No matter how big the stage is, especially the second half of the season, the moment’s never gotten to big for LSU junior Mike Papierski. The College World Series is no different.
“I was here freshman year,” says Papierski. “That definitely helped me with my nerves and the awe factor of the stadium.”
Now, it’s all business, and it shows with his calm and collected approach at the plate.
“I took it on, on practice day,” says Papierski. “And once the games started, it was all focus from there.”
Focus may be putting it lightly. Papierski’s been dialed in from the start with three of the Tigers’ seven home runs in their five CWS games. His hitting coach, Micah Gibbs, a former national championship winning catcher for LSU, says it’s how well Papierski plays behind the plate that helps his approach in the batter’s box.
“It’s just taking his defense and him knowing how good of a defensive catcher he is and taking that over to his offense, knowing that he doesn't have to carry our team by any means,” says Gibbs. “We just need him to have quality at-bats. He started that at the beginning of the year, working on quality at-bats. And throughout the year, he’s just gained so much confidence.”
Hearing Papierski talk about it over and over, it seems so simple. The key factor in attacking any pitcher is patience.
“You know, if you miss your pitch with these pitchers, they’re probably going to put you away, or you’re going to ground out,” he says. “”But if you don’t miss your pitch, you usually get one an at-bat. That’s the name of the game. Don’t miss your pitch.”
And as we’ve seen time and time again now, when Papierski does get in those plus counts and sees the fastball he’s waiting on, they don’t stand a chance.
“The leg kick really helped me staying behind the baseball and not lunging and trying to go get it,” says Papierski. “I started righty at the beginning of the season, and then we went back to switch hitting, and that’s when it kind of took off.”
“We knew the pop that he had in the bat,” says Gibbs. “It’s just getting him to be a little bit more consistent. The thing with him is, like I said, quality at-bats.”
It caught everyone’s attention a few weeks ago when head coach Paul Mainieri compared Papierski to LSU legend Blake Dean, but to this day, he’s lived up to the compliment and leads the Tigers with 13 RBI in the NCAA Tournament.
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