by Carl DuboisJune 27, 2009 12:04 AM
The Web site Rivals.com named Paul Mainieri its Coach of the Year after the 2008 baseball season. Collegiate Baseball named Mainieri its 2009 Coach of the Year before you went to bed Friday night.
Let's take a look at some of what happened between those two awards.
LSU catcher Micah Gibbs left the country with Team USA, which won all 24 games on its way to a gold medal at the World Championships last summer.
Think about the run Gibbs experienced. He played for the winning team throughout LSU's 23-game winning streak, had a 3-3 record to end the season, then was an important contributor on the 24-0 team in international play.
That's a 50-3 record to end a full spring and summer of organized baseball.
Then he played for an LSU team that won the national championship with a 56-17 record.
Since that infamous tie with Georgia in April 2008? LSU is 82-20.
The summer of 2008 wasn't all good news. The draft took Jared Bradford, Matt Clark, Michael Hollander, Blake Martin and Ryan Verdugo. North Carolina sent LSU home from Omaha. Central Florida took coaches Terry Rooney and Cliff Godwin from the Tigers.
Mainieri added David Grewe, who left his job as Michigan State head coach. Mainieri promoted Javi Sanchez and Will Davis to more prominent roles and added 2008 senior Kyle Beerbohm as a student assistant coach.
The Tigers lost players to transfers and new roster limitations.
Louis Coleman let the Major League Baseball signing deadline pass in August and returned to school for his senior year. A few weeks later he was the losing pitcher in the third and deciding game of the best-of-three Purple-Gold World Series,
LSU lost pitcher Jordan Brown to injuries in January.
The SEC coaches picked the Tigers to win the conference. LSU was ranked No. 1 in Collegiate Baseball and USA Today/ESPN preseason polls.
LSU set an attendance record on opening night of the new Alex Box Stadium. The record would be broken, again and again.
The Tigers opened the ballpark and the season with a nine-game winning streak.
Illinois won a series at LSU in March. The Tigers lost 10-9 to UL-Lafayette. Less than a week later, they barely beat Northwestern State, 2-1.
LSU lost 8-7 at Tulane. At home in April, the Tigers lost 3-1 to -- wait for it -- Nicholls State.
After winning their first five SEC series, the Tigers lost a home series to Tennessee, ending it with LSU's only losing streak of the season: two games.
Let me repeat that. The longest losing streak of the 73-game season was two games, and it happened once.
(It was also the only losing streak of that 82-20 run the Tigers are currently on dating to April 2008.) That's remarkable. It's almost unbelievable.
LSU didn't lose another SEC series. The Tigers won all five road series in the SEC.
After LSU didn't turn a 6-4-3 double play in the first 40 games of the season, Mainieri made a good team stronger by putting freshman Austin Nola at shortstop, moving D.J. LeMahieu to second base and Ryan Schimpf to left field (and first base at times).
The Tigers won 28 of their next 33 games.
During that run, which ended only when the season did, they won the better half of a share of the SEC championship with Ole Miss by virtue of a series victory against the Rebels during the regular season.
Coleman was voted SEC Pitcher of the Year. Matty Ott was voted SEC Co-Freshman of the Year on his way to the LSU record for saves in a season. Mainieri was voted SEC Coach of the Year.
LSU lost the SEC tournament opener. LSU won the SEC tournament five games later.
That five-game winning streak turned into a 14-game streak that lasted until Tuesday, when Texas tied the best-of-three College World Series championship series with LSU at one game apiece.
The Tigers won the school's sixth baseball national championship the next night. Jared Mitchell was voted Most Outstanding Player of the CWS.
Mainieri gave his family its second national championship. His father led Miami-Dade to the 1964 title at the Junior College World Series.
LSU senior outfielder Nicholas Pontiff gave his family a second national championship, joining the one his late brother Wally won with the Tigers in 2000.
Nick Pontiff was one of 10 Tigers who played in Omaha this week to end in style a championship quest that began under Smoke Laval and his staff, who recruited or coached them. The rest: Paul Bertuccini, Ryan Byrd, Nolan Cain, Coleman, Blake Dean, Buzzy Haydel, Chris McGhee, Sean Ochinko and Ryan Schimpf.
The rest were recruited by Mainieri and his assistants, by Les Miles and the football program, by the LSU mystique, by the hold of purple and gold upon Louisiana boys who grow up dreaming of winning it all in Omaha -- a dynamic that began under Skip Bertman and continued through the Laval years and the three years Mainieri has been in charge of the program.
Gibbs grew up near Austin, Texas, but learned to love LSU before becoming a teenager. He went to an LSU baseball camp in 1998 and fell hook, line and sinker when the Tigers won the 2000 national championship. Nine years later he helped LSU win another.
Mainieri took what he inherited, endured a 2007 season with no postseason play, parted ways with some players, promised he would bring in players who would give the program a chance to have success -- and turned the mix of old and new into a 2008 College World Series team.
Then he molded and tweaked a 2009 national championship team.
Mainieri takes defeat hard. You can see it in his face. It stings him. It burns him. It hurts him. In the moment, he has no poker face.
Sometimes he coaches with his heart. It worked some magic his first two years at LSU. This year he coached more with his head, especially in Omaha, and because he had a mixture of players best suited for that approach, the Tigers shifted gears and turned a good team into a great team.
Don't think it didn't tug on his heartstrings. He feels all of the emotions of winning too.
This year he felt them 56 times, most recently in a game that won LSU its first national championship since 2000.
It's three years to the day since Bertman formally offered Mainieri the job in person, on campus, and Mainieri accepted. Sunday will mark exactly three years since Bertman introduced Mainieri as LSU's baseball coach at a news conference in Baton Rouge.
During his introductory remarks, Mainieri said, "The goal is to return LSU to the pinnacle position in college baseball."
Carl Dubois began covering LSU sports on a regular basis in 1999. He will take Sunday off from what became a busy freelance schedule the past few weeks, so feel free to post your favorite memories of the 2009 season below and share them with other fans. There are plenty left to choose from, and some of them you and you alone know well enough to tell. They're yours. You can contact Carl by writing carl1061 'at' gmail.com.
Share: Page 1 of 2 Page 1 of 2