Saturday night, LSU used an eighth inning rally to knock off Florida State and start the 2017 College World Series 1-0 for the first time since 2009. Hours earlier, Oregon State used a rally of their own and a go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth to send Cal State Fullerton to the loser’s bracket.
That sets up a matchup between LSU, the hottest team in the nation and Oregon State, the all-around best team in the nation who will end the season with single digit losses no matter what happens in Omaha.
As Jared Poche’ came out of the pen in relief of Alex Lange in Saturday’s night’s win, he will be unavailable today. Instead freshman Eric Walker will be on the bump for the Tigers. After having some faltering earlier in the season Walker has rounded into form late, posting a 3.46 ERA in 93.2 innings pitched with a K/BB of 3.39 (78/23) while holding batters to a .232 batting average.
Going back to the regular season finale against Mississippi State in Starkville, Walker has pitched LSU to three championships: an SEC regular season co-championship, an SEC tournament championship, and a NCAA Regional championship. Walker did not pitch in last weekend’s Super Regional, but he was especially impressive in the Regional against Rice, where he threw eighth innings of shutout baseball where he only allowed seven hits, all spread out with no walks and eight strikeouts. He never even entered a three ball count.
Walker will have his work cut out of him tonight when he faces probably the most well-rounded lineup in the nation. They’re not as powerful as LSU, but they can string hits and runners together in the blink of an eye. Earlier this week, I ran an in-depth preview of Oregon State along with all the other teams in the bracket.
Oregon State will throw Bryce Fehmel, the usual Sunday arm for the Beavers and without a doubt the weakest arm in OSU’s rotation. That’s more of a endorsement of how good the Beavers’ collection of arms is more than it is a slight against Fehmel. As Oregon State’s number three starter, Fehmel carried a 3.80 ERA in 71 innings pitched with only 34 runs allowed with 30 of them being attributed directly to Fehmel. He carries a 2.65 K/BB (45/27) and has opponents batting .244 against him with a complete game to his credit.
Since both teams were the home team in game one, there was a coin toss to determine what team would be the home team, which LSU won. The Tigers will bust out the Championship Gold jerseys tonight, probably to make Walker more comfortable.