Two longtime SEC rivals meet tonight in Omaha and the winner of the best of three series will come away as the national champion in college baseball. Game 1 is Monday night as LSU seeks it’s 7th national title in program history, while Florida would win their first College World Series championship.
“Both teams have great players, great pitchers and great defense,” said LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson. “Both teams are here for a reason and it’s going to be about who goes out there and gets the job done.”
LSU and Florida met earlier this season and the Gators took two of three from the Tigers. Florida nearly swept LSU, but the Tigers hit three two-run homers in the 8th inning in the series finale to salvage a win in the three-game set.
“I feel like both teams have a lot of information on each other, so I feel like it weighs out in the long run … That series has no bearing on this series and there’s a lot more at stake for this one,” said Florida’s top power hitter JJ Schwarz.
Michael Papierski proves he has all kinds of power by launching two home runs to contribute to LSU’s lead over Oregon State.
The Bayou Bengals have been relying on the home run ball during their time in Omaha. They’ve hit seven of them in five games. The seven home runs by one team is the most by any squad since the CWS moved to spacious TD Ameritrade Park in 2011.
Florida has not been scoring a ton of runs in Omaha. They’ve had 13 runners cross home plate in four games, but they’ve been outstanding on the mound, tossing two shutouts. Florida pitching is averaging 13 strikeouts per nine innings.
In the top of the fifth inning, Christian Hicks lines one to the gap in left-center field, driving in Mike Rivera to increase the Gators’ lead to 2-0.
Both teams feature closers that are hard to hit. Florida’s Michael Byrne has 18 saves on the year and four of his saves have come in eight of the Gators’ NCAA tournament wins.
LSU closer Zach Hess throws much harder than Byrne and in his last 15 appearances he’s allowed just two earned runs.
Florida has an edge in starting pitching for Game 1. Florida will send right-hander Brady Singer to the hill. He’s 8-5 with a 3.18 ERA and allowed just one run in a complete game victory over LSU on March 25th.
Senior right-hander Russell Reynolds will start for LSU. He’s 1-1 with an 8.59 ERA and he’ll be making his first start of this season. The Tigers top two starters need more rest before they pitch again and LSU lost their Sunday starter, Eric Walker, to an arm injury during the CWS.