After all the dust settled on the 2009 College Baseball season, we only have two teams standing with the LSU Tigers taking on the Texas Longhorns in the College World Series Championship Series. The LSU Tigers enter with a record of 54-16 while being on a 13 game postseason winning streak dating back to the SEC Tourney. Texas enters with a 49-14-1 record while being 8-1 in NCAA Tourney play with the only loss coming to TCU in the Super Regionals.
LSU is led by third year head coach Paul Mainieri who came over to the LSU program after a successful run at Notre Dame. Coach Mainieri will be taking part in his first CWS Championship series and it also marks his first appearance in an NCAA Championship game. Paul Mainieri is excited to be in the Championship series by saying “This is fun, it’s great to be here. When you get the chance to come to the College World Series, it’s a dream come true. To be able to make it to this point is truly a blessing. I’m proud of this team and these guys. It’s remarkable. We’re excited to play Texas. They represent excellence. Augie Garrido is admired and loved in college baseball. I’m a fan of Augie. He’s a wonderful person, a great coach and epitomizes everything good about college athletics. I relish the opportunity to play Texas in the finals. They have great tradition and history. LSU and Texas both represent great things. I’m fired up for this game.”
Augie Garrido leads the Texas Longhorns in his 13th season in charge of the Texas program. He led the Longhorns to two national championships in 2002 and 2005. He also picked up national championships with Cal-State Fullerton in 1979, 1984, and 1995. Coach Garrido said the following about his team’s run to the Championship series “I’d like to thank the College World Series for playing such an important part in changing so many people’s lives, including my own. This event is something each one of these players will remember for forever. The way we’ve been winning, we’ve added a new assistant coach, David Copperfield. I’ve been asked if we are going to practice. How do you practice the way we’ve been winning? We are up against a great team that has played the best baseball of anyone so far. They are hitting on all cylinders, but we will just play the game inning-by-inning, play-by-play and hope for the best.”
LSU will send Senior RHP Louis Coleman to the hill in Game 1 of the Championship series. He is currently 14-2 with a 2.68 ERA in his 23 appearances (15 starts) on the year. He last pitched in a game for the Tigers against Arkansas on June 15th when he went six strong innings while allowing six hits and 1 run. (Full CBB Article available here.) Coleman stated the following about playing Texas in the Championship series “They’re in the national championship game. They’ve found ways to win and have competed great. They’ve been doing it all year long and we’ve taken notice of it.”
The Tigers for Game 2 could bring back Sophomore RHP Anthony Ranaudo (11-3, 2.87 ERA) back on three full days rest as he pitched on June 19th against Arkansas. He went six innings while allowing only four hits while striking out five batters. The most important thing was that Ranaudo only tossed 77 pitches in that game. After Ranaudo, things could get hairy if a third game is necessary in the series as Austin Ross has the most starts on the team after the top two but is only 6-7 with an ERA of 5.07 ERA.
The Tigers bullpen is led by Freshman RHP Matty Olt who has had an outstanding freshman season. He is currently 3-2 with an ERA of 2.85 while accumulating a team high 16 saves on the year. He has struck out 66 batters in his 47.1 innings of work. He struggled in his last outing against Arkansas as he let up three runs in 0.2 innings of work on Friday afternoon. The other relief pitcher that deserves to be mentioned is Daniel Bradshaw who has a 4-0 record with a 3.23 ERA in his 24 appearances.
Texas will send Sophomore RHP Chance Ruffin to the mound in Game 1 on Monday night. He is currently 10-2 with an ERA of 3.27 in his 23 appearances (17 starts). In his last start which was against Arizona State, Ruffin struggled as he let up six runs (four earned) in two innings. The most important thing that happened in that game was the Texas Longhorns were able to mount a momentous comeback and pick up the victory over the Sun Devils. (Full CBB Recap of game available here.) Ruffin stated the following about the LSU team which he will face “They’ve consistently smashed the baseball, at least since they’ve been here, and their pitching is competitive, so it will definitely be a tough game for us.”
After Ruffin, Texas will send Freshman Taylor Jungmann to the hill on Tuesday. He has been outstanding throughout his freshman season with the Longhorns as he has a record of 10-3 with an ERA of 2.10 in 23 appearances (9 starts). He last made an appearance against Arizona State on June 16th when he pitched 5.2 innings in relief while only allowing two hits and a walk without giving up a run as he picked up the win over Arizona State in a wild 10-6 game. Cole Green will get the ball in Game 3 on Wednesday. He is a Sophomore RHP out of Coppell TX who has a record of 5-3 in 20 appearances (19 starts) while compiling an ERA of 3.07. The other wild card Sophomore Brandon Workman is a Sophomore RHP out of Bowie TX who has a record of 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA in 18 appearances (13 starts) but has not appeared in a CWS game yet.
The back end of the Texas bullpen is led by Senior LHP Austin Wood who is 6-1 including 15 saves with a 2.30 ERA in his 39 appearances this season. Wood is known for his 13 inning performance against Boston College in the Austin Regional during this season. Head Coach Augie Garrido has received much criticism over that game with many people saying that Garrido hurt Wood’s career by keeping him in the game that long. Coach Garrido states the following about Wood’s performance “Not very often does a player say to you that I want to be a hero. Not very often does the leader of your team put himself at risk for the benefit of his team. Austin Wood did that. He would have been better off in the draft as a starter, but we didn’t have a closer, so he took on that role. In that game, he was at the 90-100 pitch mark and he walked over to me in the dugout and said, ‘Don’t even think about taking me out of this game.’ When a player breaks through to that level, it’s very special, he truly understood that he could do anything. That was his game and he took it.”
The LSU offense plays to more of an American League style as evidenced by their team batting average of .318 while hitting a combined 103 homers. The top hitter for Tigers is leadoff hitter D.J. LeMahieu who is hitting .347 while stealing 11 bases. Leftfielder Ryan Schimpf is right behind him in batting average at .344 but has hit 21 homers on the year while driving in 67 batters. He stated on how important it was to win a CWS title by saying the following “It is an experience of a lifetime. I grew up an LSU fan and I’m privileged to play for LSU. When I was younger I followed the likes of Warren Morris and many others, so it nice to follow in their footsteps.” The most impressive stat about him is that he has stolen 18 bases in 25 attempts. DH Blake Dean is third on the squad with a batting average of .335 while hitting 17 homers and a team high 70 RBI. Jared Mitchell who is fourth on the squad with a .329 average while hitting 10 homers was selected by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd overall pick.
The Texas offense plays a west coast style of the baseball as they like to move runners over with some bunting and stealing bases. The team currently has a team batting average of .289 while only hitting a combined total of 45 home runs. They lead Division 1 by having 102 sacrifice bunts. The leading hitter for the Longhorns is Brandon Belt who is hitting .333 with eight homers and 42 RBI. Kevin Keyes is the only other everyday starter with a batting average over .300 as he comes in at .308 with seven homers. Michael Torres comes in third on the squad with a .299 average with five homers and 33 RBI.
I think the LSU Tigers have been the best team throughout the season and on multiple occasions, I have picked the Tigers to win the National Championship. Nothing has changed my opinion over the last few weeks as Ranaudo and Coleman are two of the best pitchers in the nation while the offense has no easy outs in it. I will be giving away four DVD’s to four random readers who leave comments on their predictions. If you want to participate then you must post a comment on this thread before the first pitch of the game on Monday.