Did Murray State have more to play for?

Did Murray State have more to play for?

On a Saturday in mid-February from the press box at Bengal Stadium, I watched the most embarrassing on-the-field performance I’ve ever seen by a college team when Murray State University got pummeled by the Bengals, 26-3. I looked up the box score from that game this morning: the starting pitcher only lasted 2.2 innings after giving up 9 runs on nine hits. Judging from the final score, obviously, the parade of pitchers that followed only perpetuated the ineptitude. In fact, I remember wincing during that game as the score and the embarrassment rose against the Oklahomans. Sure, I always want my team to win, but I also have a streak of humanity: carnage on the field of play, whether literal or figurative, isn’t good for the game.

And that game wasn’t the entire February weekend story for Murray State. Not only did they lose that Saturday debacle, but we swept them in the three game series, winning the other two games by not-so-close scores of 7-3 and 5-1.

Really, had someone predicted to me at the end of that weekend that LSU Eunice would play this team for the national championship at the end of May, I would have laughed at a foolish joke.

But what a difference two and a half months makes! Last Saturday night, the same losing starter from the February fiasco, Brian Horn, pitched a complete game against LSU Eunice in the national championship final, giving up a modest 3 runs on seven hits. Final score: National champion Murray State 4, runners-up LSU Eunice 3.

Gollee. Baseball is a funny game, especially around end-of-season tournament time. Who knows how the fickle finger of fate will wiggle? In this instance, I strongly suspect that the 26-3 humiliation dwelled in those Murray State players’ memories as a searing nightmare since mid-February. Given the chance to avenge that embarrassment on a stage as grandiose as the national championship final, I suspect the sense of honor they felt and defended was superior to the Bengals’ motivation. In gamesmanship, who can account for such intangibles?

My mental anguish was such that I couldn’t post this reflection on the tournament until this morning. Accepting loss is always hard, especially when I believed going into that game that LSU Eunice was clearly superior. And I still believe that in a best-of-seven against Murray State, LSU Eunice would win. But a few days later now at the point where time is beginning to heal all wounds, the disappointment of losing wanes. Bitterness is eased by confessing the rightful consolation that finishing second in the national championship still looks pretty good on the team’s resume. And remembering how embarrassed I felt for Murray State and Brian Horn on their Saturday of disgrace in February, I’m even a little happy for them, too, because there’s an impulse in the human spirit that admires comeback and prompts the sportsman’s gesture, the congratulatory handshake of concession after getting beat fair and square.

So ends 2013 LSU Eunice baseball, a funny game that will no doubt entertain us well in years to come. To that end, we hoist the rally cry for 2014: Geaux, Bengals!