BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - LSU senior shortstop Kramer Robertson doesn't deny that this team feels dominant right now. It's hard not to when they've won 14 consecutive games.
But to be dominant, it takes hitters one through nine producing in big situations. And it also takes relentless and consistent starting pitching with a reliable bullpen.
We saw all of the above from the Tigers during the Baton Rouge Regional, and Eric Walker's eight innings of shutout baseball put the icing on the cake.
"What Eric Walker did today was show everybody, if they had any doubt at all about how ready he is to pitch in big games against top competition, what he's capable of doing," said LSU Head Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri. "When we recruited him, this is what we expected him to be able to do."
Walker struck out a career-high eight batters en route to his third championship win of the season. That's right. He won at Mississippi State for the SEC regular season title, in Hoover for the SEC Tournament title, and most recently the regional championship game in Baton Rouge.
"Pitching for a championship really fires me up," says Walker. "I love that situation. I feel like I tend to thrive in pressure. That's something that I like to think about myself. It's not always true, but I like to think it. I try and go out and do my best."
And even when Walker sputtered a bit in the ninth inning, Zack Hess was there to pick him up. The freshman right-hander came out of the pen and struck out three of four batters faced to seal the victory for LSU.
It's all part of a monster weekend for Tiger freshmen all over the roster. From Zach Watson's four home runs against Texas Southern and Southeastern to key RBI from Josh Smith and Jake Slaughter, LSU's first-year players proved how much they've grown up this season.
"It's been unbelievable," says junior right fielder Greg Deichmann. "You can't overlook Watson's performance. He's on fire right now. He was on fire throughout this weekend. Hess had two great outings this weekend. Josh Smith has been playing great for us all year at third. You can't really call them freshman anymore. They've had so many opportunities and played so much throughout the year, it feels like they've been here for two or three years now."
The stakes only get bigger from here with next week's Super Regional. So their freshmen stars will need to keep playing at a high level on the big stage.
Up next will either be Mississippi State or Southern Miss out of the Hattiesburg regional that is scheduled to conclude on Monday.