Everyone loves an underdog, right? Sorry, Cal fans, not this weekend.
The Cal baseball team is in the postseason for the first time in seven years after finishing in third place in the Pac-10. Their reward for their unexpected success is a date with a legend, on his own turf. The Bears are the third seed in a four-team sub-regional in Baton Rouge, home of the Lousiana State Tigers and head coach Skip Bertman, who built the program into what it is today. The Tigers (40-19-1) are the top seed in the sub-regional.
If that isn’t enough, Bertman is retiring at the end of the season, so college baseball fans everywhere are rooting for him to go out with a bang. If the Bears, or any other team for that matter, were to knock Louisiana State out of the tournament, they would be the heavies in the feel-good story of the college baseball season.
Bertman started at LSU in 1983, and the program wasn’t exactly a power in the Southeastern Conference. But Bertman has built a national power, with five national championship, including last year’s. He has also won five national coach of the year awards.
The coach will become an administrator after this season, moving into the athletic director position at LSU.
The highest praise for Bertman comes from his rivals, head coaches at other national powerhouses.
“LSU is as close to a dynasty as anyone can come with today’s scholarship limits and parity. It’s just unbelievable, and it’s all come from Skip Bertman,” Stanford head coach Mark Marquess said.
“It’s two words: Skip Bertman,” Florida State’s Mike Martin said of LSU’s success. “There’s no other way to explain it. Probably nobody could have done what Skip has done in such a short time but Skip himself.”
With that kind of praise, there’s no doubt most fans are rooting for LSU to reach a final College World Series under Bertman.
Luckily for the Bears, they aren’t leading off against the Tigers. That honor goes to No. 4 seed Minnesota. But only one team can make it through the sub-regional, and the road to the CWS probably will go through Bertman’s squad.