LSU did the impossible.
They beat Oregon State twice in a row to end one of the greatest seasons in college baseball history without the help of Eric Walker. Caleb Gilbert shutdown the incredibly productive Beaver lineup and the LSU bats hit the vaunted Oregon State lineup hard.
Now they have to seal the deal.
They have to win a best of three series against Florida, a familiar opponent for LSU. The Gators beat the Tigers in the second weekend of conference play back in March 24-26 when they took two of three from LSU in Gainesville. LSU had yet to turn a corner and the outlook for the team did not include making the College World Series Final.
Both teams are in an odd situation where they will be without their aces for game one of the series. Alex Lange pitched Friday in a must-win game against Oregon State and Alex Faedo pitched in a must-win game against TCU on Saturday.
Florida will start Saturday starter Brady Singer and LSU will use the “Taco” Bell Anderson/Johnny Wholestaff approach with Russell Reynolds starting. Singer has a 3.18 ERA in 119 innings pitched with a 3.90 K/BB (117/30) while holding batters to a .247 BAA. In the second game of the series back in March, Singer threw a complete game against LSU, allowing one run on six hits while walking none and striking out four. In the second round game of the College World Series against Lousiville, Singer went seven strong innings where he only allowed a single run on six hits and walked one while striking out nine.
To be quite frank, Russell Reynolds will have to turn in the definitive performance of his career to give LSU a shot at Singer. Reynolds has a 8.59 ERA on the year, but a lot of that is due to the fact that Reynolds has only pitched 14.2 innings on the year. Reynolds is a fifth year player and is one of the most popular players on the team, so it may be more of a motivational move than a strategic one. He received a medical redshirt after tearing his labrum halfway through his freshman season at LSU and has seen reduced work ever since then, pitching in either blowouts or midweek games this season for the most part. Don’t expect Reynolds to last long unless he is absolutely dominating. What you can expect is a cacophony of pitchers, good or bad for LSU.
To make up for it, LSU needs to get to Brady Singer early and often, which is easier said than done. But this is what LSU has worked for all year. They’re one of the last two teams in the race and the finish line is in sight. The time for holding back is over, it’s now time to lay all the cards on the table and sprint to the finish.
LSU is two games away from their seventh national championship. Can they get one step closer tonight?