I was pulling for LSU over the weekend just to get the opportunity to write that headline. Oregon State was the prohibitive favorite to win the college baseball national championship after an incredible 56-4 record heading into the weekend. The Beavers lost once in February and three conference games in April meaning they were undefeated in March, May and June when they took the field against LSU on Friday. The Tigers would need to beat Oregon State twice to advance to Championship Series and few, if any, expected that to happen.
The Beavers swept a very good Vanderbilt team in the Super Regional even though Luke Heimlich, considered the best pitcher in college baseball, was suddenly unavailable after a report surfaced that Heimlich had pleaded guilty to felony child molestation as a teenager. The Beavers then proceeded to cruise through their first two games in the College World Series. It was difficult to envision this team losing back to back games after dropping only four all season and none in the last two months. But LSU paired timely hitting with a patchwork pitching rotation and somehow came away with the two game sweep to advance to the final.
Meanwhile, the Florida Gators wanted desperately to win Friday night and advance but TCU had differently plans. The Horned Frogs won the game forcing the Gators to burn their ace starter, Alex Faedo, on Saturday in an elimination game. Florida won Saturday and will face LSU in an all-SEC final but it is unlikely Faedo will be available other then perhaps a short relief appearance on Wednesday if a game three becomes necessary.
Florida’s offense has been sporadic at best but the pitching has been mostly consistent. The Gator game one starter, Brady Singer, had a complete game victory over LSU during the regular season. Senior Russell Reynolds will start for the Tigers. This will be Reynolds first start this season. He pitched in relief, appearing in 14 games this season with an 8.59 ERA. It would seem like the pitching advantage goes to Florida in game one but that may mean nothing tonight. Florida shortstop Dalton Guthrie left Saturday’s game with back spasms and his health will be watched closely by Gator fans and coaches. Florida needs Guthrie both defensively and at the plate.
LSU has one clear advantage going into this series. Experience. The Tigers have won six world series championships while the Gators have failed in two final appearances. On paper these would appear to be two evenly matched teams with the Gators having the advantage on the mound and the Tigers with the advantage at the plate. It should prove to be an interesting championship series.