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|GAME AT A
Point: Texas had come all the way back from an early 4-0 deficit, tying the score with two runs in the fifth, but LSU’s Jared Mitchell started the sixth with an eight-pitch walk against Longhorns reliever Brandon Workman, who had retired nine in a row entering the frame. After a passed ball, Mitchell scored the go-ahead run on Mikie Mahtook’s RBI double, and LSU tacked on four more runs in the inning to put the game out of reach.
OMAHA—Louisiana State athletic director Joe Alleva waded through the throng around the Rosenblatt Stadium pitcher’s mound and spotted a grinning Louis Coleman. With a hug and a handshake, Alleva said into Coleman’s ear, “Thanks for coming back.”
Moments earlier, Coleman had set off a wild celebration on that mound by striking out three straight Texas Longhorns to secure an 11-4 victory and the sixth national championship for LSU—the first since 2000. After getting Connor Rowe to swing through an 0-and-2 pitch, Coleman chucked his glove into the air and was speared to the ground by catcher Micah Gibbs. Within seconds, Coleman was enveloped by a writhing sea of yellow jerseys.
“There’s no one better to close out that game than Louis,” said LSU sophomore righthander Anthony Ranaudo, who started Game Three of the College World Series Finals on Wednesday and picked up the win with 5 1/3 innings of work. “What he did to sacrifice a year of professional ball to come back—he said he wanted to come back to win a national championship. I know everyone is happy he got to close it out for us and be the one at the bottom of the dogpile.”
Ranaudo played his own key part in the clinching victory, though he didn’t have his best stuff or sharpest control, as evidenced by his five walks. The Tigers staked him to an early 4-0 lead, and though Texas battled back to tie the score in the fifth inning, Ranaudo kept the Tigers in the game until LSU’s patient, explosive offense could break it open with a five-run sixth.
“It’s just the story of our year: When the pitcher might not have his best stuff, the hitters pick him up, and vice versa,” Ranaudo said.
“I knew he was going to give us a chance,” said LSU junior first baseman Sean Ochinko, who stepped into the cleanup spot and delivered four hits and three RBIs. “I put my head on the pillow last night knowing Anthony Ranaudo would give us a chance to win. And he did, he kept us right in there. We had a big five-run inning, and that was it.”
Knowing their ace was on the mound, the Tigers came out loose and confident, and CWS Most Outstanding Player Jared Mitchell put them on top with a three-run homer down the right-field line in the first inning. After Texas tied the game at 4-4 with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, Mitchell sparked the big sixth-inning rally by working an eight-pitch walk to lead off the frame. He scored a batter later on Mikie Mahtook’s RBI double, and LSU never trailed again.
“I thought we were a little flat in those middle innings,” Ochinko said. “I knew when Jared came up there and fought really hard for that walk that that was going to start something.”
Texas righthander Brandon Workman, who came in to start the third after starter Cole Green allowed four runs in the first two innings, had retired nine straight Tigers heading into the sixth, but Longhorns coach Augie Garrido pulled him after Mahtook’s double, and relievers Austin Dicharry and Austin Wood could not provide any answers. LSU capitalized on two walks, two hit batsmen and a throwing error by Dicharry to score five times in the inning despite managing just two hits. Ochinko, who moved into the cleanup spot because coach Paul Mainieri liked his chances against a lefthanded pitcher like Wood in a tight spot, capped the rally with a two-run single through the left side of the infield against Wood.
Texas never threatened again, mustering just one hit of its own over the last four innings.
“Answering right back, it really was devastating,” Texas second baseman Travis Tucker said of LSU’s sixth. “They got the momentum back; we had it our way, they chipped it back to theirs. They’re a great ballclub.”
Garrido echoed Tucker’s praise for the Tigers, who opened the season ranked second in the nation and finished it on top of the college baseball world.
“I don’t think we lost this tournament, I think that they won it,” Garrido said. “It was a great effort that combined all the things that baseball is about. They overcame adversity, came from behind, did things that couldn’t be done, got good pitching when they needed it, got tremendous defensive plays. So a well-deserved championship for LSU.”
The Tigers’ sixth national title will require an addition to the new Alex Box Stadium. At the old stadium, which was replaced at the start of this year, a giant billboard—known as the Intimidator—hung behind the right-field wall, displaying the years of all five LSU national titles.
Toward the end of LSU’s postgame press conference Wednesday, Mainieri called out to Alleva standing at the back of the Hall of Fame room, “Joe, are we getting a new Intimidator with a new number on it?”
“Yeah, no doubt,” Alleva called back.
For players like Mitchell, who grew up in Louisiana watching the Tigers dominate college baseball with five championships from 1991-2000, putting a new number on that board is what it’s all about.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling to be put in position where basically you’ll be remembered forever in Baton Rouge now,” Mitchell said. “To be a part of that company with guys who’ve done it before is unbelievable. To put LSU baseball back on top where it belongs, for years to come—to be a part of that is something special.”