OMAHA, Neb. — By any means necessary.
Call LSU’s 5-4 victory over Florida State on Saturday night in the Tigers’ College World Series opener lucky. Call it highly fluky — kooky, even — with two of their runs coming via some of the most unorthodox routes you can imagine.
OMAHA, Neb. — Most of the 25,305 fans who took in Saturday’s College World Series matchup be…
Just call it a win. A huge win for the hopes of any team with designs on winning a national championship.
In the end, that’s all that matters. Somewhere, Al Davis is nodding his head and rattling his jewelry.
Turned out there was a pot of gold waiting for LSU at the end of a couple of rainbows that shouldered their way through the clouds Saturday, pots filled with the Seminoles’ grudging generosity. And there was the big rainbow-colored beach ball that triggered the madness of the eighth inning and allowed the Tigers to finally break through with the tying and winning runs.
So many storylines in this one, LSU’s first opening-day win in the CWS since 2009. (You remember 2009, right?) They start with an inflatable.
They are, for some reason, an Omaha staple — it’s a beach town, right? And in the eighth inning, one floated out of the bleachers and onto the warning track behind Florida State right fielder Steven Wells.
Wells tossed the ball back in the stands. Soon he was tossing the real ball all over TD Ameritrade Park, committing two of the three errors the Seminoles coughed up in the eighth that allowed Cole Freeman to score the tying run. Antoine Duplantis, who started the whole chain reaction with his single to right, scampered all the way to third on said errors, then easily scored on Greg Deichmann’s scorching single past a drawn-in Matt Henderson at second.
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Freeman looked like a dead duck at home on the previous play, but FSU catcher Cal Raleigh couldn’t handle a high throw to the plate and committed the third error of the eighth. This one turned out to be fatal, as Jared Poché and Zack Hess combined to throw a scoreless ninth and preserve LSU’s 17th straight win.
“We made mistakes,” FSU coach Mike Martin said. “And we paid for them.”
If you have a pulse, you have to be happy for Poché. After freshman Eric Walker passed the fitness test earlier Saturday to prove himself seaworthy for the start Monday against top-seeded Oregon State, Poche knew he would be relegated to a bullpen role in support of Saturday starter Alex Lange.
OMAHA, Neb. — Alex Lange had Florida State center fielder JC Flowers right where he wanted him.
OMAHA, Neb. — Eric Walker is a go for the College World Series.
Poché didn’t pout. He just went out and did the job asked of him. After Lange struggled to master his control, throwing just 56 of 101 pitches for strikes, Poché came on in the seventh. He retired Taylor Walls, who had reached base and scored his first three at-bats, then got Dylan Busby to ground into a double play.
Poché lasted until two outs in the ninth, long enough to get the win and tie Scott Schultz’s LSU career record with 38.
“Whatever I can do to help the team, I’m going to do it,” Poché said. “I’ll be ready whenever Coach calls my number again.”
OMAHA, Neb. — Maybe Jared Poché figured this would happen, but he definitely didn’t see it c…
Busby hit a two-run homer to dead center off Lange in the first inning, just the second ball hit there in this ballpark. It wasn’t the only rarity in the first. Not by far.
With two outs, Duplantis walked. Deichmann then struck out swinging, but the ball caromed away from catcher Cal Raleigh near the FSU on-deck circle. Duplantis, one of a fleet of fleet-footed LSU players, went all Forrest Gump on the Noles (Run, Antoine! Run!), scoring from first as the FSU players were too stunned to cover home plate.
“I must admit I don’t think I can recall a man scoring from first base on strike three,” Martin said. “It’s hard to cover that in practice. ‘OK, boys, we’re going to work on covering home when we strike the guy out.’ ”
“A little bit of a bizarre game,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
Bizarre, perhaps, but very big.
It’s not impossible to win the CWS after losing the opening game, but it’s darned difficult. Since the addition of the championship series in 2004, allowing a team to lose a game in bracket play and one in the best-of-three final and still win the crown, only two eventual champions lost their Omaha opener.
Not that being in the winners' bracket against Oregon State is any bargain. The Beavers are an unreal 55-4 and had to conjure up some rally magic of their own with four runs in the sixth and one in the eighth to edge Cal State Fullerton 6-5 on Saturday. If you’re a college baseball fan, it’s as terrific of a matchup as you’re likely to find.
It’ll have to be quite a game, though, to match the drama and absurdity of this one — a game LSU won by any means necessary.
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