-6 and led the whole way — or how low the stakes were — a midweek against a non-SEC opponent — all that mattered was the good feeling of being at the ballpark.
It was an energy that wasn't just emanating from the fans, but from the LSU (30-14) dugout as well.
"We've been feeling really good and super confident," LSU outfielder Josh Pearson said. "We don't really hear the outside noise and stuff like that so whenever we have a bad game or something like that, none of us ever talk about it or think about it."
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Nothing happened on Tuesday that would have dampened the mood. LSU hit three home runs, carrying out a $400 purple and gold boombox — playing "Crunk Ain't Dead" by Duke Deuce — to celebrate with after each blast. Nicholls (24-17) didn't record a hit until the fifth inning and the five runs it scored in the ninth only delayed the inevitable.
"I think everything was positive until the ninth inning," LSU coach Jay Johnson said. "There really wasn't anything negative."
The good vibes for LSU didn't just start Tuesday. It was the continuation of a successful past two weekends in which the Tigers went 5-1 against Missouri and Georgia, with their fifth win coming in walk-off fashion against the Bulldogs on Sunday.
And it wasn't a normal walk-off victory. Georgia, the No. 11 team in the nation at the time, led 3-2 and were three outs away from clinching the series. But Jacob Berry singled and Cade Doughty hit a ball off the left field scoreboard to the delight of over 10,000 screaming fans.
"We're excited about that game on Sunday," Johnson said. "We're like 24-6 at home so in baseball that's pretty good. I think we've been pretty consistent."
The records and polls suggest that LSU has already proven its worth as a quality team.
LSU, at 12-9 in SEC play, sits in a tie for second place in the SEC West with Auburn and Texas A&M. Arkansas holds a two-game advantage in first place over the three teams. LSU is 16th in the nation in RPI and a top 20 team according to Baseball America, USA TODAY and Perfect Game polls.
Those numbers show a good team, not a great one. LSU still lacks starting pitching depth and has committed 12 more errors than any other team in the SEC. It had bumps in the road after getting swept by Arkansas and losing series to Auburn and Texas A&M.
But the Tigers have treated each of those hiccups as if they're just rumbling trains passing by — paying no attention to their ugliness or the setback they may cause.
There is still work to be done before LSU can crown itself when the postseason starts next month. But for now, the team is feeling good and that's all Johnson can ask for at this point.
"I think we're doing fine," Johnson said. "They're just staying with it."
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.