OXFORD, Miss. — Christian Trent and Carson Baranik arrived at LSU together with their sights set on the College World Series.
Now, two years later, one of them will get to experience that. Just not at LSU.
Trent, Ole Miss’ No. 2 starter, and Baranik, Louisiana-Lafayette’s No. 2 starter, will likely share the mound Sunday — one trying to advance to Omaha, Nebraska, while the other hopes to extend the super regional to a winner-take-all game Monday.
“I actually talked to him the other day,” Trent said. “I don’t keep in touch with him that much, but a little bit. I knew he was starting on Saturdays, and I called him and he asked me if I was pitching on Sunday. I said ‘yeah,’ and we said it would be cool.”
The Rebels (44-18) and No. 6 national seed Cajuns (57-8) meet in Lafayette at 7 p.m. Saturday in the first game. The second game is at 8 p.m. Sunday. The “if necessary” game is 6 p.m. Monday The entire series is on ESPN2.
Baranik (11-1, 3.27) was suspended by LSU for drunken driving the week of the 2012 season opener and appeared in just three games for the Tigers. He transferred to Miami Dade College before landing at UL-Lafayette. Trent redshirted that lone season in Baton Rouge and spent a season at Delgado Community College before signing with Ole Miss.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri said before facing the Rebels this season that Trent needed to mature.
“I thought he could pitch, and I thought he could help us,” Mainieri told The Advocate. “I really didn’t want to see him leave. ... Always thought he was a good kid. Just lacked a little discipline at times. Not in a bad way.”
Trent has been a model citizen in Oxford and a dynamic left-hander on the mound. The redshirt sophomore is the SEC’s only undefeated starter at 9-0 and has a 2.37 ERA in 95 innings. He was even better in league play, putting together a 6-0 record and 1.84 ERA during the 10 SEC starts.
SEC batters hit just .255 off Trent, and he had a 43-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those games.
“Trent has been exactly what we hoped for,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “He’s consistent and gets outs. You have an idea what you think he can do when he gets to campus, and he’s done it.”
The Madisonville native missed his SEC tournament start because of fatigue and arm tightness but bounced back with a five-hit, one-run performance over 6.1 innings. He threw 56 of his 80 pitches for strikes.
Trent chose Ole Miss over several other options out of Delgado, and the decision has led to individual and team success. The Rebels won the SEC West and went 3-0 during their own regional last weekend, beating No. 2 seed Washington to advance. It’s what Trent envisioned when he signed with the Rebels.
“The biggest thing was the coaching staff and the coaches have been great here,” Trent said. “Coach Bianco has been a mentor, and (pitching coach Carl) Lafferty has been there for me all the time. That was my main concern and right behind it was how well they would be able to do. Obviously Ole Miss has been good for some time ... so I knew coming here would have this kind of opportunity.”
Sunday night, Trent will try to propel Ole Miss to its first College World Series appearance since 1972 or keep the Rebels alive in that quest. He’ll do it against his former teammate and back in his home state.
“The regional (was) awesome and one of the best experiences of my baseball career, but that’s not important anymore,” Trent said. “The important thing is taking care of business at UL.”