And so, at last, it’s decision day in Omaha. Winner-take-all between Florida and LSU Monday night, including the national championship trophy. This Men’s College World Series needs a conclusion before anything else crazy, unfathomable or (insert word of amazement) happens.
Because, really, what next, now that Florida has beaten LSU by three touchdowns? Maybe this will put in perspective a baseball game that ended 24-4:
LSU had allowed 11 runs in its first six MCWS games. The Gators put up 13 runs against the Tigers in the first six innings Sunday.
It’s never good news for a team when its opponent bats around in an inning. Florida did that three times.
The Gators’ first four games in Omaha were all decided by one run. This one by 20. Matter of fact, the first 14 games in this CWS were won by a combined 28 runs — or just eight more than Sunday all by itself.
LSU actually led 3-1 early, so this officially goes down as Florida’s 22nd come-from-behind victory of the season. The Gators did it with 23 unanswered runs.
Florida’s 24 runs were the most ever in a Men’s College World Series game. The old record was shared by teams from 1984 and 1957.
The LSU football Tigers didn’t give up 24 to eight opponents last fall.
The 20-run spread was the largest ever in the finals, topping the old record by eight. “Just an onslaught of good at-bats and barrels,” LSU coach Jay Johnson called it.
So much for the Gators being in shock from losing game 1 in the finals 4-3. “We did exactly what we said we were going to do,” Wyatt Langford said. “Flush last night and come in today ready to play.”
It was almost surreal to see such a one-sided fireworks show in what has been a parade of spectacularly taut pitching duels. Yet another twist to this MCWS of so many plots. Heaven knows where this goes now.
From the team that took the fearful pounding Sunday: “Nothing changes for us,” LSU’s Gavin Dugas said. “We’re going to keep playing baseball the way we always do... We’ll have our minds right.”
From the team that did the pounding: “All the runs we scored today, obviously, we can’t carry those over to tomorrow,” Florida’s Langford said. “But we can carry over the momentum.”
From the coach on the losing side: “We’re not going to bring in a bunch of free agents for tomorrow night,” LSU’s Johnson said. “It’s a 27-man roster, and I’m good with that.”
From the coach on the winning side: “We’ll have to reset, reboot,” Florida’s Kevin O’Sullivan said.
A few pertinent numbers ahead of Monday night’s showdown:
Runners left on base the past two games by LSU. Just a number, or a worrisome symptom? “I really don’t know how to answer that,” Johnson said. “We’re one of the best offensive teams in the country. When you lead the country in on-base percentage you’re going to have more runners on base.”
LSU’s batting average in Omaha. Florida’s is .277.
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You could talk a long time just about Florida’s home runs. There have been 30 long balls in this MCWS, the most since the event moved to Charles Schwab Field in 2011, and the Gators own 14 of them. The other seven teams have 16 combined. Included in this Florida power company are the four home runs by Ty Evans, the most in the MCWS by a single player in 13 years. He had only four the entire season before Omaha, and one since March 7. The grand slam he hit Sunday was the first ever in the championship finals — and Florida’s 10th of the season. Also, Langford has sent out homers of 449 and 456 feet, the two longest-ever hit in the MCWS in Charles Schwab Field.
LSU pitchers have struck out 94 batters in seven games, the most ever by one staff in a MCWS. They may have given up 24 runs and 23 hits Sunday, but they still struck out 14.
Of the 23 errors by the field so far in this MCWS, eight belong to LSU. The Tigers committed five Sunday.
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Pitches thrown by LSU’s Paul Skenes in the past nine days in Omaha, including 120 last Thursday. The most pressing question about Monday night is how much Johnson is willing to let his star pitcher work on three days’ rest. The Gators say they’ll take whatever comes. “It doesn’t matter who they pitch,” Langford said. “We’re going to be ready to play.”
The past five teams to draw even at 1-1 in the finals with a game 2 victory went on to take the championship in Game 3.
The combined record in elimination games this June for Florida and LSU. Clearly, neither wants to give. But Monday night, someone must.