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The Road Ends With a National Championship, But The Party Never Ends For LSU

 Leif Skodnick  |    Jun 27th, 2023 1:10am EDT

The LSU Tigers celebrate after winning the NCAA College World Series baseball finals against the Florida Gators at Charles Schwab Field on June 26, 2023 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network

OMAHA, Neb. – The party began for Louisiana State fans long before the Tigers won game three of the College World Series final 18-4 over Florida.

If you’ve ever been to Baton Rouge, or, for that matter, anywhere else that LSU happens to be playing in almost any sport, you know that the party never really ends. 

And if you didn’t know, here’s an example.

Across the street from Charles Schwab Field in Omaha is Rocco’s Pizza and Cantina, the bar and pizza joint that is the home of the now-infamous College World Series Jell-O Shot Challenge.

Last season, when Ole Miss (finally) won a College World Series title, their fans put 18,777 Jell-O Shots, priced at $5 each, with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit food banks in Omaha and the eight locales of the participating schools.

Now, Ole Miss fans and LSU fans have something of a rivalry, and the atmospheres when they party are polar opposites. Ole Miss fans, generally, get overdressed to have a polite tailgate with upscale food, while LSU fans are wearing purple and gold shirts, grilling whatever meat is available, playing music a little too loud and having a few oat sodas.

Need an example? LSU designated hitter Cade Beloso’s dad Rodney, clad in a purple t-shirt, was grilling a 25-pound alligator in the parking lot before Sunday’s game. Ever eaten an alligator? It tastes like chicken. Really.

So when they got to Omaha and saw the sign in Rocco’s, LSU fans took it as a dare, and the next thing you knew, Todd Graves, the CEO of Raising Cane’s, a chain of chicken finger joints that now stretches coast-to-coast, bought $30,000 worth of Jell-O Shots at Rocco’s to ensure LSU had the record.

And then, in a testament to both the generosity of Tiger fans, their competitive nature, and their love of a good time, they kept going. At 5:37 p.m. Monday, the Jell-O Shot Challenge twitter account shared a photo of the latest tally, with LSU fans having bought an astonishing 64,808 congealed cocktails, a large portion of which were sold today. It seems that Gordon McKinnan, a personal injury attorney who practices across Louisiana, bought 8,888 of them to top Graves.

“Oh yes,” one LSU fan texted a reporter for World Baseball Network on Monday afternoon. “They’ve more than doubled the rest of the field and tripled the [expletive referring to Ole Miss fans] ‘record’ from last year.” 

Florida’s total 23 minutes before game time? Three thousand, nine hundred and ninety-two.

Show LSU fans where the bar is, and they’ll leap over it every dang time.

“I’ve had a Super Regional game relatively similar to this, and then we turn the score around on the team in game three,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson presciently said following Sunday’s loss. “Look at the two teams that are playing. They’re the two best teams in college baseball. And I won’t give it any thought.”

Clearly, he didn’t, and neither did his team, which turned the tables on Florida, giving them a drubbing in return on Monday, with a lot of lagniappe.

In addition to winning the Jell-O Shot Challenge and the party in Omaha, LSU won Monday’s game three 18-4 and an NCAA Championship in baseball, the school’s seventh, a day after receiving a historic 24-4 drubbing.

Clairvoyance may be among Johnson’s powers. On Sunday, shortstop Jordan Peterson committed two errors at shortstop, and on Monday morning, the head coach brought the shortstop into his hotel room to chat.

“I go, like, ‘hey man, we’re winning the national championship tonight and you’re gonna do something special. But is there anything I can do to help you get to that point tonight?’ Johnson said following the game. ‘And he looked me in the eye and said, ‘I’m good.’ And I saw tonight happen before it happened.”

Thompson responded 2-for-6 with a pair of RBI singles and a sacrifice fly.

Johnson said that this national championship will mean more because of who the Tigers beat to get to the top.

“We had a tall order, when you’re looking at Drew Bean and Tennessee, and then two games against Wake Forest and Rhett Lowder,” Johnson said. “This league’s a beast. And so to beat Kentucky in a Super Regional, to beat Tennessee twice here, to beat Florida to win a national championship, that’s really meaningful.”

Sure, the game was over long before LSU’s Gavin Guidry struck out Florida’s Colby Halter to put the game to its merciful end, with gold confetti being sprayed from a machine along the third base line as the Tigers rushed the field, the mass of purple and gold shirts in the stands erupted joyously.

By the time the stage was set up on the field for the trophy presentations, the half-full stands were still full of purple-and-gold. The other half had probably gone to Rocco’s to buy more Jell-O shots.

A few were still outside as the Tigers gathered around The Road To Omaha statue that stands outside Charles Schwab Field, unlit cigars in their mouths, for a team photo, a snapshot that will last a lifetime.

Next year, college baseball will start anew three days after Fat Tuesday, the culmination of the Mardi Gras season.

Laissez le bon temps rouler.

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Leif Skodnick