Tigers take title
Published 6:17 am Thursday, June 25, 2009
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — LSU, which two years ago wasn’t good enough to qualify for its conference tournament, is the best team in college baseball again.
The Tigers won their sixth national title Wednesday night, breaking open Game 3 of the College World Series finals with a five-run sixth inning that carried them to an 11-4 victory over Texas.
Jared Mitchell hit a three-run homer in the first inning as LSU (56-17) built a 4-0 lead. Texas (50-16-1) pulled even, but Mikie Mahtook’s tie-breaking double ignited the Tigers’ big sixth against the mistake-prone Longhorns.
“It’s everybody pulling together, a sense of urgency we had, and we began to play our best ball at the end of the year,” said Mitchell, voted the CWS Most Outstanding Player.
Mitchell added to the title he earned as a wide receiver on the 2007 LSU team that won the BCS championship. Earlier this month, he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the first round.
It was the first national title for coach Paul Mainieri, who played his freshman year at LSU in 1976 and returned to the school after coaching stops at St. Thomas (Fla.), Air Force and Notre Dame.
“I’ve had wonderful kids everywhere I’ve been,” Mainieri said. “They’re all feeling a part of this. I’m so happy for these kids. They’ve done everything I’ve asked.
“They played great. They played great defense. Our pitching has been solid all year. When we got to the end of the season everyone was determined they would get it done. It’s been a coach’s dream to have a group like this.”
Anthony Ranaudo (12-3) got the win in a so-so outing that saw him allow four runs on eight hits and five walks in 5 1-3 innings. Brandon Workman (3-5) took the loss.
The Tigers came into the CWS ranked No. 1 in the major polls, and that’s where they’ll finish after keeping Texas from becoming the first No. 1 seed to win the NCAA tournament since Miami in 1999.
“They are the best team we’ve played by far,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “We didn’t lose it. They won it. It was a well-deserved championship.”
LSU won national titles in 1991, ’93, ’96, ’97 and 2000 under Skip Bertman. Though the Tigers made it back to the CWS two times under Smoke Laval — he went 0-4 here — the program was in a down cycle before Mainieri arrived three years ago.
His 2007 team, which included four regulars on the 2009 title team, failed to qualify for the Southeastern Conference postseason tournament. His 2008 squad struggled until midseason, then rolled off an SEC-record 23 straight wins on its way to the College World Series.
“This is a dream come true,” said Mahtook, the freshman center fielder who grew up in Lafayette, La. “I dreamed about being here and we finally won it, and I’m part of a tradition.”
Louis Coleman struck out Kevin Keyes for the second out in the ninth inning, bringing most of the 19,986 fans at Rosenblatt Stadium to their feet. Coleman struck out Connor Rowe for the final out, threw his glove high in the air and then sank to the bottom of the pile in front of the mound.
The Longhorns had forced a deciding third game after freshman Taylor Jungmann held LSU to five hits in a 5-1 victory Tuesday.
LSU, which lost back-to-back games only once this season, had no problem scoring Wednesday against six pitchers. The Longhorns gave the Tigers some help, too.
Mahtook doubled into center off Workman to break a 4-4 tie, and LSU capitalized on two walks, two hit batters, a passed ball, a wild pitch and an error in the sixth. Only two of the five runs LSU scored in the inning were earned.
Sean Ochinko, who had a two-run single in the sixth, homered in the ninth for the final runs.
Chad Jones, who also won a BCS football title, and Coleman prevented Texas from making another dramatic comeback in Omaha.
Just to get to Omaha the Longhorns won the longest game in NCAA history, beating Boston College in 25 innings, and then beat Army with a walkoff grand slam.
The Longhorns had two walkoff wins in Omaha in addition to rallying from six runs down for another.
Texas came back to tie, but the Longhorns would score no more.
“LSU answered right back, and it was devastating,” Texas second baseman Tucker said. “We had momentum going our way, and they shifted it back their way.”