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National Championship Preview: LSU Tigers

National Championship Preview: LSU Tigers

By Jason Cole
Baseball Writer
Date: Jun 21, 2009

OMAHA, Neb. - The Texas Longhorns will face off with the LSU Tigers in this week's National Championship Series, beginning on Monday evening. Burnt Orange Beat's Jason Cole takes an in-depth look at the Tigers.

Texas coach Augie Garrido believes, without question, the LSU Tigers have played the best baseball of anyone at the College World Series.

“I think LSU has played the best baseball in this tournament all-around, with their pitching and combination of really consistent defense, and their aggressiveness with the bats,” he said.

Garrido knows his team has one clear advantage.

“But if it’s about drama, we’ve got that.”

The Longhorns have not been short on drama over the past week. While Texas has put together two walkoff victories and a six-run comeback, the Tigers have mowed through their opponents by a combined 34-11.

Simply from watching the games, Garrido knows that his team, despite being the number one overall seed, will be considered the underdog in this week’s championship series.

“Most people would probably pick [LSU] as the favorite,” Garrido said, “based on the errors we’ve made and our three-inning imitation of the Bad News Bears and some other things that have gone on.”

In three games, LSU has yet to commit an error. Texas, on the other hand, has seven. Garrido knows there isn’t much time to fix that in preparation for LSU. But he’s going to try.

“I think by getting this off our mind and getting back to the fundamentals of the game,” replied Garrido when asked how he would prepare for the championship series.

The Longhorns’ defense isn’t quite as bad as it has looked over the last few days. The good news for Texas is that they’re due to play a clean game defensively.

From the outside looking in, it’s easy to call the Longhorns a team of destiny. After all, they’re finding new, bizarre ways to win with each and every game, it seems. But Austin Wood knows there’s still work to be done, and he isn’t so sure about this whole destiny thing just yet.

“We’ve got two games left,” he said. “I guess we’ll find out by Wednesday, that’s for sure. We just try to go out there and do our jobs. Whether we’re a team of destiny—that’s still yet to be determined.”

Texas begins its best-of-three national championship series against LSU on Monday evening. The Longhorns will start right-hander Chance Ruffin in game one, and they’ll most likely come back with Taylor Jungmann and Cole Green in games two and three, respectively.

LSU Tigers (54-16)

The Tigers earned the third overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after a 46-16 regular season. They were 20-10 in the SEC, finishing in a tie for first place with Ole Miss.

Just as Texas had a couple of regular-season hiccups—dropping three-game sets to Kansas and Kansas State—LSU also had a couple of rough weekends. The Tigers lost two-of-three to Illinois at home after beginning the season 9-0. A few weeks later, LSU dropped two at home to Tennessee, who finished the season with an SEC East-worst 11-19 record.

Those were, however, the only two series’ LSU lost all season.

The Tigers have played their best ball against their best competition this year. Including the postseason, the Bayou Bengals have posted a 29-8 record against top-50 RPI teams.

LSU has yet to lose a game in the NCAA Postseason. They went 5-1 in the SEC Tournament, dropping their first game to Vanderbilt and coming out of the loser’s bracket to win it with five consecutive victories.

Coach Paul Maineri’s club is 8-0 in the NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals, and College World Series.

LSU got off to a slow start, trailing the fourth-seeded Southern Jaguars until the bottom of the seventh during the first game of the Baton Rouge Regional. LSU came back to win that game, and they won a 10-inning contest with the Baylor Bears in game two. The Tigers then cruised by Minnesota to take the regional.

They swept Rice in the Baton Rouge Super Regional, defeating them 12-9 and 5-3, respectively.

As mentioned earlier, LSU has outscored its College World Series opponents by a 34-11 count. They defeated Virginia, 9-5, in game one before blowing away SEC-rival Arkansas twice.

The Tigers are ultra-talented across the board, and they have a good mix of young and veteran players. They had six players selected in the top ten rounds of the recent MLB Draft.

1: Jared Mitchell, OF (White Sox)
2: DJ LeMahieu, 2B (Cubs)
5: Louis Coleman, RHP (Royals)
5: Ryan Schimpf, 2B (Blue Jays)
10: Blake Dean, OF (Twins)
10: Sean Ochinko, C (Blue Jays)


The Tigers have been the most prolific offensive team during the College World Series, if not the entire postseason.

LSU is batting .351 as a team since the Baton Rouge Regional began, and they’ve scored those 34 runs in just three CWS games.

On the season, LSU is batting .318 as a team with 103 home runs. They aren’t exactly what Skip Bertman’s “Gorillaball” teams were, but they are close. The Tigers have only 26 sacrifice hits on the year.

They’re also a speedy club, with 112 stolen bases in 154 attempts this season.

Maineri’s club has solid depth, as sophomore Leon Landry typical rides the bench. Landry is batting .301 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in just 166 at-bats.

