Hours before a starting assignment in Alex Box Stadium, LSU sophomore pitcher Kevin Gausman walks into the locker room, making a deliberate effort to do everything the same way he's done it time and time again.
He grabs powdered donuts that have been saved for him, gets a quick drink, says a few hellos to the guys and grabs his clothes. He then sits back to relax for a little bit, depending on the day, he may doze off.
His pregame ritual officially begins 30 minutes prior to game time.
He begins with his socks. Right sock on, right sock off, right sock on, grabs a drink, comes back, takes it off. He repeats this same pattern with his left sock. Then, he puts on his socks, for good this time, and gets dressed. Before going out for warm-ups, he gets stretched out and says a quick prayer.
He eats one powdered donut before taking the mound, something that he's done since the 7th grade. He also eats four donuts in between every inning.
When he runs out to the field, he always hops the line, because growing up, his dad always told him it was bad luck to step on it. Before every inning, his first warm up pitch is preceded by a crow hop over the mound, throwing the ball as hard as he can.
Then, the game begins.
He does this same process every time. Nothing changes.
"It sounds stupid, but I could never do anything without doing it all," said Gausman.
It's consistency, and that same consistency is what the 6-foot-4 pitcher strives for every time he takes the mound this season. Gausman is coming off a freshman season where he recorded 86 strikeouts and 23 walks in 14 games, posting a 3.51 ERA and a 5-6 record. His performance last season earned him two SEC Freshman of the Week nods, as well as the opportunity to play for the USA Collegiate National Team during the summer of 2011.
"Playing for Team USA was awesome. The first time you hear the National Anthem and you look down and USA is on your jersey, it kind of gives you the goosebumps. It's pretty unreal," said Gausman.
He made two starts for the USA Team, firing nine strikeouts and allowing two runs with three walks. Gausman's performance this summer allowed him to put his freshman season behind him and focus on becoming more consistent this year. Despite some impressive outings, he's not satisfied with his first year on the mound.
"It was a below average year for me, it was the first in a while that I had a losing record. It definitely showed me what it takes to be successful," said Gausman. "It's all about how you prepare and the days leading up to your start that determines how ready you're going to be to compete. It really helped me grow as player, teammate, and as a person."
This season, Gausman looks forward to improving his consistency with assistance from pitching coach Alan Dunn. He wants to focus on steady pitches all around, not just a consistent fastball. Gausman believes that Dunn has really helped him in learning how to pitch and preparing for any possible situation.
"He's really smart about setting up the hitters and really just putting you in a situation where you can throw any pitch," said Gausman. "He always preaches to us that the best way to be the best pitcher and help him out in pitch-calling is to get ahead and throw strikes."
Gausman feels there's no better place to do this than in front of over 10,000 fans in Alex Box Stadium. A Colorado native, Gausman wasn't originally accustomed to the atmosphere and has grown to love the tradition surrounding LSU Baseball.
"Spring baseball in Colorado is like the last thing anyone would want to go watch. It's like 30 degrees, wind, it's horrible," said Gausman. "Coming here, I fell in love with the environment, the culture, and the support that we get. There are no fans like this anywhere else in the country."
Gausman has heard numerous stories from fans about LSU greats, such as former pitcher Ben McDonald, and looks forward to upholding the prestige of the program by taking it one game at a time, one pitch at a time and one powdered donut at a time.