Guidry lives Omaha dream

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 27, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / June 27, 2000

LAPLACE – Weylin Guidry went to LSU for the chance to play in the College World Series in Omaha.

When he got that chance earlier this month, he had to prove to himself that he was really there.

“I was shell-shocked,” Guidry, a native of Luling and a Hahnville High School graduate, said. “When we got there, I just had to find somethingwith Omaha on it to prove I was really there. We got in late and the otherguys were saying “Wait till tomorrow. Wait till you see the stadium.’ Icouldn’t sleep. When we turned the corner the next day and I saw the field,chills went through me.”Of course, the LSU players were not going to be happy just getting to play in the College World Series. They were there to capture the program’sfifth national title since 1991. But despite heading into the series on anine-game winning streak, the Tigers were not the pre-tournament favorites.

“In the back of your mind, you wanted to prove you were the team to beat,” Guidry said. “We had nothing to lose and I think that helped us.”LSU opened the tournament with wins over Texas and Southern Cal. A 6-3victory over Florida State sent the Tigers into the championship game against Stanford. Guidry pitched 2/3 innings against the Seminoles to getthe win.

“We knew if we played our game and stayed together as a team, we would come out on top,” Guidry said of the team’s attitude going into the championship game. “Everybody had confidence. Everybody was ready.”LSU’s hopes sunk a bit after Craig Thompson gave the Cardinal a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning with a grand slam. Stanford made it 5-2 with a run inthe sixth. That was when team captain Blair Barbier stepped up, both withhis words and his actions.

Barbier gave the team a pep talk before the bottom of the eighth, then backed up those words with a home run to left field to cut the deficit to two. A walk by Wally Pontiff and an out later, Jeremy Witten tied thegame with a home to left.

“After the top of the eighth, Blair called us up and told us to keep our heads up,” Guidry recalled. “We had a lot more of the game left and if westayed together as a team, we would pull it out. When he went up there andbacked it up with his home run, it sparked the team. When Jeremy tied thegame, we knew we had the game won. We had that confidence going intothe ninth and the top of the lineup up.”After Trey Hodges retired the Cardinal in order in the top of the inning, Ryan Theriot led off the bottom of the ninth with a single and Mike Fontenot followed with a walk. Senior Brad Cresse then drove a single toleft, scoring Theriot with the winning run.

“I just jumped out of the dugout,” Guidry said. “I knew he was going toscore. It was unbelievable. I was just so full of happiness.”Guidry played a big part in getting the Tigers to Omaha. The sophomorebecame the team’s closer during the 2000 season, going 1-2 with seven saves, a 2.68 earned run average and 45 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. Heled the team in saves, ERA, appearances (31) and opponents’ batting average (.207).But like the rest of the team, Guidry had to overcome a rocky period toward the beginning of the season on the road to Omaha.

Guidry went into the season full of confidence. During LSU’s fall schedule,he had a 1.20 ERA and opponents could only bat .170 against him. He hadoriginally wanted to be a starter but the Tiger coaches went up to him and asked if he wanted to be the team’s closer.

“I began to think it was a great job for me,” Guidry said. “I began to pitchlike a closer and threw the ball hard for two innings. I was doing great. Myconfidence was up and I was ready to pitch. The beginning of the yearshowed that. I had six appearances in which I threw well.”Guidry came in against Arizona State, a perennially top-10 ranked team, in the fifth game of the season and pitched three scoreless innings to close out an 8-4 win. The next day, he retired four straight batters to preserve a6-5 victory. That victory moved the Tigers to a 6-0 start. But then bothGuidry and LSU hit a wall.

Five straight losses followed, including a sweep at home to Houston.

Guidry took both of his losses during that streak, the first coming against McNeese in which he allowed five runs in three innings. Two games later,Guidry allowed three runs against Houston.

“That week was horrible,” Guidry said. “I gave up four home runs and lostall confidence in myself. I was just going out there with the attitude’Please don’t hit me’ instead of ‘You’re not going to hit me.’ I didn’t knowhow to pick myself up.”The turning point came a couple of weeks later after Guidry gave up three runs in 2/3 innings in a win over Southern and was sat down for the Arkansas series.

“It gave me time to think about what I wanted to do,” Guidry said. “I puttime in the bullpen and got my confidence back. Coach (Dan) Canevari setup a day for me and fixed things. We did a lot of drills and he got me backon track.”The team had already started getting back on track. After the five-gamelosing streak, the coaches told the team not to panic.

“They told us that we needed to put it all together and once we did, it would be something special,” Guidry said.

The Tigers went on to win five of the next six games before losing two- of-three to Georgia in the first week of Southeastern Conference play.

Again LSU, bounced back, winning 18 of the next 20. The Tigers would wintwo-of-three from Alabama in the final weekend to capture the SEC Western Division.

LSU defeated Georgia and beat Alabama twice in the SEC Tournament to set up a championship game matchup with Florida. With LSU clinging to a7-6 advantage in the sixth inning and Florida threatening with runners on first and second with none out, LSU head coach Skip Bertman brought in Guidry.

The first batter Guidry faced was Tim Olson, the Gators’ hottest hitter.

Guidry got Olson to hit into a double play, then struck out Peter Nystrom to get out of the jam. Guidry then struck out three of the four batters hefaced in the seventh. Brian Tallet came in in the eighth to preserve the 9-6 win.

“That was a big confidence booster for me,” Guidry said.

Guidry would get another one the following week in the NCAA Regional at Baton Rouge. LSU advanced to the title game against Louisiana-Monroe andtook a 5-3 lead into the ninth. With one out and one on, Guidry came in andstruck out Joe Jenson and got Scott Cadwallader to ground into a force out at second to preserve the victory.

“That was my first experience in the postseason saving a game,” Guidry said. “After I threw that last pitch, it was a great feeling. To finally pitchin a regional at LSU and being the last pitcher to close it out.”That victory advanced LSU to the Super Regionals against UCLA at Alex Box Stadium. LSU won the first game in the best of three series andgrabbed a 12-7 lead heading into the eighth inning of the second game.

After walking the first batter he faced to drive in a run, Guidry got the next batter to end the inning. In the ninth, Guidry sandwiched twostrikeouts around a pop-up to send the Tigers to Omaha. He ended up underone of the Tigers’ traditional dogpiles after the final pitch.

“Pitching that last inning, I wanted to strike everybody out,” Guidry said.

“It was unbelievable. My body went numb and I knew we were going toOmaha. And then I just got hit.”Guidry will soon leave for the Cape Cod League to begin to get ready for next season. And despite losing the bulk of the starters, including Barbier,Witten and all-Americans Cresse and Brad Hawpe, Guidry thinks the Tigers will be in good shape next year.

“I think it looks pretty good,” Guidry said. “We have our rings and we knowwhat it takes to get them. I think everybody knows what it takes to get to Omaha and I think it will help out a lot.”

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