For the first time in the NCAA Tournament, the LSU Tigers' backs are against the wall. But rather than shy away from the challenge, they're embracing it and not overreacting to their first lost in more than a month.
"I think we just keep reminding ourselves that right before that loss, we won 17 games in a row, and we're still that team," says Cole Freeman. "Nothing went right for us yesterday. We didn't play our best game by any means. When you play a team of that caliber, that's what happens. You end up losing big."
Still, no one saw the 13-1 result coming, even if it was at the hands of the nation's number one team. But that game was full of weird performances. Not only were the bats quiet, but one of LSU's best arms out of the bullpen, Hunter Newman, had an off game. He was charged with five earned runs. It was a bad night for the bullpen all around.
"Those guys hadn't pitched in a little bit," says Zack Hess. Ironically, it's his emergence as a dominant reliever/closer that's taken the ball out of others' hands.
"I think they were a little bit rusty, but they're going to get another opportunity down the stretch," says Hess. "We have confidence that they're going to get the job done for us."
Simply put, they have to. Because three games into the College World Series with a long way to go if the Tigers want to make the championship series, the bullpen will be vital.
"I know Nick (Bush) will be better the next time," says head coach Paul Mainieri. "We're going to count on him, as well as (Todd) Peterson and some of the other guys. If we're going to get back in this thing and have a chance, we're going to need a lot of guys to step up and be better."
The good news for the Tigers is they have Jared Poche on the mound, and he seems to pitch his best under the most pressure. He'll be tasked with once again shutting down Florida State on Wednesday.
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