Jones saves his best for last

With LSU's season hanging in the balance during the Baton Rouge Super Regional, junior JaCoby Jones responded by producing his best series of the 2013 season. The Tigers are headed to Omaha and Jones will get to enjoy the experience before he likely joins the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

When LSU junior JaCoby Jones stepped onto the field for the Baton Rouge Super Regional on Friday, Tiger fans everywhere knew that it would likely be his final series as a Bayou Bengal inside the confines of Alex Box Stadium. Prior to the opening game of LSU's series with Oklahoma, Jones was taken in the third round of the MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

As the weekend progressed, it became fairly obvious that the talented player from the small town of Richton, Ms., had the pressure of what his future might look like lifted off of his shoulders. Jones responded by having his most productive two-game span of the 2013 season.

LSU Coach Paul Mainieri said after the Super Regional win that it was obvious that Jones had some pressure lifted off of him when his name was called in the Draft.

"I'll say this because I don't think JaCoby wants to admit it, but I could tell that he had a weight lifted off of him after the Draft," said Mainieri. "He was under so much scrutiny throughout his whole career that the pressure was just enormous, especially with him being from a small town in Mississippi. He played well when he knew what his future would look like."

Against Jonathan Gray, one of the top pitchers in college baseball, Jones provided the spark that LSU had been looking for the entire game when he tripled to right field. He later scored the go-ahead run for the Tigers in their 2-0 victory over Oklahoma. From then on, Jones never looked back.

With the possibility of a trip to Omaha for LSU becoming very realistic, Jones put the Tigers on his back and got things headed in the right direction on Saturday night. Jones finished Saturday night by going 4 – 4 with a two singles, a double, a homerun and two RBI's. For lack of a better term, Jones was unstoppable on Saturday.

The double that Jones hit in the game should have been a single with any average college players, but Jones used his speed and athleticism to take advantage of a relaxed Oklahoma defense and reach second base to give the Tigers even more momentum.

For Jones, Saturday's performance was just another game where he was trying to help his team win.

"I mean my swing is the same," said Jones. "I just feel really comfortable in the bos. I was just trying to do whatever I could to get on base for the team, use my legs and find some holes. I was just trying to do whatever I could to hit the ball hard and get on base. I got four hits tonight and it feels good."

Jones finished the Super Regional by going 5 – 7 and completing the cycle over a two game span. Considering how the middle part of 2013 went for Jones, this is just an incredible turnaround.

At one point in 2013, Jones was hitting .192 and it seemed as though no matter what he did, his hits would not fall. Towards the end of the season when push came to shove, Jones saw hit after hit start to drop and his average rise to just under the .300 mark. After this weekend, Jones is now hitting .299.

Senior Mason Katz shared his thoughts after the game on the increase in productivity in Jones in the back half of the season.

"Earlier in the year, JaCoby was hitting the loudest .192 that I had ever seen," said Katz. "He was hitting balls harder than I could ever hit and they just weren't falling. I told him that they would fall eventually and it seemed like they never would. But, they eventually did and you see what can happen."

Jones may have struggled in the early parts of the 2013 season, and even throughout much of his career, but the LSU second baseman seems to show up when the Tigers need him the most.

With LSU now heading to Omaha, it seems as though Jones has gotten hot at the perfect time to help LSU on their quest for a National Championship, something he has striven for since arriving at LSU following their 2009 title run.

Mainieri brought this into focus a little bit after the game by explaining that it seems as though Jones is getting hot at the perfect time.

"He has been hot lately, especially in this series," said Mainieri. "It sure does seem like he is getting hot at the right time."

The bottom line is that Jones has performed up to expectations when the Tigers needed him the most and it doesn't appear that this trend will be changing anytime in the near future as LSU prepares to travel to Omaha. With Jones likely having played his final game in Alex Box Stadium, he certainly deserves a standing ovation from Tiger fans everywhere.

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