Third baseman Tyler Hanover is hitting .324 in 207 at-bats, but he has been limited because of an ankle issue, causing Derek Helenihi to take over. Hanover had been struggling defensively, as his 14 errors led to an .895 fielding percentage.

C: Micah Gibbs, So.
 1B: Sean Ochinko, Jr.
 2B: DJ LeMahieu, So.
 SS: Austin Nola, Fr.
 3B: Derek Helenihi, Sr.
 LF: Ryan Schimpf, Jr..
 CF: Mikie Mahtook, Fr.
 RF: Jared Mitchell, Jr.
 DH: Blake Dean, Jr.
 Bench OF: Leon Landry, So.
 IF: Tyler Hanover, Fr.
 IF: Buzzy Haydel, Sr.
 IF: Chris McGhee, Sr.

The most talented player in Louisiana State’s lineup is certainly right fielder Jared Mitchell, who was a first round pick of the Chicago White Sox.

Mitchell, also a wide receiver on the football team, is a solid hitter with excellent discipline. He’s also got some raw power to go with the plus speed that one would expect from a receiver. Mitchell has 35 stolen bases in 44 attempts this season.

Left fielder Ryan Schimpf was drafted as a second baseman, largely due to his 5-foot-9, 181-pound frame. Despite being undersized, Schimpf has an unbelievable .680 slugging percentage, hitting 19 doubles and 21 home runs. In addition, he’s got a .344 batting average and 18 stolen bases. The junior has walked just two fewer times [43] than he has struck out [45], and he’s also drawn a team-high 12 hit-by-pitches.

Left-handed designated hitter Blake Dean is another big slugger. He has 18 doubles, 17 home runs, and a club-best 70 runs batted in. Dean has walked 13 more times [48] than he’s fanned [35].

DJ LeMahieu began the season at shortstop, but he moved over to second base and his phenomenal defensive skills have transitioned well. The Chicago Cubs’ second-round pick isn’t a big-time power hitter, but he led the team in hitting at .347.

Although Baton Rouge is relatively close to Texas, LSU only has two players from their neighboring state on the roster. One player—outfielder Johnny Dishon—is from Beaumont. The other is starting catcher Micah Gibbs, a product of Austin-area Pflugerville High School.

Gibbs, a sophomore, is LSU’s starting catcher. He was named a Freshman All-American in 2008, and he’s followed that up with a .292 average and 16 doubles this season while continuing his strong work behind the plate.

Starting Pitching

Since the national championship is a best-of-three series, the pitching chaos is pretty much over.

Because Anthony Ranaudo started LSU’s last game against Arkansas, he won’t be available on Monday against the Longhorns.

Instead, senior right-hander Louis Coleman will get the starting nod, and there really isn’t much of a difference between Coleman and Ranaudo anyway.

Coleman is 14-2 with a 2.68 ERA this year, limiting opposing hitters to a .218 batting average. He has excellent control—having issued just 22 walks—and he’s got 132 strikeouts. The 6-foot-4 hurler uses an upper-80s, low-90s sinker and an above-average slider.

According to coach Paul Maineri, the Tigers will throw third-starter Austin Ross if they win game one with Coleman. If they lose the opener, they’ll go with Ranaudo, since it’ll be a must-win game.

Ranaudo won’t be used in game two unless it is absolutely necessary because he’d be pitching on very short rest. The tall sophomore could easily be a top-ten overall pick in next year’s draft. He throws in the low-90s with a vastly improved curveball. The New Jersey native has 155 strikeouts in 119 innings, giving up just 85 hits. He’s got an 11-3 record and a 2.87 ERA.

After Ranaudo and Coleman, LSU’s starting pitching has been inconsistent this year.

Austin Ross is 6-7 with a 5.09 ERA. He has pitched in 81.1 innings, giving up 97 hits [.300 BAA], walking 21, and striking out 76. Ross has yet to start a game in Omaha, and he has struggled out of a relief role at the CWS.

 Louis Coleman, Sr., RHP
 Anthony Ranaudo, So., RHP
 Austin Ross So., RHP


Freshman closer Matty Ott has some of the best control in the country. The pitcher has five walks versus 66 strikeouts in 47.1 innings this season. He has been somewhat hittable, giving up 46 hits [and seven homers] in 47.1 innings. However, Ott has still compiled 16 saves on the season.

If the Tigers need a long reliever, they’ll go to Daniel Bradshaw, who has 47.1 innings in 24 appearances this year. He is LSU’s only other reliever with a sub-4.00 ERA, going 4-0 with a 3.23 earned-run average.

While LSU has a handful of arms in the bullpen, right-hander Paul Bertuccini is likely the only other option for tight situations. He is 2-0 with a 4.01 ERA in 24.2 innings [over 27 appearances], recording 31 strikeouts.

Matty Ott, Fr., RHP
 Daniel Bradshaw, So., RHP
 Paul Bertuccini, Jr., RHP
 Nolan Cain, Sr., RHP
 Chad Jones, So., LHP
 Ryan Byrd, Sr., LHP


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