Dominant doesn't begin to describe the Tigers over the last month. They ran through the SEC Tournament with a team ERA under 1.20 and 10-run ruled a pair of teams in the process. Needless to say, against a 20-32 Texas Southern team in their regional opener, they were the heavy favorites.
When head coach Paul Mainieri announced that senior Jared Poche would get the start, the intent was clear: Get him an "easy" 38th win to tie the school record. And that's where coach Mainieri says they went wrong.
"There was so much talk of 'how long is he going to go with Jared,'" says Mainieri. "'Is he going to take him out after two innings? Is he going to save him for later?' We got away from just focusing on playing good, solid baseball. It was my fault more than anybody's."
Admittedly, the Tigers were tight. They said it wasn't the pressure of playing for Poche's potentially historic win, but they just weren't themselves.
"That was, really to about the top of the fifth, as bad of baseball as we played," says second baseman Cole Freeman. "You could tell we were tight and making out of the ordinary errors."
It was five errors to be exact. Two of them were charged to senior shortstop Kramer Robertson. But as he should, Robertson immediately erased them from his mind after the win.
"We're advancing whether we won how we did or did everything perfect and played like we did the last month," says Robertson. "It doesn't matter. We escaped. We advanced. We're going to forget about this game and probably never talk about it again."
Freeman said it was Zach Watson's three-run homer in the second inning that 'let us take a deep breath'. But he and the rest of the Tigers should know that they can't wait around for that long ball to loosen them up in the future. The competition only gets tougher from here.
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