There are a couple things you can almost take to the bank during late May in Louisiana: postseason baseball, sweltering temperatures and an even hotter bat wielded by LSU junior first baseman Tyler Moore.
The Baton Rouge native is coming off an MVP performance in the Southeastern Conference tournament, where he led the LSU offensive onslaught with a pair of home runs
This is nothing new for Moore, who has been the monarch overseeing the Kingdom of Clutch since his arrival on campus.
"Tyler has had some awfully big hits," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "Some of the biggest hits that we’ve had in the last couple of years."
LSU was one-pitch away from losing its super regional opener against Stony Brook in Moore's freshman season when Moore launched a game-tying homer in a game LSU eventually won. He also plated what proved to be a game-winner against Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray in last year's super regional opener with a booming double to right field.
There are more. He knocked in the go-ahead run against Alabama in last year's SEC tournament and has a couple big hits in big moments to his credit this year. But the late-inning super regional boomers stand out because of what LSU had on the line: a trip to Omaha.
He doesn't really know how to explain it, but at least he thinks he knows why he's able to come through when his team needs it most. The key, in Moore's estimation, is to never be afraid.
"I’ve always been a guy that embraces pressure," Moore said. "I love coming up when the game is on the line. I don’t know, I’ve always had a knack for it. I don’t know how to explain it, I just love it."
"I think he never is overwhelmed by the situation," Mainieri said. "The people all on their feet in the ninth inning, a tough pitcher — I don’t think any situation ever bothers him like it’s too big for him. That’s part of the reason why he comes through in the clutch a lot."
Moore is a little of what Mainieri called a "streak hitter," which explains why he has not yet been an every day player on one of Mainieri's teams.
"Because he hasn’t been consistent, he’s been typically about a .270 hitter in his career," Mainieri said. "But on the days when you watch him swing the bat well, you think he’s a .330 hitter."
Those hot streaks always seem to come at just the right time, though.
Moore has started a career-high 39 games this season, and has responded with his best home run and RBI totals during his time at LSU. Three of his five big flies and 19 of his 34 RBI have come during LSU's current eight-game win streak.
It's thanks to an approach Moore heard a major league player talking about. It rests on the notion that each at bat is a season in itself, meaning two things: each pitch is important, and take nothing away from your previous at bat, whether it was good or bad.
"Trying to focus on every pitch is the biggest thing," Moore said. "Trying to win every single pitch."
He's been winning quite a few lately, and with the Tigers being five wins away from Omaha, they could use him to keep winning pitches and at bats.
WHO'S ON THE MOUND?
Mainieri declined to name a starter for LSU's first regional game against Southeastern Louisiana, saying he'd need a couple more days to map out scenarios when he'd want to use his ace, Aaron Nola.
The normal route for a top seed is to throw your ace in the second game of the tournament, allowing you to either stave off elimination or punch a ticket to the regional championship game. But No. 2 seed Houston might throw a wrench in those plans.
"Houston likes to run and a left-handed pitcher would help curtail the running game," Mainieri said. "They’ve got seven left-handed hitters in their lineup, obviously a left-handed pitcher would be more attractive there."
Of course, that might not matter when Nola and his 10-1 record and 1.49 ERA are on the mound.
"But you also have what you think is the best pitcher in the country, so do you just forget about all that stuff and just go with that guy in the pivotal game?"
Mainieri said he'd reach his decision by Thursday.
DIFFERENT ATMOSPHERE, SAME MINDSET
It's win or go home for the Tigers.
That doesn't mean LSU is changing what's got it to this point.
"We try to approach every game with an intense attitude," Mainieri said. "Since I’ve been here at LSU, I’ve said this many times, whether it’s a midweek game against McNeese, or a weekend game against Ole Miss or a playoff game in the NCAA tournament, you can’t treat a game any different. You have to do it the same way because that will then allow you to perform well when the pressure is greater.
"If all of a sudden you say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a big game,’ and you start to do things unnaturally, you’re not going to play well. You’re going to play nervous and tight. We try to approach game with the same intensity level."