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OMAHA, Nebraska – Too often just after a team wins a championship, talk turns to “Dynasty.”
It happened after LSU beat Florida 18-4 on Monday night to capture the college baseball national title – its first since 2009 and seventh all-time for second only to USC with 12.
Careful. Sometimes disasters follow national titles quicker than dynasties.
LSU won the national championship in football in 2019 at 15-0, then went directly south with 5-5 and 6-7 seasons for one of the most dramatic spirals in college football history. Coach Ed Orgeron was fired and off-field controversies swirled for years. After LSU won it all in football in 2007 at 12-2, the Tigers dipped to 8-5 and 3-5 in the SEC for one of the worst follows to a title … until 2019.
Even the New England Patriots and coach Bill Belichick dropped to 9-7 and out of the playoffs in the 2002 season right after winning Super Bowl XXXVI. The Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, then lost in the first round to 7-9 Seattle the next season in 2010.
Talented, veteran Louisiana sportswriter Kevin Foote calls it “The Medicine Year.” You win it all. Then, you take your medicine.
In Mississippi right now, they’re taking oxycodone.
Mississippi State won its first college baseball national title in 2021. The Bulldogs returned to the pound in 2022 at 26-30 and 9-21 for 14th place out of 14 SEC teams. They “improved” to 27-26 in 2023, but finished 9-21 in the league again for 13th.
Ole Miss won its first national championship in 2022. The Rebels surrendered in 2023 at 25-29 and 6-24 – its worst mark in the SEC since 1997.
What’s next for LSU?
Believe me, Mississippi State and Ole Miss did not see their downfalls coming, though those two programs in the three major sports – football, men’s basketball and baseball – have always tended to have their success here and there. Not as consistently as say Alabama, Georgia, Florida and LSU.
The LSU baseball program historically has not had similar problems rebounding. After the previous six national crowns, it repeated as national champion once, returned to Omaha three times and got to the NCAA postseason every time.
Do not look for disaster after this latest national championship. LSU has significantly more recruiting resources historically than Ole Miss and Mississippi State and significantly more Name, Image & Likeness largesse.
LSU Has Potential To Be National Champions Again And Again
And LSU coach Jay Johnson basically lives in the NCAA Transfer Portal. He snatched one of the most powerful hitters in college baseball after the 2022 season from North Carolina State in Tommy “Tanks” White. The sophomore put LSU in the national championship series against Florida with a walk-off home run against No. 1 Wake Forest. White went 4-for-7 Monday with three RBIs to finish with 105 for first in the nation.
Johnson got pitcher Thatcher Hurd from UCLA after his freshman season in 2022, too. Hurd was the No. 9 pitcher in the country when he went to UCLA. He limited Florida to two runs on two hits with seven strikeouts for the win Monday to go to 8-3 on the season.
Oh, and Johnson got the 2023 Major League Baseball Draft (July 9) projected first pick from Air Force after last season. That would be 6-6 right-hander Paul Skenes (13-2, 1.69 ERA). He just broke the 34-year-old SEC strikeout record of 202 last week and has 209 to lead the nation.
Johnson adroitly recruited to the cameras moments after his team beat Wake Forest last Thursday to reach this final series. He didn’t even wait for a question during the postgame press conference.
“And, lastly, look to my left,” he said in his opening statement. “If you’re one of the best players in the transfer portal, there’s only one place to come. Last summer I spent a lot of time with these young men.”
To his left was Skenes. The other two players with him at the podium were the aforementioned White and Hurd. Former LSU five-time national champion baseball coach Skip Bertman liked to talk about “timely hitting.” You just witnessed “timely recruiting.”
“And I think they would tell you they made the right choice,” Johnson said. “I’d want to join forces with them if they’re out there.”
Dynasty Time For LSU?
He might as well have shouted out his cell number or held up his business card for the cameras.
LSU will lose Skenes and fellow junior first-or-second pick Dylan Crews to the draft. Junior star first baseman Tre Morgan will also likely leave for pro ball as will junior pitcher Ty Floyd and several others. But Johnson will have a new mega team soon. Bet on it.
He is recently married, but he really has no other life. He has said that.
“This program is so lucky to have Jay Johnson,” fifth-year senior Cade Beloso said Monday night. “They’re going to have to build a new Intimidator for what he’s about to do.”
The Intimidator is a huge sign over right field in Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge that lists all six national championships – 1991, ’93, ’96, ’97, 2000 and 2009. Another is on the way.
“He’s coming,” Beloso said. “He’s not stopping. I can promise you that.”
Johnson is just 46, and he has been a major college head coach only since 2016. He took Arizona to a runner-up finish here that season and got Arizona to Omaha again in 2021 before coming to LSU.
Bertman was 45 when he got the LSU job in 1983. He was already 53 before he won the first of five in 1991. He retired from coaching in 2001 at 63. So, Johnson’s got quite the head start.
And Bertman, 85 but with the memory of an elephant, is on his speed dial.
“The G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time) himself,” Johnson said. “Skip Bertman, we’re either in person or on the phone three to four times a week.”
Oh, and Johnson – the son of a football coach – has another favorite coach? Nick Saban.
It’s not a reach to say Johnson could win three or four more by the time he’s 63.