LSU will have to Battle
Last week, I said and wrote that if Aaron Nola and Ryan Eades pitched like they did in the Super Regionals, LSU would sweep through the College World Series and win it in five straight games.
I was wrong.
What I didn’t take into account was that the Tigers' usually sparkling defense would let them down. Nola was brilliant in the Tigers' 2-1 first round loss to UCLA, pitching like the first round draft pick that he will likely be next season. But the Tigers committed two crucial errors. Those errors both led to runs and, ultimately, the loss.
Mason Katz did hit the first home run of the CWS, but the Tigers could muster only 4 more hits the rest of the game against UCLA ace Adam Plutko. LSU left the potential tying run standing at second in the ninth. It’s difficult to win with just five hits. But it can be done. It’s unrealistic to EXPECT to win with just five hits.
For Nola, it was his first loss in 13 months, dropping him to 12-1 on the season despite the fact that he ran his consecutive streak of innings without allowing an earned run to 26.2.
All of this magnifies the slim margin of error that exists in Omaha. Now LSU will have to do it the hard way, but the Tigers are capable. South Carolina battled through the losers’ bracket to win the national championship in 2010. Oregon State won it all in 2007 despite losing its first game.
But LSU has lost its safety net and will have to win four straight games to get to next week’s best two-of-three finals. The Tigers’ next mistake might be the one that sends them back to Baton Rouge sooner than they (or I) expected.
Huge Game for Mississippi State
Every game in the CWS is huge, but today’s second round game vs. Indiana is even bigger than that. Look at what’s on the line for the Bulldogs. Win today and Mississippi State will get three days off, not playing again until Friday, when they will be one win from advancing to the finals. They’ll get two chances (if they need it) to get that one win.
Lose today and the Bulldogs will have to win three straight games over the next five days to get to the finals. Like my good friend Coach Sonny Smith would say, “I failed math in three states but even I can figure that out.”
For those who were listening, I said during the regular season that I would not be surprised if Mississippi State made it to Omaha. The reason: the Bulldogs bullpen.
Forgive me for tooting my own horn but I need to hang my hat on something after incorrectly predicting the first four games of this CWS. True confession: I picked all four losers to win. But I don’t feel too bad, five national seeds didn’t even make it to Omaha and the three that did are all in the losers’ bracket after the first round. So apparently I’m not the only one who can’t predict who will win a baseball game. Try it…it isn’t that easy.
Back to the Bulldogs, a win today vs. the Hoosiers, and MSU can hit the reset button on that pitching staff and bullpen for their next game on Friday. Win that one and the Bulldogs can reset again for Monday’s beginning of the national championship series.
With their 5-4 first round win vs. Oregon State, the Mississippi State bullpen is now 32-5 with 22 saves and an ERA under 1.70. Ross Mitchell (13-0) and Jonathan Holder (19 saves) lead the way with post-season hero Chad Girodo ready to pitch tonight.
The Bulldogs are a tourney-tested, tough team. Since sweeping the 2011 NCAA Atlanta Regional on CSS, Coach John Cohen’s team is 19-7 in post-season play. There is not a player in the nation more clutch than SS Adam Frazier, and first round pick OF Hunter Renfroe is a star. Throw in 1B Wes Rea, who’s been playing his best ball the last month, and Mississippi State might be my new favorite to win it all.
We’ll know more after tonight.