There are few tasks more intimidating than assembling a jigsaw puzzle.
Hundreds of jagged pieces are spread across a table waiting to be assembled in their respective places. It’s not a pastime for the faint of heart, and something only the boldest daredevils should seek out. To make matters more chaotic, the brave few that attempt to solve puzzles for fun must do so without instructions, only using the illustration on the front of the box as a guide.
This provides an interesting challenge because puzzle enthusiasts know that all the pieces they need are in front of them, and they know what the finished product should look like. The trick lies in the time-consuming job of organizing the pieces in their proper fashion.
Similarly, LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri has a puzzle-like challenge at this point in the season. It also happens to be the time in the course of a baseball season where fans begin to hit the panic button.
The Tigers previously held No. 2 rankings in the D1 Baseball and Baseball America polls, and a No. 1 ranking in the Perfect Game poll. However, after a disappointing weekend in which LSU was swept by No. 19 Texas, the Tigers have plummeted to No. 13, No. 10 and No. 14, respectively, in those same polls.
While I believe it’s far too early in the season to pay close attention to any polls, fans are certainly disgruntled to see a group that many believed to be one of the best teams in the country struggle so mightily on the road against the first quality opponent on the schedule.
I would caution the fans and pundits to not write this team off so quickly though. LSU had a dismal weekend at the plate going 16-for-99 (.162 average) and was equally woeful on the mound where the pitching staff combined to issue 22 walks in the series.
That’s definitely a bad weekend, but chances are high that the Tigers won’t be that bad moving forward. After all, this is still the same team that many ranked among the best in the country. The only changes between the beginning of the season and now are the team’s record and rank.
The puzzle pieces for another trip to the College World Series are still in front of Mainieri, and he certainly knows how to put the puzzle together.
Mainieri has taken five Tiger teams to the College World Series, held annually in June, finishing as the champion in 2009 and the runner-up in 2017.
We’re still a long way from those summer months though, giving Mainieri plenty of time to find the right lineup and pitching rotation.
Patience is key in the sport of baseball, and, while I realize patience isn’t necessarily a virtue associated with fans, I’m confident that this LSU team will hit its stride when the Southeastern Conference tournament begins at the end
Until then, fans will have to enjoy the roller coaster ride that nearly every baseball season creates. The Tigers will certainly experience a few more low points in the next several months, but it’s the lows in March and April that make the highs of May and June so worthwhile.