The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

LSU baseball: A legacy of sustained excellence

74 days ago
SEC Network
Photo: LSU Athletics

LSU (Six titles -- 1991, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2009)

When the talk turns to baseball excellence in the SEC, it has to start with LSU. The Tigers were arguably the best in college baseball in the 1990s while winning four national titles in six years, including their very first in 1991 under Coach Skip Bertman, who amassed 840 victories, won seven SEC titles and made 11 College World Series appearances in his 18 years at the helm.

The program's first title overall and the first of five under Bertman remains special. The team set a CWS average scoring record of 12 runs per game, breaking the one previously set by Notre Dame that had stood the test of time for 34 years. The Tigers' fielding percentage of .993 also was a CWS record.

Four Tigers were named to that CWS All-Tournament team, including pitcher Chad Ogea and hitters Lyle Mouton, Gary Hymel and Johnny Tellechea. After a two-homer, five-RBI performance in the opening CWS win over SEC rival Florida, who only days earlier had beaten LSU to claim that year's SEC Tournament crown, Bertman said of Mouton: "Lyle put on a Cecil Fielder and Jose Canseco type of display."

Years later, after a 13-year career in Major League Baseball, Mouton added: "I know there have been more talented teams at LSU that could have won a championship, but we happened to be the first to accomplish the feat. It definitely was, and still is, an honor to be a member of the first national championship team."

The Tigers followed with three more national championships in the 1990s, then added another to start the next decade before Bertman's retirement as coach following the 2001 season. In his nearly two decades as coach, Bertman's .754 winning percentage in NCAA Tournament of competition is the highest in college baseball history and Southern California's Rod Dedeaux is the only coach with more than Bertman's five national titles.

"He's what Bear Bryant was to football, what John Wooden was to basketball," former LSU player and coach, and current Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco told the Associated Press of Bertman upon Bertman's retirement. "What he's done is truly remarkable."

Bertman then became LSU's athletic director and in 2006, he hired Paul Mainieri to be the 25th baseball coach in school history, with the mandate to win more conference and national championships. Mainieri delivered on the latter in 2009, beating top-seeded Texas 11-4 in the third and deciding game of the '09 CWS. Seven of LSU's runs came with two outs, continuing a season-long trend of delivering clutch hits when they were needed the most.

Four Tigers were named to the 2009 All-Tournament team: led by outfield Jared Mitchel and second baseman DJ LeMahieu, who is now a member of the New York Yankees on the verge of embarking on his 10th season in the major leagues. Mitchell was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after hitting .348 with two homers and seven RBI in the CWS.

"I've dreamt my whole life of having this moment. It's almost surreal," Mainieri said afterward. "My first thoughts are with this wonderful university and with this state and its tenacious people. This championship is for them."