See also: Box
|GAME AT A
Point: After Texas scored three runs in the top of the third to build a 5-1 lead, LSU tried to answer in the bottom of the inning. D.J. LeMahieu led off the frame with a triple off the right-field wall, but LSU couldn’t get him in, as Taylor Jungmann got Ryan Schimpf to line out softly to second, walked Blake Dean, struck out Micah Gibbs and retired Mikie Mahtook on a fielder’s choice. Jungmann was in complete control after that.
OMAHA—Louisiana State has a way of making a four-run deficit seem miniscule. With a lineup packed with explosive bats, the Tigers are capable of erupting at any time, and they have piled up memorable comeback victories over the last two years.
But on Tuesday, LSU fell behind by four runs through three innings, and the deficit seemed like a chasm. That’s because Texas freshman righthander Taylor Jungmann was brilliant, striking out nine and allowing just an unearned run on five hits and two walks in his first career complete game. The Longhorns’ 5-1 victory forced a winner-take-all third game of the College World Series Finals on Wednesday.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri opted against starting ace righthander Anthony Ranaudo on three days’ rest, instead giving the ball to sophomore righty Austin Ross. It was apparent early that Ross wasn’t sharp, and Texas scored a pair of runs against him over the first two innings. Mainieri went to lefty Ryan Byrd to start the third, and Texas tacked on three more runs—the first on DH Russell Moldenhauer’s record-tying fourth home run of the CWS.
That was all the scoring Texas would do, as LSU relievers Nolan Cain and Daniel Bradshaw combined to throw 6 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. But the damage was done.
“We pitched shutout ball for the last six innings of the game,” Mainieri said, “but we got off to a bad start, we dug ourselves a hole and it seemed insurmountable because of the kid pitching for Texas. He was so good.”
One of the reasons Mainieri said he decided to rest Ranaudo for an extra day was because of the high-90s heat a few hours before the scheduled start of the game. Mainieri said he watched senior righty Louis Coleman “wilt” in the heat Monday, and he didn’t want Ranaudo to have to deal with those conditions on short rest.
But an hour or so before the first pitch was to be thrown, a thunderstorm rolled across Rosenblatt Stadium, dropping the temperature dramatically and delaying the start by one hour, 34 minutes.
“Well, first there was the rain,” Texas coach Augie Garrido said. “It played a part in this, and I think it played an important part. That was, it took the temperature way down and took a lot of the humidity out, and I think it helped Taylor in many ways. When we first got to the ballpark it was steaming. It really helped him finish the game, and he was brilliant, and his teammates got him an early lead. It has been my experience that the best thing for a pitcher’s curveball is a four-run lead.”
Jungmann sure had his breaking ball going Tuesday, as well as his changeup and his two-seam and four-seam fastballs. He added and subtracted from his breaking ball, using it to record three strikeouts. He got three more strikeouts on his two-seamer and change, all of them against lefthanded hitters. And he blew his four-seamer past hitters for three other strikeouts.
“My two-seam fastball had a lot of run on it today,” Jungmann said. “It had a lot of run on it against Arizona state—it’s really effective on lefthanded batters. I threw a lot of changeups today too, which helped. I threw all of my pitches for strikes, even to the lefties, so that helped a lot.”
It was quite a shift from last night, when Jungmann entered with a two-run lead in the ninth inning and threw six straight balls.
“Last night was a little embarrassing for me,” he said. “Really it was the feel of the ball: I couldn’t get any kind of feel for the ball. I threw six pitches and all of them were balls. I don’t really have anything to say about that.”
He let his arm do his talking Tuesday. The Tigers didn’t threaten often, but whenever they did, Jungmann stopped them in their tracks. The biggest moment came in the third inning, when Texas scored three in the top of the frame and LSU had a chance to respond in the bottom of the inning. D.J. LeMahieu led off the inning with a triple off the right-field wall, but he would get no further. Jungmann seemed thoroughly in control after that.
“For me, it’s about being comfortable with runners on base,” said Jungmann, who tied a record with his third win of the CWS—the first two in relief. “Actually, when I have runners on base, I think I really bear down a little better and make quality pitches.”
Fortunately for the Tigers, they have an ace going tomorrow who is capable of making plenty of quality pitches of his own. Ranaudo, the often-overpowering sophomore who has served as LSU’s Friday starter all season, will get the start, with stalwarts Louis Coleman and Matty Ott available in relief.
After the game Tuesday, Mainieri reiterated to his players how enviable their position is.
“It’s a pretty obvious message,” Mainieri said of his post-game talk on the field. “If i told them back in August that we had one game to play for the national championship and you’ve got Anthony Ranaudo on the mound, you’d probably have taken that deal.”
The Longhorns will counter with sophomore righty Cole Green, who has been their No. 1 starter since the Big 12 tournament. Garrido, playing for his sixth national title, sounded just as grateful to be in this spot as Mainieri, who is seeking his first championship.
“It’s being played by the No. 1-ranked team in the polls (LSU) and the No. 1-seeded team by the committee (Texas), and it’s being played by two of the most historic teams in college baseball history,” Garrido said. “It couldn’t get any better than this for college baseball, for all the people involved. It’s pretty cool.”