1997 National Champions to be Honored Saturday Night
LSU celebrates the 20-year anniversary of its 1997 NCAA Championship team during the Tigers’ series versus South Carolina this weekend. Members of the squad will be recognized prior to Saturday’s 7 p.m. CT game in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.
LSU claimed its fourth NCAA title in 1997, as the Tigers overwhelmed Alabama, 13-6, in the College World Series final.
LSU became the first school to win back-to-back national championships since Stanford in 1987-88, and the Tigers joined Southern California (six titles in the 1970s) as the only squads to win four CWS crowns in one decade.
“The ’97 team must be the one of the toughest mental and physical teams to wear the Purple and Gold,” said Doug Thompson, LSU’s winning pitcher in the CWS title game versus Alabama. “No matter the score, I never thought we were out of any game until the last out was made. I honestly believed we could and would win every single game. That team had tremendous confidence in its ability and perhaps more importantly, in each other.”
The Tigers, under the direction of legendary coach Skip Bertman, completed the year with a 57-13 mark, setting the Southeastern Conference record for most single-season victories. The Tigers also established the NCAA record for single-season home runs, as LSU unloaded a remarkable 188 dingers on the path to the national championship. The Tigers homered at least once in each of their 70 games.
Blair Barbier, LSU’s starting second baseman as a true freshman in 1997, said that Bertman and his staff had to build a new team in 1997 after many of the players from the 1996 national championship club had graduated or had begun pro baseball careers.
“To this day, I find it amazing that Coach Bertman, the rest of the staff and the leadership of the team were able to get so many new faces to buy into the system and create the synergy needed to be successful,” Barbier explained. “As our identity as a team continued to form, we realized we had the dominant arms we needed, as well as an offense that could break open a game at any moment or launch a comeback from any deficit. I remember feeling as though we just couldn’t be stopped.”
Shortstop Brandon Larson, who earned first-team all-America honors in 1997 after blasting school-record totals of 40 homers and 118 RBI, said that while he appreciates the Tigers’ significant accomplishments, he especially embraces the camaraderie he shared with his teammates, fans and the entire LSU community.
“For me , looking back, it wasn’t so much the thrill of winning a championship in ’97 or the accolades, or the success personally I had that year,” Larson explained. “For me, it was the teammates, the fans, the coaches, playing for the greatest coach in the history of college baseball, Skip Bertman, and all the other people that came into my life that year is what I treasure the most.
“Many of the friendships that I forged that year have endured to this day, and I am forever grateful for being able to share some wonderful memories with so many awesome people around Baton Rouge and around the country.”
Pitcher Brian Daugherty, co-captain of the ’97 club along with third baseman Trey McClure, was also a member of LSU’s 1993 and 1996 CWS title teams. He said that his experiences as an LSU baseball player greatly impact his life today.
“My LSU experience provided me with a great foundation in work ethic, discipline and expecting excellence in all that I do,” Daugherty said. “As a result of that foundation, I have been blessed in business and had been able to stay right here in Baton Rouge over the past 20 years. I attribute a great deal of my personal success to Coach Bertman and the game of baseball for molding me into the father and provider I am today for my family. Both command discipline and respect, which are values I try to instill in my everyday life.”