Bayou Bengal Briefing: A fierce SEC rivalry takes championship stage
Welcome to the Bayou Bengal Briefing, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering LSU football with beat writer Alex Hickey. Today we remind you to hate Florida, introduce you to Russell Reynolds, talk about Michael Papierski making history and discuss a good weekend for LSU football recruiting.
LSU-Florida rivalry takes championship stage
First thing’s first: no two SEC schools are ever topping Auburn and Alabama for rivalry intensity. You just can’t beat generations of in-state hate when it comes to that sort of thing.
But beyond the Iron Bowl, the best thing going in the SEC right now is the increasingly hostile rivalry between LSU and Florida. So it is delightful to see the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., come down to a good, old-fashioned grudge match between the Tigers and Gators.
This one is more heated than most cross-divisional matchups.
For starters, Florida and LSU have a protected game every football season. There is also a chest-thumping rivalry between the secondaries of both teams as each program insists on using the nickname “DBU” for producing the best defensive backs.
But the animus kicked up multiple notches last fall in the squabble that broke out in the effort to move/reschedule their game that was postponed due to Hurricane Matthew.
The war of words did not stop there.
This year’s game was moved from Gainesville to Baton Rouge, and LSU running back Leonard Fournette got into an altercation with a Florida assistant coach during warmups. After the Gators won, coach Jim McElwain woofed that LSU “got what it deserved.”
And despite being the clear winner on every level — Florida won the game and gets to host the next two — the Gators can’t let go of the fact last year’s game was moved to Baton Rouge.
When LSU had to move its spring game to the indoor facility due to a lightning storm, Florida football’s official Twitter account had the pettiness and immaturity to sarcastically tweet “Safety First” in response.
With that animosity in the air between fan bases, the atmosphere at TD Ameritrade Park figures to be amped up even by the standards of a championship series.
Provided, of course, that Florida fans show up to Omaha in far greater numbers than they do at their own ballpark.
LSU baseball: Who is Russell Reynolds?
When the Tigers lost freshman right-handed pitcher Eric Walker for the season last week, they had to piece together the pitching rotation MacGyver-style.
Game 1 against Florida will be the ultimate case of trying to make an explosive out of duct tape, baking soda and a paper clip as little-used senior RHP Russell Reynolds gets the ball. Reynolds is a necessary stop-gap before Jared Poché and Alex Lange are properly rested for Game 2 Tuesday and Game 3, if necessary, on Wednesday.
Reynolds has pitched just 14 2/3 innings this season and the start will be his first since 2015. The fifth-year senior had a medical redshirt in 2014 due to a torn labrum.
Reynolds is noteworthy for being a member of the 2014 SEC Community Service Team — and for his keen fashion sense.
This is the look of a man who must have known he would start a game when he left for Omaha. pic.twitter.com/yE2gFKx67X
— Alex Hickey (@bigahickey) June 25, 2017
Be like Mike (Papierski)
Switch-hitting LSU catcher Michael Papierski made some history Saturday, becoming the first player in the College World Series to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game.
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 25, 2017
Who could have seen this coming from Papierski? Well, SEC Country did. We told you during Super Regionals that his rise from batting below .200 early in the season mirrored LSU’s transformation into a national championship contender.
And if you don’t believe us, ask Ethan Pocic. The former LSU guard and current Seattle Seahawks rookie was a high school football teammate of Papierski’s in Lemont, Ill. Pocic was pretty mad when Papierski quit football to focus on baseball, but that tune has changed as time has gone by.
LSU baseball: Still very popular
Paul Mainieri spoke to a packed house in Omaha on Sunday night for the LSU baseball pep rally:
— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) June 26, 2017
We can confirm their are still a few people left on the ground in Baton Rouge, but their numbers are decreasing by the hour. Junior RB Derrius Guice will be among the thousands of LSU fans descending upon Omaha for the championship series.
Omaha I'm on my way!! Let's go @LSUbaseball 💪🏾🔥
— 5⃣ (@DhaSickest) June 26, 2017
LSU football: A very elite weekend
The Tigers hosted their elite camp for high schoolers this weekend.
Want to see who was there? Check out this photo gallery from our Sam Spiegelman.
Want to know who committed to LSU? We’ve got you covered there, too.
–Tight end Zach Sheffer
–Athlete Tae Provens
–Running back Chris Curry
LSU football: Danny Etling is throwing again
Danny Boy, the arm is throwin’.
In case you missed it, doctors cleared LSU quarterback Danny Etling to throw again last week. After the spring game, Etling underwent surgery to repair nerve issues in his lower back. He told reporters at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., on Friday that he still isn’t 100 percent recovered from the surgery, but that he should be by the time August camp rolls around.
Today in made-up holidays
It’s my second (and final) week taking over the Bayou Bengal Briefing while Nick Suss covers the CWS in Omaha, but I felt it important to keep ending each column with a made-up holiday just as he does.
Per the National Day Calendar, June 26 is National Chocolate Pudding Day.
If you find chocolate pudding hoarded in your fridge, may you be as excited as Dustin in “Stranger Things.”
But try to make sure you don’t get as worked up as Chris Farley in “Black Sheep.”
Either way, a cup of chocolate pudding will go down a lot smoother if it’s celebrating a win over the Gators.
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